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Not Just Anxiety

I’ve had a particularly difficult week this past week, and I found myself wondering at one point if this worsening of things was just anxiety.

Just anxiety?!

I’m sure I’ve said and thought those words together many times, but suddenly, coupled with what I was feeling, they felt utterly ridiculous.

Why is this a phrase in our society? I can only imagine that it exists because of our continued efforts to hide and ignore the realities of mental health problems. I understand that if you’re someone who doesn’t struggle with anxiety (or know and love someone who does), that you might use that phrase without batting an eye. 

But just anxiety just doesn’t make any sense when you stop and look at what anxiety is and what it does.

Anxiety can make it hard to sleep, eat and breathe. Last time I checked, those were all kind of a big deal in the survival department. No one would be likely to say, “they just can’t breathe.” or “they just aren’t eating or sleeping.” 

We don’t use just in that way. 

We usually use just to denote something that is fleeting, mild and unimportant. 

The anxiety that I (and millions of others) experience is not mild, fleeting or unimportant.

Before I had this vaccine injury, I would experience anxiety about a specific event or situation. That anxiety was sometimes still huge and overwhelming, but it was situational. 

Now, I experience anxiety more like an avalanche. I will wake up in the morning, sweating, heart pounding and with difficulty catching my breath. I will then spend the next few days in and out of panic attacks.

It can make most of the moments of my day a struggle. It’s hard to function, but it’s also hard to rest. It’s hard to remember that there’s life beyond surviving the panic.

The Wim Hof breathing has given me a tool that can give me some space from my incessant panic attacks. The panic doesn’t always leave me completely, but instead of swimming in it, I am able to teeter just on the edge. This is quite literally a lifesaver.

When I say to myself, that’s just anxiety, I’m setting myself up to feel shamed and belittled.

If it was just anxiety then I should be able to cope with it no problem. It shouldn’t disrupt my day and certainly not my life. It shouldn’t cause millions of people in Canada alone to be prescribed medication so that they’re able to function in their day to day lives.

It’s not just anxiety, anymore than it’s just heart disease or just a stroke. Anxiety is a real illness that affects the lives of more than 5% of the Canadian population. So, let's move out of shame and into compassion.

There just isn’t another way forward. 

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Kyla, I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this. I haven't heard of that breathing technique, but I'm certainly glad that you found something that gives some relief. Hugs to you.

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