Anxiety is not all bad. Having that sense of danger might prevent us from diving head first into surefire disasters. Feeling anxious from time to time is human nature. It only turns into a nightmare the moment it prevents someone from doing simple and normal things.

I'm pretty sure that you've heard about people suffering from anxiety. You are probably aware of the symptoms and their behaviors and how they respond to their triggers. They usually can't do day-to-day routines the way normal people do. At some point, they would have a meltdown or an attack. But would you believe that there are people walking among us who are living in this kind of internal hell, but still manage to function like a normal person?

Have you ever heard of high-functioning anxiety?

Though it is not an official medical diagnosis, it definitely exists. And if you look closely, there may be a few people you know who are actually suffering from this. They are the perfectionists, the ones who arrive way too early for an appointment, the ones who always have two or three backup plans and the ones who play the worst-case scenarios over and over in their head. They're the ones who have trouble sleeping because they can't catch up with their racing thoughts before an event or any life-changing move. No matter how much effort they put into something, in the back of their mind, nothing is ever enough. They hate letting people down, especially the ones who are special to them. They are highly critical of themselves. How did I know? Because I am one of them. I've been doing all of these things ever since I was a kid. It just got a bit worse and more obvious when I reached my 20's.

It started with my habit of obsessive cleaning and that need to put EVERYTHING in perfect order. My family used to just laugh at me when I have my 'mood swings' when I was young. They thought I was just trying to torture them, when in fact, I was torturing myself. It really drives me crazy seeing things that are not in perfect order. I usually feel like I'm 'losing it' and hearing them laugh was just mean. Growing up, I always felt like no one can understand me and the only way to keep my sanity is to stay away from people (blood relatives included!) who wouldn't even try to respect or understand what's going on inside my head. From time to time, I still have episodes of obsessive cleaning and organizing but only if I really can't control a situation. Now that I am aware of my situation, I try my best to lighten up and chill out as much as I can, and as often as I can. You can't tell I'm recovering from it if you get a glimpse of my stuff in my dorm room now. But organizing is, and always will be, one of my best therapies! 

As I grew older, I noticed that I tend to get startled easily as well. I partly blame coffee for this, but seriously, I freak out when I hear a sudden noise or if I run into someone. My teenage angst gradually morphed into rare but intense outbursts during my early adult years. Since my late teenage years, I've also been experiencing migraines on a regular basis, which I thought was kinda normal back then. I thought it was just because of my internship and family dramas - well they played huge roles, but these are not the main reasons. I never took those killer headaches seriously until I had to see a neurologist sometime in my early 20's. I was given medication for tension headache and the doctor said it's supposed to help me 'sleep better' since my circadian rhythm was pretty much messed up because of the sudden change in my work schedule back then. But when I researched more about my prescription, turns out it was also an anti-anxiety medication. 

"Great! I'm officially crazy!"

That's exactly what I thought to myself during my first few days of medication. I tried to laugh it off but deep inside, I had that deeper understanding of what's going on inside my head, literally. I finally understood why there are days when I just simply can't tolerate bullshits. That explains the blinding rage that I feel right before an attack or that feeling of inadequacy even though I know I've already done enough.

Nowadays, I usually avoid situations that might trigger my anxiety/panic attack. I hate crowded places, so, I try my best to avoid public places during sale seasons or public transportation during rush hours. I also like doing my grocery shopping early in the morning or late at night when there are fewer people strolling around with their carts. That's the time wherein there's a shorter queue at the check-out counter which means I can literally just be in and out of the grocery store. This makes people believe I'm a hard-ass snob that leads me to voluntary isolation because, really, no one can understand me! No one knows that overwhelming feeling that I feel when I am outside for too long with people I don't know. But I'm also aware that I can't stay in my comfort zone for the rest of my life.

I did not choose to be like this but I know that I have to do something about it. It just so happened that I was raised to fit a certain standard, which I now think was totally bullshit, because life does not have a cookie cutter. What worked for the other kids never worked for me, and for a very long time, I have been blaming myself for being out of shape - for being different from the products made out of that shitty metaphorical cookie cutter the adults tried to use on us. (I just felt my blood boiling while typing that line!)

After accepting my real nature, I tried to make a mental inventory of the things I was able to do and things I'm still doing in the midst of having this high-functioning anxiety. I'm a living proof that it's NOT ALL BAD. Because of my condition, I make sure to pay my bills on time and I make sure that I can get to work on time. I only slack off when I meet my friends during my days off. (Sorry guys!) That's how I maintain balance. But, I make up for that! Sometimes, prior to a meet up, I'll make a promise to treat my friends if I make them wait longer than five minutes. My friends know that if I'm late for our meetups, the food or coffee is really on me - that's how I practice integrity!

Another good thing is that I rarely find myself getting bored these days because I always have a list of things I should do and work on. I am immune to boredom, yo! I get tired and I might curl up in bed for hours sometimes, yeah, but that only means I'm physically exhausted. My brain does not stop working; it's always up to something! I've discovered new skills and acquired new hobbies because my brain rarely takes a break. The funny thing is, I also get to pass on my knowledge and creativity - I ended up inspiring a few friends to join me in my new path. This was something I've never dreamed of! The fact that I am also always prepared for the worst-case scenarios and 'what if' situations was a bit helpful even to strangers. I always have a spare pen or an extra bobby pin/safety pin, hair tie, tissue or band aid to give or lend to anyone, and apparently, people like having someone like that around them!

I've already mentioned from this blog how I've been trying to find peace and serenity through nature, right? I've written about meditation and nature therapy in my previous posts. But aside from those, I found another way to relieve my pent up stress (or what I refer to as beastly emotions). I recently signed up for a Muay Thai class and boy I've never felt so worn out BUT ridiculously calm at the same time. That night after my first Muay Thai class felt like hitting the reset button. I want to do it every day though I know it's gonna take a helluva time for my body to catch up with my crazy brain. My mind wants to workout but every ligament and muscle in my body is sore, so, I have to chill! I have to give it some time to recover before I hit and kick the pads again.

In the meantime, I have to focus on other things that are keeping me sane and alive.

* inhale, exhale *


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