Content Warning: This post contains information about anxiety and depression, which may be triggering to some survivors.
“An Anxious Extrovert,” Sarah Buell
"You can't have anxiety… You're one of the most extroverted people I know!"
That statement right there always throws me through a loop. As a perpetual people person, I never knew what isolation felt like. It just wasn't in my genetic makeup. Not until the first time I felt a panic attack coming on. I lost all control of my breathing, my vision started to blur and it felt like my chest had been squeezed tighter than one of those stress balls where the eyes bulge out. All I wanted was to be alone on my couch, wrapped up like a little burrito, while I calmed myself out of the chaos that is anxiety.
I didn't have my second panic attack until years later, which was followed closely by my third and fourth ones. All feeling the same. Difficulty breathing, a pounding pulse and the feeling that I had lost control of everything. At one point, I fended one off just long enough to get myself out of the shower (where I was beginning to go into an attack), throw some clothes on and lie on my bedroom floor panting until my heart rate slowed back to normal. I actually started laughing because I realized that my main concern wasn't admitting I had anxiety, but that a cute firefighter could have found me passed out naked in my bathtub.
At first, the realization that I deal with anxiety was like admitting I lost a battle. I am a self-proclaimed control freak, a planner to a T, and like I said before, the ultimate extrovert. In my type-A personality, I didn't want to admit that I was suffering from this monster. After all, I love people, I love doing things, and I love putting myself out there. Which is why I had such a hard time coming to terms with my anxiety. It meant that I wasn't perfect and that I needed to take a step back to care for and nourish myself.
It's hard because I still haven't identified my trigger but I have learned a couple coping tricks to at least identify when I feel an anxiety attack coming on. I'm constantly learning how I react to my anxiety, but the ways I handle my attacks are so different than Joe Shmoe who also suffers from the same issue.
Each person copes in His or her own way, so please ask someone how you can support them when they are struck by an episode. Do they want you to leave them alone? Do they want you to hug them? Do they want you to just sit there so they can feel your presence? Just ask.
So yeah, I'm an extrovert. I love going out dancing at the bars and I enjoy public speaking. But every once in a while, I'm not. Sometimes, I'm a woman that is navigating anxiety. Just because you're a certain type of person doesn't mean you aren't fighting battles under the surface.
About the art:
This painting was inspired by Sarah's story and about being an "anxious extrovert." Sarah let me look to her Pinterest board for a quote that I thought fit well with the piece, and I immediately knew this was the perfect one for her story.
Having anxiety is like having a constant voice in your head reminding you of anything and everything all at once. Information doesn't seem to get compartmentalized and put away, thoughts are always right there all the time. Definitely chaos.
However, I love this quote because you need chaos in your life. The "star" in the background of the painting represents all the chaos that aligns perfectly and creates the beautiful "dancing star" as mentioned in the quote. I hope Sarah loves it and it reminds her of the beauty within her soul.