The Anxiety Monster

By Shannon Boatwright

Mental health disorders have been at the forefront of the social scene lately, creating a social awareness of the fact that they are very real and something that should not be ignored.  I personally have witnessed and experienced the harsh reality that is anxiety.

Over my lifetime, I’ve witnessed those I love, my precious students, and heard of others that suffer with this crippling thing that is anxiety.

Now let me point out – anxiety is a very normal emotion for any individual. And any health professional will tell you that. But, it’s when the anxiety literally disables you, making you irrational and consumed with fear, that it moves into the territory of being a disorder. Anxiety can take hold of some, making them so fearful of something that they become obsessed and can think of nothing but the impending doom they think a certain place, situation or action may hold for them.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “the term “anxiety disorder” refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),  panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias.

It’s a normal part of life to experience occasional anxiety.

But you may experience anxiety that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming. If it’s an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it can be disabling. When anxiety interferes with daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions – just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.”

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety#

Anxiety can be like a monster that grabs hold of you and sets in a fear that overwhelms you, making you feel helpless, with no sense of control. And you have no idea how to battle that monster.

I have known people in which the anxiety makes them immobile and just racked with fear – as if the place they dread, the place that has stirred this monster of anxiety, is like a haunted house waiting to eat them alive. Or cases when one’s own negative thoughts become so uncontrollable and real to them that they literally throw up. I have seen some of my smartest, most talented students become so ravaged with anxiety, not wanting to go to a certain class that they dread, that they literally cry at the thought of having to face going. To think that a feeling can literally make some people shake, become sick and throw up, even go into full on panic attacks, because whatever it is they’re so anxious about has plagued them so severely –  the monster physically takes hold and can wreak havoc on not just a person’s mind but their body as well. It’s almost unbelievable at times. The anxiety monster can take hold of someone’s sanity and make them a victim of its brutality.

So how in this world can we help someone battling the monster of anxiety? First off, NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, say, “Oh you’re fine! Suck it up. Get over it.” Even if you cannot fathom why an individual would be so anxious and upset over something that seems so simple to you, that is the worst way you could ever react. Want to send someone deeper into the pit of despair? Tell them they’re overacting, being silly, being ridiculous and that they need to get over it. You first have to understand that what they’re experiencing is real, serious and crippling. They need to know that they can indeed take control of how they’re feeling and in their moment of despair they need to be assured that it will pass and they will overcome it.  When braving the monster, one must face it, recognize it and then conquer it by replacing the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. It’s almost like a process of training oneself to face the fear and then knock it out with positivity, all the while gaining self-confidence.

I want to scoop up those that suffer with such severe anxiety and beat down that monster that plagues them with my bare hands, diminishing its power forever. But, it’s just not that easy. Defeating that monster is something they have to face and learn how to battle. The best I can do is let them know that I’m here for them, always ready to provide positivity & support, and I believe in their power to overcome and gain relief.

A former student of mine, Jessi, battles the anxiety monster. She’s currently in the 9th grade and is an incredibly talented young lady. You’d never think such a beautiful, talented, seemingly confident student would ever be of the individuals that battle this disorder. She is one of my students who lived for the security, freedom and joy of drama class. One of my stars that actually wanted to come to school, only because she knew she’d get to come to my class. Acting and singing became her comfort zone. It was her savior and what helped her make it through middle school.  Another testament to how amazing, beneficial and powerful the fine arts can be! Well, my dear Jessi moved on to high school – a school that sadly does not provide a drama program. The absence of her outlet of security hit hard. She now attends online school and is pursuing acting classes and performance venues to hone her talents. She is a most precious young lady that I have big hopes for, that not only she achieve her dreams, but also gain the confidence to keep the anxiety monster at bay and eventually take complete control of it, not letting that monster ever bring her down or hinder her pursuits of happiness.

Jessi happens to be a songwriter and wrote a lovely, deep, confessional song about this very topic.  Her precious lyrics expose a reality of anxiety…to say I’m proud of her for baring her soul through her talents is an understatement. And the fact that she is sharing her message, her heart, and her voice through her music, is a priceless gift.  I’ll let her song speak for itself and hope that it helps others, allowing them to recognize the fact that they are not alone and they can indeed conquer their fears, taking control of the anxiety monster.

Jessi’s Song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezd6gvoa1t4

They say stop acting crazy
But I don’t think they understand the pain
They say stop acting like a baby
If only they could take a look inside my brain
I will try my best to fight this heavy feeling in my chest
But sometimes it’s too strong for me
And sometimes I can barely breathe
And I know, yeah I know that you’re here
Everyday I watch the time go by and I wonder (yeah I wonder)
If one of these days the world under me will just crumble (will just crumble like)
When they call me crazy
When they say I’m acting like a little baby
One day I hope they see that they’re not helping me
When they say stop acting crazy
But now I know they don’t understand the pain
They say stop acting like a baby
If only they could take a look inside my brain

Written and sung by Jessi Powers

 

One thought on “The Anxiety Monster

  1. Anxiety is indeed a monster! As one who deals with it daily, it can be crippling. And saying “get over it” to someone with anxiety, or any mental illness for that matter, does nothing but increase those feelings. Thank you for this post! The more we TALK about the more understanding there will be.

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