During my twenties, I loved thriller movies. The more exciting they were, the better. Tom Cruise all the way! It would give me a couple of hours of escapism, a rest from the everyday, and a sense of participating in life’s most exciting events.
Then my ‘dark years’ began, and my world was stalled by anxiety and depression. Unable to care for myself, others, or sometimes even to get out of bed. Unexplained pains led me to the Emergency Room, and life felt like it was a painful waste.
This went on for half a decade, and needless to say that all the while, I was disinterested in watching exciting movies. Nervous excitement, tension and adrenaline rushes were my everyday and I had no need of additional ‘pumping up’ in search of entertainment.
My pulse would race, my heart ache, my head spin, and the excitement in the movie soon made me feel claustrophobic, so that I had to be out of the room. It can be so hard to explain that anxiety brings real, physical effects, but they go undetected and disbelieved because doctors can’t distinguish the changes in chemicals that we carry naturally. This leads to the frequent assumption of their being no obvious ’cause’.
It’s not only us mortals that suffer from anxiety attacks though. We may be sitting there watching a movie star who themselves has experienced the stress of an anxiety disorder.
Friend-of-the celebrities Joe Beleznay is among the many celebrities who ave spoken out about their anxiety and its physical effects. He told Rolling Stone: “It was heart palpitations, shortness of breath, coldness and shivers, strange stuff, and we’d be like, ‘You’re totally fine. You’re not having a heart attack.'”
Mental health charity Mind backs up these observations on its website, which lists the physical sensations of anxiety:
- nausea (feeling sick)
- tense muscles and headaches
- pins and needles
- feeling light headed or dizzy
- faster breathing
- sweating or hot flushes
- a fast, thumping or irregular heart beat
- raised blood pressure
- difficulty sleeping
- needing the toilet more frequently, or less frequently
- churning in the pit of your stomach
- experiencing panic attacks
The list is long and fairly general, and rather than focusing on the nature of your symptoms, it is better to consider how much they affect your life: a severe anxiety disorder will be having a severe impact on your day-to-day living, and the enjoyment of simple pleasures such as an occasional movie are included in this.
While my own symptoms eased in time and with understanding, treatment and support from others; I still have a lower tolerance for excitement. So there’s no Tom Cruise in my life any more!
If you’re suffering from debilitating anxiety, please know that you are not alone.