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The Anguish Of Anxiety

The Anguish Of Anxiety

As I’m sitting on the couch, seemingly staring at nothing, my roommate (who I did not even notice enter the room) asks me what’s wrong. It is physically difficult to speak, and even harder to explain, but I’m gripped by the large giant hand of anxiety. I am yet again a prisoner in its clutches, held against my will, anguishing, as it tortures my mind and body. I manage to get out a faint “I’m, uh, I have some anxiety”. I am lucky to have a sympathetic friend who gently inquires about why I am feeling this way. In this case, all I can mutter is “I don’t know”. That’s just one outside glimpse of a moment that occurs all to often in my life, now that I am held captive by severe anxiety. A prisoner of war in my ongoing battle against Multiple Sclerosis.

Where did my anxiety come from?

Anxiety, a feeling of worry, panic, nervousness, or impending doom has become such a common occurrence for me, that I can barely remember when I didn’t feel it. I know it wasn’t always this way though, even if I can’t remember, I know that I did not suffer from this feeling until the past seven years or so (still long after I was initially diagnosed with MS back in 2000). As my body got worse, as the damage in my brain got worse, and as my life changed, I began experiencing this feeling more and more often. While anxiety can be brought on by physical damage caused by the disease, it can also be caused by a string of life experiences that involve significant amounts of loss and upheaval. In the case of someone like me, who’s lived with MS for so long, it’s no doubt a combination of both.

Anxiety can impact you physically

While it is sometimes a minor feeling, often anxiety can be enough to shut me down. I can be so overcome with it that I can’t even really move. My limbs become weak and unresponsive, my chest hurts, my temples feel on fire, and my vision will even blur. That’s something I think some people don’t get, that anxiety can impact you physically. It’s not simply being worried about something, anxiety is a whole body experience. Yes, some of the times, I can pinpoint something I am anxious about, but many times, I don’t even know why I feel this way. It will come on without warning, I’ll have this overwhelming panicked feeling, I feel like I am being knocked down by a wave of dread and am drowning. It feels like nothing can fix it. That’s part of it, this feeling of nothing being able to work, nothing being right. I feel trapped. Trapped by this wave of emotion but also trapped by the life that brought it on. It’s crippling, both physically and emotionally.

Defense mechanism

Getting out of the clutches of anxiety isn’t as simple as trying not to worry or thinking about something else. It isn’t that easy. I know logically that some of the things I fixate on, are not really issues, that doesn’t stop my mind and body from reacting to them though. Hearing “it’ll get better” does nothing, even when I know it’s true. Physical damage aside, I have the experiences of life with my disease ingrained in my head. Losing my job, not knowing if I won’t be able to walk when I wake up (which has happened), having to constantly cancel, always feeling rough, the list goes on and on. When you have so many rugs suddenly pulled out from under you, your body begins to expect it. The anxiety is like a defense mechanism against the hardships of life.

Ways to cope

There are ways out, ways to cope better anyway. Talking about your issues with a professional counselor or in a support group can be extremely helpful. Some even take medication for it. Mentioning it to your doctor is important, they can certainly help guide you to help. A fix isn’t really the point of this though, I really just wanted to explain what it’s like to others who maybe don’t know or to those who just needed to see that someone else understands what they go through. Anxiety is a huge issue, not only for people with MS, but for the population as a whole. It’s not something that can be easily dismissed and hope I’ve helped to demonstrate what it’s like here.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Nancy W
    12 months ago

    I know this is an old article but it is perfect for me today. My husband is retiring in three weeks, we had an early snow storm last week and I am working on figuring out our post retirement health insurance and finances. Then, bang, on Saturday, my dear hubby, who is diabetic, tried to shovel snow even though he was not feeling well. He barely made it in the house and looked terrible due to low blood sugar. He did not bounce back and a few hours later, I called 911 and they took him to the ER. After some rest and fluids, I drove him home.

    The reason I tell you this is that by the next day, I was an anxious mess and could barely function. Interesting how I can rise to the occasion in an emergency then completely fall apart. So, I am dealing with this as best I can. I spent time with friends, called the Dr and made an appointment with the Behavioral Health office.

    As I write this, I realize I really am dealing with it, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    12 months ago

    Thank you Nancy! I think that, given your situation, more than a little anxiety is to be expected! I hope everything works out for you and your husband!

  • sevensix
    1 year ago

    I should offer encouragement to others who may wish to learn how anxiety was brought under control to help me. After my PCP understood my plight I began Sertraline 50mg that, to be fair, did not feel its effects for about six weeks. Simultaneously, registered for Mindfulness & Meditation classes proving to be wonderful adjunct therapy I utilize every day. Horrid symptoms subsided in short order, something like within a month I experienced wellness of mind and body. I am continuing Sertraline 50mg – at least for now as good medicine.
    Anxiety protocol was progressing nicely when two episodes of PTSD-like flash backs occurred prompting evaluation for a condition diagnosed as Complex PTSD from childhood trauma. This, too, is advancing very well and effective using EMDR methods. It is a painful journey but vital for any recovery.
    Are any of these maladies connected to MS? MS has been a significant distractor diverting attention away from other real health concerns until emotional flash backs ruled the day, and yes, MS is a component that escaped detection. Me and doc were myopic; we failed to see the trees in the forest. This is called co-occurrences where you need to pay attention advocating for yourself.
    Physicians have invested years in the art and science of medicine. You only have today to explain yourself. I wish you the best!

  • sevensix
    1 year ago

    Anxiety began as a pin prick in my chest, usually the left side and coccasiomally the right side. Then it progressed to feeling chest discomfort accompanied with abdominal discomfort – and then it would mysteriously subside. After several trips to ER revealing nothing but a very healthy ticker there had to be something else at work that was ruining my day. It was a chance discovery I dovetailed into the matrix of anxiety now advanced to somatic distress and getting worse. That was successfully remediated right away but something else reared its ugly head, Complex PTSD also necessitating immediate intervention.
    Fortunately, all clinicians are in the same building
    who got going muy pronto to help me. The bigger issue is C-PTSD and that is going to take time for recovery using various techniques to relieve the pain of the past.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you sevensix, that is a fantastic example of just how these issues can have an actual physical symptom to them!

  • stumblingbumbling
    2 years ago

    This article has been helpful Will we see more about this in the future? If not are there some websites you would recommend.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much stumblingbumbling, I think we will see more on this in the future, I’ve gotten a lot of responses about it. From those with MS and without, so it’s a very important topic!

  • Fish4~3Ms
    2 years ago

    How sad that I feel better, knowing, that you suffer simullar to me. Thank you for your article on anxiety. It helps so much. To have it out in the open with others who “get it”. Keep writing!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you Fish4~3Ms! I think that’s common, I know I feel the same way. It makes me feel just a little better know that someone else actually understands!

  • grizz951
    2 years ago

    Yep if you have never had a panic attack you have no idea how controlling they can be and they just come out of no where. Explaining to someone who never experienced I agree impossible and there is really nothing that anyone can do to make it better. I struggle with my attacks for years trying to figure out wth was causing them just by chance when I was diagnosed with hypertension the meds I started taking helped the anxiety I had been offered drugs before but I hate taking pills so I talked myself through the attacks but scary. Remember being afraid to get out of bed to go to the bathroom never thought I would make it. I dont have MS but I can surly relate to what you have gone though.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing grizz951. I feel like a lot of my writing work for those who don’t have MS, this one especially. Like you say, if you haven’t experienced it, you can’t understand. I hope that this will help shine a little light on it for those who don’t have anxiety. Hopefully it will give them some idea of what it is like and at least get it on their mind.

  • stumblingbumbling
    2 years ago

    As soon as I realize someone is waiting for me. (like holding a door, walking behind me or getting in a car ) my left leg will lock up at the knee and can not be bent until I’m sure no one is around me or waiting for me. So if they are trying to help me the problem just gets worse and takes longer to overcome. I’m curious if this happens to anyone else? If this helps I have been diagnoised with primary progressive form of ms.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you stumblingbumbling, appreciate you sharing. I can understand how that would happen. While my leg doesn’t lock up, I have fallen in such cases. Someone waiting on me is most certainly a trigger!

  • Loopyone
    2 years ago

    Devin you explained and described this very well- how it feels. It will almost take your breath away.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much Loopyone

  • michclaud
    2 years ago

    I take Lexapro also and I try to do things to keep my mind occupied so I don’t actually think about the MS! Puzzles and a talking hamster that repeats everything and sound that I make, it’s hilarious

  • Loopyone
    2 years ago

    Where does one find a talking hamster?

  • Nancy W
    2 years ago

    I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety in 1994, accompanied by IBS. I learned to cope with my emotions wither help of a counselor. I learned things like relaxation, journaling, and awareness. Whenever I had a weird symptom for the next 9 years, I thought it was anxiety related.

    Then in summer, 2003 I had some symptoms that I cold not cope with. when I got my MS diagnosis in November of that year, it was actually a relief to know there was a physical reason for my symptoms.

    Since then, I am glad I learned to deal with my anxiety before I was diagnosed with MS. My coping techniques have helped me cope with my MS symptoms and the life changes that come with that.

    As a side note, Devin, do you take any psych meds. I think SSRIs have helped me deal with anxiety and depression.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you Nancy W. I don’t take an SSRIs, although I have tried many, I had some very negative side effects. I do however take cymbalta (an SNRI). Oddly enough, I started taking it as a way to combat nerve pain, but I know many people take it for anxiety.

  • Dimitri
    2 years ago

    Anxiety was one of the first symptoms I had that eventually lead to my MS diagnosis. Experiencing an anciety attack can be so surreal. Explaining an attack to someone who has never experienced one is pretty near impossible. I thought I was going insane. I tried to get professional help, but nothing was working out. I would just go for walks along railway tracks trying to gather the courage to make everything stop for good. Being diagnosed with MS was devastating, but it did answer a lot of questions. Eventually I found a medication that worked for me. Escitalipram (Lexapro in the US or Cipralex in Canada) saved my life.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much Dimitri! Surreal is a great word to describe the experience. It really is so hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. So glad to hear you found some relief!

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