Updated: Oct 4, 2022
Are you a person when people say, ‘do you have anxiety?’ you say ‘no, not really?’ I have said this on occasion because I did not identify with being an anxious person. I do not struggle going places, meeting people, or managing a busy professional and personal life (including being a Mum) and I do so flying solo.
Six months ago, I come across information on the internet, about high functioning anxiety and pennies began cascading toward the floor. As I read, the words told me of high functioning anxiety symptoms that I did not know I had, and the news rang like bells in my ears. I began to consider that I do have anxiety and high functioning anxiety just was not packaged as I understood anxiety to look and feel.
High Functioning Anxiety symptoms:
I was constantly overthinking and overanalysing.
I was and still struggle with feeling failure and relentlessly strive for perfection.
I do not generally suffer from insomnia, but I do often live with fatigue.
I tend to dwell on past mistakes or conversations that I do not believe have gone as well as I would have liked.
I have a nervous habit of leg bouncing/shaking. I even do it in bed at times when I cannot sleep.
When I read through the symptoms, there were six out of seven high functioning anxiety symptoms that I identified with. I am so used to being the way that I am, I never really thought beyond that. For me, overthinking and over analysing situations is entirely normal. And yes, it is exhausting too. I believe this is where my fatigue comes from when things are particularly busy and verge on overwhelming. The constant thinking over and over: what I am saying or could I do things differently, therefore, better somehow. At times I ‘ask’ Google not another human because it would be incessant and possibly irritating to them. The various unanswered questions mean I fall down a rabbit hole because one question leads on to another question and another and before I know it, I have lost an hour of my evening. Utterly ridiculous questions such as is this normal to….?, can you overthink too much about...? and this makes me more stressed out because I have lost time that could be used elsewhere. I am a time optimist extraordinaire to begin with, hence, not the best combination for good timekeeping.
One of the symptoms was ‘having difficulty saying no to others.’ I no longer have difficulty saying no to others. That is something that I have had to work on, over the years. I believe that prioritising oneself means on occasion you need to say ‘no’ to others. On reflection, I said ‘yes’ to be liked more. Saying ‘no’ when you ordinarily would have said ‘yes,’ comes alongside a heightening of self-worth and increasing emotional boundaries with others that previously perhaps would have been violated and not reaffirmed.
I dwell on past mistakes. Often ruminating as to whether I have done it well enough or could I have done better. I repeat thought processes in my mind, and I feel the stress of beating myself up because I should have known better or why did not, I just do it this way. It is exhaustive thinking; I try and find other distractions such as reading, contacting a friend, or going out for a walk to avoid getting to this place. Also, in anxiety-inducing situations, I do bounce my leg. I find it soothing, somehow.
I am a positive person and when reflecting I believe I have adjusted my previously held stereotypes, surrounding anxiety. The positive aspect finding in every situation, regardless of how difficult that situation is, was one of the reasons why I did not recognise that I was a person that had anxiety, as anxiety comes under the depression umbrella. There is darkness synonymous with depression and is often depicted as a dark cloud in visuals. I simply did not identify myself with these dark connotations. I held the belief that I was much more light than dark. It is Interesting to me that both exist within me – and that is ok!
Reading back this blog I feel a little embarrassed admitting to you all that I am excessive, perhaps verging on obsessive in my thinking. For some reason, I am made to feel this is not ‘what normal people do.’ I have to work hard to circumnavigate these (can be negative) patterns and daily I make conscientious efforts to do so. The outside world does not see the innermost workings of my mind and I do believe because I function on a ‘on steroids’ threshold of a million things at once, it means that I am a powerhouse at multitasking, efficient risk assessment and I am highly adaptable. These traits lend themselves to being ingredients for being successful in certain areas of life such as my career but at what cost. I frequently teeter on the edge of exhaustion although others often see brilliance, and I have to be in tune with my body. If I need to rest, I have to take rest!
What I have learnt and would like to share with you is this: regardless of the guise anxiety presents itself as, whether it is obvious to the person, or not, the impacts are nonetheless as affective to that individual. Stumbling across - during one of my rabbit holes expeditions - and seeing that there was such a thing of high functioning anxiety has allowed me to be kinder to myself because I am more aware of why I do the things I do. I am also able to address more effectively when I become overwhelmed in life’s situations. Self-awareness, rest, and self-care for the ‘high functioning anxiety’ individual are the most effective tools in their arsenal. Also, I advocate seeking guidance from a health professional. High function and general anxiety disorders present in varied ways but the impact potential on the self is the same and sometimes self-management is not enough to live the quality of life you know you deserve.