My whole life I’ve been kind of panic-y. More in a funny way really. When there’s a fight I run away. I exaggerate danger in my mind (like flying, I hate flying!). When there’s the least amount of potential unsafety, I GTFO. This has worked well. I’ve never been punched in my face, eventhough I probably have should have.
The first “nerves” I can remember must have been when I went to school but there was a kid who didn’t like me. He’d get up to me during the break and talk random shit at me. That went on for a few weeks until I realized if I copied his bullying style, and mirrored it on him, it worked just as well and he started getting even more embarrassed than me and then he quit.
I was happy I found out early how to fix that. But I remember for weeks I’d be nervous just entering the school hallways.
When nerves became anxiety was when I had my first business. Around 2010, I had a YouTube channel that was doing well and making around $2,000/m. I was in college, so this was a lot of money. I knew when I graduated I had to get a job. Unless I had money. And I was getting in money.
But then the fear started. What if my YouTube channel would come crashing down? The money would stop. What would I do? There weren’t lot of jobs. That became the first time I had a constant level of background anxiety going on inside me.
Background anxiety feels like your brain is like the beach (I drew it for you). And then your clear mind is the water. But the shoreline (which is anxiety) keeps going higher and higher until there’s no water left. It’s just sand.
When anxiety gets really bad, your mind feels like on the left. You have racing thoughts, a tight chest, and your short of breath. And your mind is like tangled wires. When your mind is normal it feels like on the right. Your mind is nice and relaxed and silent. You might call it “stress” or “nerves” as it’s related.
After graduating and overdosing on coffee I got my first panic attack out of nowhere. And after that more background anxiety. The panic attack motivated me though in a good way. I had to GTFO and started to travel. That travel helped me start the business I run now. Travel was like the best medicine ever for anxiety. Getting so many new sensations simply removed any anxiety I had left. There wasn’t enough space for in my brain anymore.
When I got back from traveling though, the anxiety hit me even harder. I had simply self-medicated anxiety with travel but I never really cured the core issue. At all. My anxiety developed further into lying awake at night feeling short-breathed. And a feeling I can only describe as my head wanting to explode because there were so many racing thoughts.
Do you feel disconnected from reality?
If you have a lot of anxiety or stress over a time, you may also start to get derealization, depersonalization or disassociation. They’re all kinda related and they’re about the most scary shit you can imagine. It feels like you’re in The Matrix. The world feels fake and it looks like you’re watching a movie of your life. It also saps you of wanting to do stuff because, well, it doesn’t really feel like you’re in control. I got that. Especially at night. The nights felt pretty different.
If you’re reading this and you have it. Don’t panic. You’re already IN a panic, that’s WHY you have it. Your body is going fight-or-flight primal attack/defense mode, so it makes sense it doesn’t have time to process reality accurately. The problem is that it’s a response that doesn’t make sense.
I’ve had this on and off for years, it comes and goes with my anxiety. It’s really annoying and literally I’m like “oh god, the leaves on the trees look like a fake 3d render again, please make it real lol”.
This stuff sounds like fucking bananas, and it is, but is very common though and comes along with anxiety and depression. So most people will have it at least at one point in their lives.
If you don’t break it, this becomes a pretty vicious cycle downward. You lay awake at night worrying about stuff, get short-breathed from it and your heart starts racing. Hopefully you get some sleep. Then when you wake up, it feels like you’re in The Matrix, haha. Yes, sucks.
When I’d work really hard and focus on a goal, it’d go away completely. That’s why so many workaholics have anxiety. They’re just self-medicating.
The thing is, when I got drunk with friends, even after just one beer, ANY anxiety would be gone. That probably means my anxiety isn’t that heavy if it can be removed with one drink. I instantly understood now why there’s so many alcoholics (that have one beer after work every single day). It’s because it’s SO EFFECTIVE!
You have to understand though, my life is pretty simple and by any account easy. There wasn’t THAT much to worry about compared to most people. So my anxiety was distinctly physical or chemical.
And it wasn’t like I had this every day. It might be there one day, go for weeks, then come back for a week.
Since I’ve had it for a few years now, I can also tell you it’s not really different from when things were going well, and when things where going not well with my work etc. I always had it.
The tech scene
Now here’s the thing.
If you see that in the mainstream populace half of people now have anxiety. Then imagine the tech scene?
They’re smart, status-oriented and ambitious people who generally overthink stuff. If you let their minds go free, they’ll just start spinning in a recursive loop forever.
If you’re not aware that it is anxiety, you might not even know you have it. It’s just how you’ve felt for ages. Also it usually only really starts occurring in late 20s, early 30s. So you might be fine during your 20s (like I was) until one day BAM! YUUUUUUUP. DEAL WITH IT!
How I cured it
Just like with RSI, over years I started testing stuff to cure it. It’s still there but I think I’ve decreased it be a lot more manageable than before.
There’s a thing with tech people and coffee. We’re obsessed with it. It gives us the energy to work for 8 hours on a single project trying to maneuver this computer into doing what we want it to do. We love drinking giant Starbucks takeaway cups. And the smell and taste of it is just amazing.
The problem is probably the caffeine. A Starbucks Venti Latte contains 150mg of caffeine. That’s 6 cups of tea! And sometimes I’d drink two of them. And I wonder why I have anxiety! Haha!
Okay, this is probably the most unscientific chart ever, haha, but look at that correlation! 😛
So you have anxiety, and you drink coffee, you probably drink too much of it. Even if you’ve always been fine with it. Caffeine sensitivity can increase with age, and it can also simply increase by overdosing yourself with it. That, in turn, develops anxiety.
I’ve quit coffee now for about 40 days. I’ve switched to black tea, green tea and in the evening Rooibos tea. I also get lots of decaf coffee. Most major coffee chains actually offer decaf coffee (at least in US and EU they do).