What does an anxiety disorder feel like?

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What does an anxiety disorder feel like?

Sometimes I wake up screaming. Dry tears stick to my cheeks, my head feels empty, hollowed out. There are just these images, old memories bombarding my inner eye. Stop it, I usually mumble to myself when I realize that I can’t do anything here anyway. It has long since slipped over me, the prison that one’s own thoughts build: the fear that no one can escape.

I’m stuck with her in a cell in which the water is up to my neck. Because somehow my subconscious managed to put a line into this dark place inside me, from which images flow that I still can’t deal with.

Haunted by the past
There have been an incredible number of them lately. The flashbacks also come over me, but differently. They fall down in front of me like a curtain, scenes from my past. The projection of an old roll of film rattles in front of me with poor image quality. I can still see the colors behind it, those of the real world, and the voices. But the outlines slowly blur and the tones mingle; life is just background noise. Stop it, I usually mumble to myself. At the bus stop, in the supermarket, even during conversations.

On good days, the curtain rises. There is no applause for a success that nobody sees and that never lasts long. On bad days, I feel like I’m drowning in my thoughts behind that curtain. Does this ever stop?

Allegedly. After all, fear itself used to be imprisoned. I knew what triggers it, what places to avoid, what topics of conversation, what people to avoid being constantly reminded of my childhood and not getting trapped in my trauma again. This worked well until someone came into my life who mimicked the drama of my childhood almost perfectly, repeating words, looking at me with the same emptiness. Stop it, I mumbled to myself.

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Trigger = Angst
But by then it was already too late. Psychologists call triggers the process by which current events and perceptions recall old memories. I call the state I’ve been in since then fear. I was so distracted that I overlooked the fact that the pictures were becoming too much and no longer fit in my cell. The pipe went on and on, the walls fell, the water rose. Since then, a shimmering film of bad memories has hung over my world. At some point in my childhood I stood with both feet ankle-deep. At one point I woke up screaming.

The fear of fear is worse than fear itself.
The Last Drop
I wasn’t hungry anymore, I couldn’t think anymore. There was only one principle left in my mind: Nothing unexpected should happen anymore, no more words, no looks, no more touches that evoke even more memories. What was supposed to protect me from that was fear. She did her job well and broke me. I stopped reading my friends’ messages. I stopped seeing my friends. I take detours to avoid entire blocks. I have to be careful.

Because my brain replays all the scenes from my childhood, almost anything can trigger the fear – because every smell is present, every conversation, every movement. And the fear of the fear is worse than the fear itself. Only: I can’t take any more memories. Nothing unexpected should happen, I think, stop it, I murmur, knowing that the absolute standstill I need now doesn’t exist in this world.

fireworks in your head
So I just cry when I get unexpected messages, even if the content isn’t bad at all. My alarm clock goes off an hour earlier so I have enough time to catch my breath before I have to get up. I only take routes to work where I can’t meet anyone, so as not to give the thoughts even more sparks. I eat junk food to make my body dependent on sugar and fat so that at least it will want to keep eating when the brain is just sending cramps to my stomach. He never seems to run out of energy for this spectacle, although I don’t even drink coffee anymore. It should stop, these fireworks in my head.

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On a good night I sleep five hours, I don’t scream when I wake up, I don’t immediately have images in my head. Then I tiptoe through my day to avoid landing knee-deep in memories. The floor is lava: this is the rule that my thoughts have established. I rarely burn myself on a good day.

Me against the memories
On a bad night I wake up every two hours with tears still wet on my cheeks. The images haunt me in my dreams. It doesn’t make a difference whether I get up or not, the memories, the water, the lava have long since flowed all over my body. I put on my sunglasses so no one sees the wounds. I don’t know how much longer I can hide them. I don’t know when someone will stand in front of my door and confront me. My cell phone has been switched off for a long time.

But maybe I’ll finally be stronger than the memories that lurk around every corner of this life. Maybe someday the fear will go back into this prison that my thoughts once built for you.

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