WHAT IS HIGH FUNCTIONING ANXIETY?

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Photography by JKG
Location: Tooting, London

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Years ago, I found out that anxiety can often be unprocessed trauma that stems from fear. I knew I suffered occasionally with feeling all over the place, but I could never really pin point where it was coming from. I wouldn't (and still don't) class myself an as an anxious person so I would often feel frustrated if I felt wobbly or agitated. A lot of our trauma and coping mechanisms sit in our subconscious, therefore that big black box full of pain, that we can't get to because we locked it and threw away the key, will manifest out as anxiety. It makes sense right?

I also didn't have the 'typical' anxiety symptoms that most people talk about. But then I stumbled upon an article that spoke about 'high functioning' anxiety, and it really rang true for what I experience and feel.

A few weeks ago I attended an event as a paid job. I rarely go to events, unless its for work because 1. I don't really enjoy them and 2. I would rather spend time doing something else and 3. I always leave feeling drained, tired and nervy. So the event was cool, I felt out of place (which I always do) but I got on with it, and did what I needed to do. I knew I didn't feel quite right, but it wasn't until I saw my close friend Simone that the most profound thing happened. I spotted her through the crowd (I didn't know she was going to be there) and I suddenly felt relieved. I felt so relieved that I started to cry as a way to release whatever I was feeling. I suddenly realised that I felt so anxious and unsafe, that when I saw her, my inner child could suddenly breathe again. I could then feel how tight my jaw was, how achy my lower back felt (the lower back is the place that holds pain and generational trauma) and I then quickly remembered, that high functioning anxiety is something that I definitely still suffer with. It's only when I connect to the feeling and give myself some time to listen to my soul, that I can recognise and understand it.

People with high functioning anxiety usually have solid and successful careers, are driven, ambitious and hard working. On the surface they have their entire shit together, but beneath they can sometimes be struggling, screaming or both. High functioning anxiety I believe, is also something that many trauma survivors suffer from. In particular those who have dedicated their lives to 'getting out' - survival or 'becoming someone' - successful, so that their story is one of overcoming and transcending their victimhood.

Hashtag RELATABLE.

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High functioning anxiety for me, can only be felt when I allow it to come up and through me, but often I don't feel safe enough to do so, and that's the reason I will feel this anxiety in the first place. Its basically being stuck in a loop - and you can only get out of it once you feel settled or once you release it.

Under the surface of confidence and joy and security, I may feel fearful, naked and like I'm not good enough. I believe this is why my career used to be so deeply rooted in my self worth so letting go of these attachments feels alien, uncomfortable and anxiety inducing. It stems from a need to control, which is another symptom of trauma.

High functioning anxiety often feels like fire in your belly, like adrenalin, like a zest for life, hence the success and proactive-ness of this somewhat, disarray. But it is something that can trigger things that affect your overall wellbeing and can make you extremely tired. Your brain at times can feel constantly on, constantly buzzing and that is enough to drive you crazy. Hence, my tiredness after events that trigger my anxiety.

My life has pretty much been dedicated to becoming a success story, so that my inner child can detach from what she's been through. It's complicated to say the least, but if you have experienced therapy or you've connected to your trauma, then you may understand what I mean. I am definitely that person that has lists upon lists of things that need to be done and I struggle to let go of the need to focus on doing stuff. One could argue that focusing on 'stuff' is a way to not focus on the things you need feel and/or need to heal - but we shall safe that for another post lol.

The physical symptoms for me, are the worst part. I experience headaches, I need to poo ALOT and I feel like I'm going to throw up or faint. The only saving Grace that I have is the fact that I feel this way maybe 10% of the time. Although my high functioning anxiety doesn't affect my life, when I am feeling it in that moment - its just awful. It also takes a lot of self talk to not feel guilty about it or take it out on myself.

I think it's so important to overall wellbeing to honour how you feel and allow your emotions to be truly felt - no matter how gross, ugly and uncomfortable they might be.

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This is my truth.

It feels good to get it off my chest.

For more information on high functioning anxiety, click here.

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Comments

  1. 9th May 2019 / 7:24 am

    This is such an insightful and well written post. Really well explained. Thanks for writing it.

  2. 3rd July 2019 / 10:26 pm

    I definitely relate to the feeling of only realising you’ve been super anxious when you have the brief moment of relief. Talking about this is so important because as someone who also has high functioning anxiety, it takes its toll but its not always easy to spot ! x
    Susan, Books, Etc

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