5 Things I Didn't Know Were Anxiety
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In my junior year of college I was incredibly stressed. It was the spring semester during softball season. We were practicing 3-4 days a week, had at least 5 games every weekend, and I was taking 5 education courses, most of which required teaching at schools. (I was an elementary education major).
My schedule Monday-Thursday looked like this: (this did NOT include game days Fri-Sun)
7:00 am - wake up
7:45 am - 11:00 am - work at an elementary school
11:30 am - 1:00 pm - practice by myself
1:30 pm - 5:30 pm - classes
5:45 pm - 6:45 pm - practice with team
7:30 pm- 11:00 pm - homework
*start all over for at least 4 days a week
Needless to say, I was very overwhelmed. I was able to maintain this tight and hectic schedule for about 1.5 months. Then one day, I went to warm up at practice and I couldn't move.
Part of our warm-up was 10 sprints, each of increasing speed. I generally thrived in this area because the primary reason I played division-one sports was because I was so fast. However, I remember going to complete the sprints, the final part of the warm up, and my body would only go 30% of its usual speed.
My coaches kept asking me if anything was wrong and I would simply say, "No, I'm okay." I truly thought nothing was wrong because I had no actual physical injury. Besides, for years I had a rigorous training schedule and course-load; this was nothing new or different.
Our trainer at the time, Jamie, couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. So, we finally booked a doctor's appointment. After explaining the symptoms (joint pain, physical limitations, exhaustion, etc) one of the first things the doctor asked was, "On a scale of 1-10, how stressed are you?" I hadn't considered that before: how stressed was I?
He prescribed me two packs of steroids and I went on my way. He didn't clear me for two months and the only direction was, "You need to rest. And not do any physical activity."
Three years later, I started going to therapy (for totally different reasons) and was talking to my counselor about my stress. I told her my body was hurting for some reason and I often felt like I couldn't breathe. This was the firs time I'd ever heard of anxiety -- she told me that sometimes, we can experience anxiety in physical ways. When I told her about what happened to me during my junior year of college, she said "that's definitely anxiety."
Physical symptoms were just the first part of the rabbit hole. Throughout the years, I have talked through different scenarios with my therapists all to come to this conclusion: anxiety does impact my day-to-day life. Here are 5 things that I didn't know were anxiety, but 100% are.
1. Feeling like I had to overachieve to be considered intelligent.
For many, many years, I went above and beyond any and all expectations. I thought my performance was based on my undeniable intrinsic motivation; however, it was just anxiety.
Outside of my deep desire to be accepted (which caused a significant amount of anxiety), I was waiting for everyone to discover that I was a fraud. Dr. Valerie Young has researched the idea that successful and accomplished women often think of themselves as impostors and coined the term, "impostor syndrome." In her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women she outlines the "fraudulent feelings among high achievers."
These feelings are very, very real and I can tell you 1 thing FOR SURE - they cause a ton of anxiety.
2. Thinking I had to be perfect to avoid judgment.
Perfectionism and anxiety are two peas in a flawless pod. (I think I'm funny). In her article, Why Perfectionism and Anxiety Disorders Go Hand-in-Hand, Elisabet Kvarnstrom writes, "For perfectionists, self-judgment is ever-present and anxiety is constantly looming as you anticipate the ways you can fall short." People who are perfectionists are constantly judging their every move to avoid any potential external judgment.
Most of the time, perfectionists have low thresholds for criticism, they may seem "sensitive" or "defensive." That's because they've already spent hours shredding their entire existence and are anxiously awaiting your critiques, too.