Oct 18, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
Having an imaginary friend is all part of growing up.
Many children go one step beyond pretend play by creating a special and invisible friend. They may be a person, an animal or some type of abstract object. The child can vividly describe every aspect of their imaginary friend including their name, their age, the colour of their eyes or even their likes and dislikes.
Some adults may presume that having an invisible companion means that a child is lonely or lacks social skills. On the contrary, research shows that most children who create their imaginary friend are often less shy, have great friendships and are often times very creative.
I remember having an imaginary friend during some part of my childhood, and maybe it was because of my creative flair or maybe it was my way to combat my shyness. Regardless of what the reason was, she was there for me whenever I needed her despite the fact that she didn’t have any super powers or special features.
Today I find myself once again having an imaginary friend.
Today I find myself once again having an imaginary friend and her name is Anxiety. She may be invisible to the rest of the world around me, but to me she has become one of the most prevalent parts of my life. She may be abstract to the rest of the world around me yet I can feel her, smell her, taste her and hear her wherever I go. She is there for me when I wake up and she is there for me when I go to bed … and she is undoubtedly there for me during my many waking hours in between.
Everyone suffers anxiety from time to time.
It’s a natural reaction to fear of the unknown or worry and nervousness. I had never really suffered much anxiety throughout my childhood or into my adulthood. My anxieties up until a few years ago were mostly situational like when I had an exam in school, or when I am weathering a big storm, or when I climb to great heights. For those of you who know me well know that my biggest anxiety in life has always been getting on an airplane and in turn surviving the flight (My own husband has wished many times that he could fly far away from me, or better yet, pretend he doesn’t know me when we embark on a flight together!).
There are many skeptics out there that have a difficult time understanding mental illness and especially believing that Anxiety can turn from a very normal and infrequent behaviour to an actual debilitating and disruptive disorder.
My anxiety has intensified to a point of self-destruction.
Over the past three years my anxiety has intensified to a point of self-destruction. It has intensified to a point where I am overwhelmed with constant worry and fear. It has intensified to a point of being uncontrollable and disabling and it has intensified to a point where it causes me so much distress that I am unable to lead a fulfilling and healthy life.
On any given day I can experience several different types of anxiety. A more Generalized Anxiety is how I begin most of my days as what I am feeling at that moment is often unexplainable and most often unattached to a particular event or circumstance. As soon as I open my eyes to a new day I begin having a sense of uneasiness. My immediate reaction is to start worrying. My heart begins racing to the point where I can’t catch my breath and the thought of getting out of bed is terrifying. This feeling can last for a short while or sometimes it can last for several hours.
Over time my Generalized Anxiety has turned my unwanted thoughts and actions into what is defined as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) as I can no longer stop them from happening. I have become powerless and sense great danger will be bestowed upon me or my family which in turn continues the vicious cycle of sleepless nights and relentless worry throughout the day.
I shut myself off for fear of being judged.
One of the most difficult hurdles while suffering from an Anxiety disorder has most definitely been the affect that Social Anxiety has had on me. I was once a very social person with a large network of friends. Nowadays the thought of being put in the center of any type of social situation and having interactions outside my comfort zone creates an uncontrollable panic and fear even though I want more than ever to be able to engage in normal activities on a regular basis. Instead I shut myself off for fear of being judged. It has had the most profound effect on my life thus far.
Last on my list of Anxiety disorders that affect my life frequently would be Panic Attacks, which seem to encompass all of my anxieties into one. My Panic Attacks often hit me from out of the blue. They quickly turn my thoughts of fear into impending doom where I begin to lose control of my body and mind. I become lightheaded, my heart is racing uncontrollably, I feel hot and clammy and nauseous and just want to escape from the world.
I can assure you that my imaginary friend is very real to me.
I am very aware that my thoughts and fears are irrational to anyone who has never experienced them before but I can assure you that my imaginary friend is very real to me. I continue to seek out help and treatment as this is not just something that affects me, but has taken a toll on my entire family. There really is no magic pill to fix it so I continue to use other methods to help with my recovery through breathing techniques, grounding exercises and writing. I have come to realize that I may never be fully cured but hopefully I will learn to live a more functioning life one day and that I will then be able to distance myself from my imaginary friend.