In the past, I thought anxiety entailed someone feeling upset, worried, or nervous. I thought it was situation-based, meaning something triggered it. And I thought anxiety usually manifested in a physical way that was visible to others, such as crying, shaking, sweating, or fidgeting.
The older I get, the more I realize not only how complex anxiety is, but also how common it is and how many people deal with it on a regular basis. I am also learning that the way I previously perceived or thought about anxiety was not entirely correct.
Thankfully, I would generally not consider myself to be an anxious person, and I rarely felt anxious as a child. By this, I mean I never experienced anxiety the way I perceived someone would experience it. As a child, I was never upset or nervous about going to school or being in large groups of people, and I never worried about having to do something or go somewhere. In fact, I used to love some of the elementary school-type activities that most children despised, such as public speaking competitions and large group projects.
From what I remember, I was an easily pleased child, which was similar to my experience as a teenager and university student. Which is why I am feeling confused about what I suspect might be a form of anxiety I am experiencing as a young adult.
After being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in early 2016, it was inevitable that I would change in some ways. Even though it is almost two years later, I am noticing a recent change in my behaviors. I wonder if they’re coming from feelings of anxiety. I can say with confidence that I am not anxious in the way I used to perceive anxiety, meaning I am not upset, worried, or nervous about things. But my mind is constantly racing with tasks, and when I don’t achieve them within a set timeframe, I feel frustrated or doubtful that I will ever accomplish them.
Below I describe some changes I am noticing in myself in greater detail. I’m curious if you think they might be anxiety-related.
I always have a list on the go, whether it is handwritten or saved electronically on my phone. This might not seem unusual for people, but I am starting to worry that it is a bit excessive. I add and delete from it when I achieve certain tasks, and everything goes on these lists. I don’t have a bad memory. I never have. So, I am not sure where this constant need to write everything down and have several lists is coming from.
A strong desire to be productive
Unlike before my diagnosis, I often turn down social opportunities so I can stay home and be productive. I like to do my groceries when the stores aren’t busy, cook meals in advance, and spend time doing productive tasks that make for a hassle-free week, such as laundry, house cleaning, or crafting. I previously didn’t value these quiet tasks at home as I do now.
Wanting to be proactive
Keeping with the theme of wanting a hassle-free week, I strive to be proactive in gathering necessities in advance of when I need them. I think this comes from the fear of falling ill and not being able to do errands when I need to — this is tied to my constant need to make lists on the fly. I stock essential products at home in case I run out, but it isn’t like I couldn’t just go to the store for more if I ran out. I don’t really need to have duplicates of things on hand on a regular basis.
Trouble falling asleep
It’s common for many people to occasionally struggle with this, so perhaps this is just a phase I am going through. However, I have been having such a hard time turning off my brain at bedtime. I am constantly thinking of what I have to do in the next couple of days, and wondering if I have added those tasks to my list. I also go through what I needed to do that day and mentally check off what I achieved.
While these types of things aren’t negatively impacting my life in any way, I am left wondering: Does this sound like anxiety?
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