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Anxiety for Dummies

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

I REALLY want to talk more about surrendering because it got such a positive response in my “Partners in Crime” blog but I feel like I need to provide a baseline first for those that may not understand anxiety. Learning to surrender came for me AFTER I figured out how to manage my anxiety. I use the word “manage” very loosely by the way.

I will call this one “Anxiety for Dummies.” This is not to insult. I was a dummy once. Before I really knew or understood anxiety… and I HAD anxiety. Go figure.

First let’s look at the actual definition:



a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Now we could take it a step further and define disorders like my buddy GAD but I won’t bore you. This is a pretty simple description and it works. For years I knew I was feeling a certain way at times and I just saw it as – well this is me. This is life. Not until my older and wiser years when it began to manifest itself in different ways did I start to identify it.

For me, it is very often a feeling of unease where things just feel "off" for me. I am not a worrier by nature so obsessive worrying wasn’t a problem. It has always been more about this sense of urgency to get things accomplished and the need to control my environment at the same time. The graphic above describes how it felt. Like a heavy weight on my chest. This can result in a feeling of being overwhelmed which would push me further into “control,” and when I hit my peak.... the world was against me and I was (in retrospect) no fun to be around, and quite honestly not really enjoying my life. For a long time I thought this was normal. This is life right?

NO Jennie, it’s not.

My therapist told me early on – how anxiety presents itself and the coping mechanisms you build up for dealing with it are different for everyone. I get that. The problem is that a definition, book, or a therapist can’t tell you WHY. I can dissect my childhood and understand how I got here… I can identify how my anxiety manifests or presents itself NOW. All very hard work to get there by the way…… You don’t just complete a survey and get magical results. You really have to put the work in.

What is difficult is you can’t always identify why you’re feeling anxious or having an “anxiety attack.” Sometimes it catches you off guard. Sometimes it is a physical symptom you can’t explain..... Sneaky little bastard really. I’ll give you an example. Last year, August to be exact, I was in therapy practically tooting my own horn about how well I was doing. I really thought I had this GAD dude MASTERED. One week later I was in the ER with chest pain. They ran every test known to man, hooked me up to machines and then the ER doctor came in and sat down and said….. "I see here you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?" Right. My buddy GAD said I’ll show you!


My body literally acted like it was having a heart attack. Talk about embarrassed? I walked out of there wearing the big “L” for loser on my forehead. MASSIVE wake up call. I never had any idea how physical it could get. My first thought was.... my work on this is NEVER going to be done. I had to reassess. AGAIN.

I went home and had a good cry and accepted it. I am grateful it happened actually. I had worked really hard to get to where I was, it did not negate that. What it taught me was I needed to continue to work at it. I have never been afraid of hard work. I can do this and I am worth it. I knew then I would also talk about it because I think so many women AND men struggle with this and either don’t know, pretend or are ashamed to say anything. Like it’s not a “real” issue to have. Mental Illness in general is REAL. Period. Shaming anyone that struggles with it is wrong. OK – venting done.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes that hits very close to home.

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

― Lao Tzu

As always – thanks for listening. The more I write these days the happier I am and I am pretty darn happy already.

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