It takes many different forms in different people, really. It took me a long time to recognise my anxiety for what it was, because it wasn't like what I saw in the movies, or what friends with anxiety told me it was like. My anxiety generally manifests in one of two ways.
The first is anger. This was especially true when I was younger. My panic attacks manifested as temper tantrums. Instead of panicking, I would scream, shout, throw things. Nobody ever recognised this as anxiety. I began to realise that's what it was as an adult, looking back. I know that temper tantrums are common in young children, and these are not generally a symptom of anxiety, they're just kids who struggle with expressing perfectly normal feelings constructively, because they're kids. But when someone is still throwing temper tantrums at the age of eleven, twelve years old, I think somebody ought to ask why. With me, they didn't. I don't know what they thought it was, but I can't recall anyone ever trying to help other than attempting to calm me down in the moment. As I grew older, these became less frequent, as I learned to reign in my emotions and bottle up that fear, but I still remember being a teenager and literally hitting myself in the head with a hairbrush to prevent myself from breaking something. Shaking, hyperventilating, screaming until I was red in the face. This all started to happen after my father died, when I was eleven, which is when I believe my bipolar disorder was triggered.
The second is a physical response, settling in the pit of my stomach and making me feel sick. It doesn't often cause me to throw up, most likely because I'm emetophobic and terrified of vomiting, but yesterday it did, in combination with a coughing fit. (My phobia is reasonably mild; once it actually happens I deal with it, whether it's doing it myself or a friend. The smell and sound of it easily sets me off, though. Needless to say, this phobia does nothing to help alleviate my anxiety when it takes this form.) Nausea is how my anxiety has manifested in the past few days. In the past, I've felt this way for several weeks straight. I particularly recall the summer many years ago before I went off to do the final year of my bachelor in England. I could barely eat. People commended me for losing weight. How fucked up is that?
My anxiety is most often triggered by social situations. The fear that I have disappointed or upset someone, that I've fucked up in some way that either causes someone harm or just pisses them off. Then I fuck up even more by trying to fix it and over compensating and making things worse. It's all irrational; most of the time it turns out that I haven't actually done anything wrong at all. Sometimes it turns out that I have, though, and that's what makes it so difficult. That's why it's so hard to tell one from the other. The most destructive thing for my anxiety is when nobody tells me that I've fucked up, or what I did wrong. It gives me no way to fix it, and I continue to feel anxious for days, often can't bring myself to eat proper food, and can't sleep unless I utterly exhaust myself because my brain just won't shut up and stop telling me, 'You're a fuck-up, everybody hates you, you did something wrong, they're all going to abandon you.'
I would never do this shit on purpose. I grew up being bullied and having few friends, and those I had often forgot about me or abandoned me. You start to wonder why that is, start thinking that it's really you there's something wrong with. You start thinking, no wonder they bullied me and shut me out when I'm this pathetic. When I do make friends, I tend to get kind of... I don't even know what to call it. Over-zealous, maybe. So desperate to fit in that I either suck up, or talk up a storm, and I don't know when to stop. Suddenly I've said the wrong thing, or I feel like I've said the wrong thing, and it all just starts all over again. I am terrified that people won't like me. And really, what's the worst that's happened to me? I was bullied, I lost my dad. I'm bipolar. So many others have gone through so much worse stuff, so what the fuck am I whining about?
I'm not writing this because I want pity. I'm writing it in part because I think it's important for people to know how anxiety manifests differently in different people, and how destructive it can be not to recognise it for what it is. Mostly, I'm just writing it to get it out, to explain to myself why I am the way I am. I've been writing a lot of poetry the past couple of days to try and get these feelings out as well. I posted one yesterday. It's here, on the off chance that anyone is interested. Writing about it, whether figuratively or literally, does help. Right now I just want to crawl into a hole and hide, but I'm gonna try not to. I love GA. You guys are my family, and I want to be here. So I'm gonna try to be, even though I'm scared.