Some people walk on eggshells around me. I can see it when they move, their feet softly hitting the ground, hoping not to upset me or scare me in any way. I’m not a fragile bird with a broken wing that is going to ask you to help me. I don’t need your help. Stop walking around me as I’m going to shatter with any sudden movements.
I’m not broken. I’m not cracked. I am a flawed human being trying to make it like everyone else is.
I don’t want to be treated like a child who’s scared of the dark. I don’t want to be cooed at so I don’t cry in the middle of having an anxiety attack. I need you to let me freak the fuck out for two seconds. I promise you, I won’t be mad at you when I collect myself but I need you to back the fuck up. My anxiety isn’t something you can fix with your careful petting. My anxiety isn’t going to deem itself unfit and just leave. My anxiety does not affect you so stop acting like it does. Let me be an anxious mess.
Let me cry a bit.
My anxiety didn’t break me. It’s not going to. If anything, it put me back together after other things broke me.
My anxiety gave me a reason to be more aware of myself and less aware of you. I know it sounds harsh but it’s true. My anxiety taught me that sometimes I need to focus on myself FOR MYSELF.
Maybe your family is far away. Maybe you’re living on your own. Maybe you truly do feel like no one is with you and no one hears you. You’re wrong. I’m here. I’m listening.
2. Your life isn’t nearly as bad as your anxiety is.
Your anxiety has a nasty habit of giving you a heightened sense of panic. It’s just a bad few minutes. Find an empty room, a bathroom stall, a closet–it doesn’t have to be pretty. Just find one, and take a moment to breathe, and you’ll realize that life isn’t nearly as bad as it feels right now.
3. Every tiny victory is one you can use to help someone else.
There’s one thing I always told myself when I was having a rough day, and that was this: every tiny victory, no matter how small it is, is a chance to help someone else. I’ve been on the edge, and I’ll take every opportunity to talk the next person off it.
4. There’s always someone to talk to. You get have to raise your head and take a look around.
There’s always someone there. For me, it was the one lonely star outside my window. I could see it just peek out from behind the trees every night. It was what I talked to. It was always there. You’ll get there too. You’ll find someone that understands, and you’ll realize that they are just a phone call away.
5. Realize the world is so big and there are so many things left for you to do.
You will survive this day. You will go on to do all the great things that I know you can do. You will make it. I know it.
6. The rest of the world doesn’t see your crippling anxiety, they see your beautiful smile.
You’re going to have to learn to show it more often. It sure is beautiful.
7. You always somehow end up surviving.
Funny how that works. Even when you feel like you’re going to die, even when you’ve given all you can give, even when you’re so close to breaking that you can see the fault lines–we always somehow survive.
8. You are so much more than just your anxiety.
You are a sister or brother, a daughter or son, a friend, a mentor. You are somebody’s everything. Someone wakes up every morning thanking God you’re in their life. Keep it that way.
9. Don’t let it label you.
You aren’t simply what your anxiety tells you to be. You are better than it. You can overcome it. You can be so much more than just a list of symptoms. You just have to believe in yourself.
10. Don’t go. You have so much left to teach us.
This world needs you. It’s not your time just yet.
At 23-years-old, I have now only just started to live my life for the very first time. Everything before was such a blur. Every sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste was only something I had heard of. Every experience was mediocre. Life was bland. There was no substance. There was no sense.
It’s hard to put these feelings into words, but I will try. The best way I can describe anxiety is going through each day feeling as if you’re underwater. Nothing is clear. All of your senses lack functioning. You’re overstimulated, and the only thing you can do is shut down. There have been soo many endless days of crying. It became my outlet. I allowed myself to feel, to be vulnerable.
Anxiety is something that is all too familiar to me. Since the age of six, it has haunted me. It has controlled me, and it has torn me down more than once. It didn’t come alone though. It came hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly, with depression.
Depression. You know that rainy day that feels like it’s never going to end? Your mood is sad. You’re exhausted. You can’t get out of bed? It’s like that, only times 1,000! It’s not just one day, two days, or even three. Sometimes, it lasts for months, sometimes years. You start to become a sucky person, flaky, insensitive and just overall a buzz kill. Not yourself.
From ages six to 23, until the day I hit rock bottom and had no other choice but up, anxiety robbed me of my freedom. I’ve been to dark places. Imagine if you must. Never physically hurting myself, but I’ve sunk into a few deep black holes where scary thoughts laughed at me while I wept.
Anxiety disorders are extremely debilitating. No, I couldn’t just stop worrying. No, I couldn’t just relax or just breathe. I couldn’t just get over it. Trust me, I wish I could, but I couldn’t.
This is one of my many but not my last attempt at describing anxiety. My mission is to educate those who are dealing with it and who have loved ones who struggle with it. There is help, and there is hope. I’m so thankful this experience has allowed me to turn my mess into a message.
Here’s what I have learned to be the do’s and don’ts of anxiety:
1. Do speak to someone!
Anyone, a friend, a therapist, your significant other, or even me!
2. Don’t think it’ll just pass on its own.
Sometimes we put way too much pressure on ourselves, thinking we can fix everything. It’s OK to ask for some help every now and again.
3. Do everything possible to try to stay positive.
Show gratitude. Show compassion. Surround yourself with loved ones. Journal. Meditate. Anything can create even the slightest glimmer of hope!
4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Not on Facebook. Not on Instagram. Not in the magazines. Not in real life. Trust me! If everyone threw their problems into a pile, then you would act fast to grab yours right back. Just saying…
5. Do redirect your thoughts.
Distract yourself. As soon as a negative thought attacks, be prepared. Think happy. Like I said, anything is better than nothing when it comes to overcoming adversities. I have had my fair share of struggles that I honestly came to breaking point at one point so trust me when I say that I honestly was ready to do anything and everything to regain my life!
6. Don’t forget: Out of your vulnerabilities, will come your strength.
7. Do what feels good to YOU.
8. Don’t be embarrassed to see a therapist.
Here are a few sentences from a book I recently read and really found helpful when I was going through my funk: “No study has ever suggested that people in therapy are, on average, more troubled or demoralized than people who are not in therapy. Rather, they tend to be distinguished by the fact that they have chosen to confront the problems of poor self-esteem and inadequate contact with the self. They, thereby, offer us an opportunity to learn of a great deal about the psychological condition of the general population.”
Episodes of anxiety attacks can be uncomfortable, unpleasant and unhealthy. Because of this, most people head to the medicine cabinet for a quick relief. While some may find medications as an effective way to battle anxiety, there are more natural and equally effective ways of dealing your excessive emotion without subjecting the body to different negative side-effects.
Exercise – Exercise improves the health of the body and mind, and improves the overall well-being of a person. A 30-minute exercise, 3-5 times a week is enough to provide anxiety relief. Increasing to at least an hour of aerobic exercise each day provides maximum benefits for relieving stress and anxiety.
Sleep – A popular adage, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” speaks of the importance of sleep in the overall health of a person. Qualitative sleep for 8 hours a day is a proven and effective technique to battle stress as well as anxiety attacks.
Healthy diet – Along with exercise, diet plays an important role in the overall health of the body. Eating healthy food maintains the normal chemistry and hormones of the body as well has provides resistance to common ailments that increases the risk of anxiety attacks.
Avoid unnecessary stressors – Most stressors are unavoidable and it is also unhealthy to turn your back to certain situations that need to be addressed. Still, some situations and people cause unnecessary stress that result to anxiety attacks. Avoid people that stress you out, learn how to say ‘no’, trim down your to-do-list, avoid sensitive topics such as politics and religion, etc.
Relaxation techniques – Yoga, meditation, Taiji, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization and breathing exercises can reduce anxiety and promote the feeling of relaxation and emotional well-being.
Keep a positive outlook – While it is very difficult to maintain a good attitude when experiencing an anxiety attack, it is very crucial to be more conscious and help stay in control over the situation to effectively battle your condition. Do not think “Oh no, not again!” or “I’m screwed” when an episode hits you. Think that it will be over soon and control your emotions so that your anxiety will now get worse.
If the abovementioned techniques do not work for you, it is probably time to consult a health professional about your health. Since symptoms of anxiety attacks may be a result of other psychological and physical conditions, you need to see your medical doctor first and get a complete physical in order to rule out any other possible causes.
If anxiety prevails and symptoms last for more than 1 to 2 weeks, especially if you have no idea why, see a trained therapist.
A person with anxiety disorder usually goes under medication, therapy or both. Prescription drugs for anxiety are usually antidepressants and benzodiazepines. However, they provide short-term relief and thus, other therapy is often recommended. Therapies given are cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. They are both effective (especially when combined with medication) to treat anxiety disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps patients to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Exposure therapy, on the other hand, helps treat anxiety attacks by subjecting the patients to control fear in a safe and controlled environment. Through repeated exposure, patients gain greater self control and more confidence in facing fearful situation.
My life has been a series of saying, “I’m sorry.” Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m sorry for, the two words just slip out. Most of the time I’m sorry because I feel as though I carry a great deal of baggage. I feel like a burden. I don’t want to put anyone out because of my anxiety and the person I am. I don’t want people to judge me, but I don’t have control of that. I don’t want to say sorry, but honestly, I am.
For so many years, I’ve felt like a burden because of my anxiety. I put myself in a bubble because I was concerned if I let my guard down, you’d see me differently and insist I was being dramatic. I guess those concerns came to fruition because I’ve heard, “You’re just being dramatic” quite a bit.
Interestingly enough, anxiety isn’t acting. Anxiety comes in many different forms, but having anxiety doesn’t equate to being dramatic. So please, don’t tell me otherwise. I’ve heard how ridiculous it is that I worry about certain things and have been told on numerous occasions, “I don’t need to worry.” If only it was that easy.
Does anyone truly believe I enjoy worrying? Do you think I enjoy when my stomach is in knots? Do you think I enjoy when my body shakes or my mind and heart are racing? I’m sure you can answer those questions on your own. Please, know if I could flip a switch and turn off the anxiety, I would, but anxiety isn’t wired that way.
Teasing me about my anxiety and panic isn’t funny. I know you say you’re joking, but there’s always some truth behind every “just kidding.” With my anxiety comes sensitivity. I’m a fragile person. The way in which you use your words are not taken lightly by me. I need you to know my anxiety isn’t something that should be mocked or joked about. It’s an illness.
Anxiety doesn’t come with a guide. It can hit you anytime, anywhere and can leave you in a heap in the middle of the floor. I’ve been there a thousand times.
The thing is: Anxiety is real. It’s painful. It’s numbing and it’s a great big ball of fear, tangled thoughts and worry. When I’m in an anxious state, I can’t think straight. I fixate on things. When I say fixate, I mean I obsess and overthink. For some reason, I think if I fixate and obsess on something it’ll go away, taking my worry and fears with it. But guess how many times it’s worked? None.
Please, be gentle with me. I carry a sign that says, “Handle with care.” I wear my heart on my sleeve. I love with everything I have.
Often times, when I’m in an anxious state, I can’t hear the words you say to me because the thoughts in my head are much louder. Sometimes, I don’t need you to say anything. Just hug me. Just sit with me. Just be there for me. That’s all I need when I’m spiralling.
Please, don’t disregard my worry and fears. It just makes the situation worse for me. If you tell me you locked the door, I have to check it. If you tell me you’re going to do something, then please, do it. I may ask you four or five times just to make sure. I know it can get frustrating for you, but it’s what I need to feel secure, to feel like I can put my faith in you. Please, know I don’t think you’re a liar. I just need to feel like I have some sort of control of my mind.
My anxiety is a battle, but I’ve chosen to put my armour on to take on the task of tackling the giant. Anxiety doesn’t define me, but it’s a huge aspect of my life and I’ve come to accept that. I hope you’ll accept not only that, but also me. I am who I am. Even though my mind and body are riddled with anxiety, I still believe I can make a difference.
I did not make many close friends during my schooling life. Friendly acquaintances, sure, but very few who I actively spent time with. It turns out, making friends is hard. I kept thinking things would fall into place and I’d find my group, but it never really happened. Why? Because making real friends takes hard work in areas I am terrible in.
I am an introvert living with anxiety. Individually, either of these can make making friends difficult. But combined, they make it a nightmare.
As an introvert I’m at a disadvantage from step one.
We’re awful at small talk, you see. No, that’s a lie. We can make small talk. We just hate doing it. Small talk is exhausting and such a waste of time. It sounds terrible, but I really don’t care what your plans are for the weekend. For people like me, small talk is what you do to avoid awkward silences with strangers when you make the mistake of going out into the world alone without headphones. It is shallow and pointless, but it fills the silence.
But when I’m trying to make friends I want to find out what you’re passionate about. I want to talk about your favorite books and why you related so strongly to a particular character. I want to know what your dreams are and what you are most afraid of. Basically, I prefer to skip the tedious polite acquaintance phase and jump right to the deep existential conversation phase. It’s an introvert thing, and it can be off putting for some and that’s fine. But the real problem is that when you pair this with an anxiety-ridden mind that constantly tells me I’m annoying everyone around me, I end up being too scared to start up any of the conversations I actually want to have. Which means I get bored. And I also come off as really boring.
On the odd chance I survive phase one, you might think things would get easier from there. If only.
I rarely make the effort to reach out to people, which probably makes a lot of people think I don’t care enough about our friendship to be bothered. Most of the time I badly want to talk to someone more, but I avoid reaching out because I worry I’m bothering them. Then (and here’s the real hypocritical kicker), when people don’t reach out to me, I assume I was right and they don’t actually care about me or like me. If they had any interest in me, they would have texted, right? Obviously.
On some level I of course realize this goes both ways. I cannot expect others to make an effort when I won’t, but the voice in my mind insists that no, they just don’t like me. They are just being polite when we’re together. I did them a favor by never trying to talk or hang out.
If I am too anxious to text someone, it maybe goes without saying I’m also terrible about making plans. I probably come off as either a boring introvert who never leaves her house or someone who can’t be bothered to try and therefore isn’t worth the time. The truth is I avoid making plans with people because I’m terrified that if I try, nobody will show up and I’ll look like an idiot. For someone without anxiety it might just be a bit disappointing, but for someone like me it is utterly humiliating. And it has happened before. It might sound ridiculous, but trying to make plans with people has a high risk factor in my mind. Best not to bother, the voice insists.
People like me are terrible friends. When we’re first getting to know each other we will want you to reach out to us and make an effort to invite us places, while rarely doing the same for you. We will sometimes back out on plans because we’re having a bad anxiety day. We’re the worst for spontaneous nights out because we get overwhelmed when our plans suddenly change, and we’re probably already in bed with our sweats on anyway. We will need constant reassurance you actually like having us around, and it will take you months to convince us to stop apologizing for literally everything.
But if you are patient with us…
…we are also the best friends you could ever ask for. The more time we spend with you, the less high-maintenance we’ll become. We will realize you don’t secretly hate us, and we will start reaching out to you. We’ll send you pictures and videos we know will make you laugh and tag you in every adorable puppy picture we find on Instagram when you’re having a bad day.
Our introversion and our anxiety means we are always tuned into to our environments and the people around us, so we will always know when something is bothering you. We will let you vent for hours while we just sit and listen. We will trust you with our deepest secrets, and we will never share yours. We will never be angry with you when you wake us up in the middle of the night, because we know better than anyone how terrible it is to be hurting and alone.
We will never judge you for what you love. We’ll watch your favorite shows with you even if we think they’re silly, because we know how important they are. We will remember every single inside joke, partially because we are so embarrassingly excited to have inside jokes with someone. We will value you more than you could ever possibly know, because we know exactly how difficult we are to be friends with. And because we will never forget how much you made our day the first time you asked us if we wanted to hang out.
I am working hard to become a better friend.
I am trying to make a point to reach out to people, to try making plans, to let them know I would actually really like to have them in my life. But it’s a process. And even knowing how much I have to improve on, it is really discouraging to feel like no one cares enough to shoot me a text, and that gives my anxiety just that much more fuel when it is trying to convince me not to say hi to someone.
I know I am not the only one who feels like this. So, if you were kind enough to take the time to read this whole post, I encourage you to reach out to someone today. You never know; you might make their whole day with just one quick text. And if you know you have introverted friends with anxiety (or any friends with anxiety, really), be patient with them. Take the time to reassure them they are valued. Remember that it is highly unlikely they are ignoring you or blowing you off. In reality, they are probably terrified of annoying you, and are hoping you’ll decide to text them.
And when you do, it really will mean more than you could ever possibly know.
I wanted to take some time out and thank you. You have always been a steady voice in my life, ever since I was young.
We began getting closer back then, when I realized you were there to keep me safe.
When things were unknown or unfamiliar, you’ve been there to fill in the gaps and let me know what to expect.
That’s what you’ve done for me—you’ve always kept me comfortable. You make sure I stay within my limits. You remind me when I’m being too loud, too annoying, or just too much for those around me.
Sometimes you remind me of the people who told me the same things when I was younger. Sometimes you even remind me of that teacher in primary and high school who liked to sit me in the back of the room with the other kids who didn’t get the best grades.
Because of you, I learned early that if I wasn’t able to do something perfectly, I probably shouldn’t even try it. We’ve talked a lot about how much heartbreak that has saved me over the years.
I just wanted to talk to you about this new friend that I’ve been talking to lately. Maybe see what you think about her?
I met her when I started seeing a psychologist. I started seeing a psychologist because I was having these episodes where I was feeling more exhausted than usual and having trouble—almost every day!. It seemed like I was spinning out of control.
Remember? I was calling you all the time back then—when everything was in shambles and falling apart. I just knew my life was crumbling around me and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
But then my new friend started telling me that things could be different.
I know. It sounded crazy to me, too, but I knew I had to start somewhere if there was a chance that things could get better even in the slightest.
She and I have talked a lot about some of the things that you and I have had endless conversations about over the years. And you know what? I’m surprised, but it’s kind of refreshing sometimes to get a new perspective on things.
We laugh together sometimes. When she and I talk through some of those old conversations, she puts a different spin on them and can even make them sound a little silly.
She says things like, “Is that true? What if the opposite happened?” or “What if you had tried it?” and makes me think through possibilities I hadn’t considered.
She seems to think I have more potential than what we may have originally thought.
I realized the other day when I was talking to her that people from my childhood were wrong about a lot of things—and that might mean they were wrong about me, too.
I don’t think you and I had ever thought about it like that.
In fact, I’m starting to realize that you and I hadn’t considered a lot of things.
I’m starting to wonder if our late-night conversations about what might happen tomorrow, next year, or when I’m older are healthy for me.
And I am wondering if it’s helpful when you insert yourself into my conversations with other people.
I also realized you are probably the only friend that tells me that I’m not good enough for what I have.
And looking back at some of the missed opportunities and regrets in my life, it’s interesting to consider whether everyone else might have some valid points.
Maybe I am smarter than I thought. Maybe I’m kinder. I know I try to be.
Maybe it’s not the end of the world to try something and fail.
My new friend tells me that I’m capable, and that I should try new things because the old things haven’t been working very well.
She says even though it’s comfortable to stick with what I know, there is potential to do more with my life. Sometimes it makes me excited—in a really good way.
And I can’t remember the last time I felt so excited.
Before I met her, I couldn’t remember the last time I even dreamed of a happy ending. It somehow feels possible now.
I know we’ve always talked about how I am a “realist,” but looking back and seeing that some of the things we talked about didn’t happen, how realistic have I been?
I wish you could meet my new friend because I think she could do wonders for you, too, but I’m not sure you’d get along. She seems to have a different perspective than you.
Her name is Hope. And I think she’s going to be around more often, for a long time.
The word “anxiety” gets thrown around a lot in day-to-day conversation, and I think the casual use of the word undermines how truly crippling anxiety can be. I have good days, and I have bad days. On good days, I only feel anxious for a few minutes out of the whole day. When my anxiety gets bad, I feel completely paralyzed. It’s as if I physically can’t move. I’ve had more good days recently, but I still have a bad day every once in a while.
My struggles with anxiety inspired me to write this article and share some coping methods that help me. I mostly focus on two strategies: distraction and rationalization. When I start feeling anxious, I either try to distract myself from the feeling or encourage rational thinking to separate the anxious thoughts from what’s really happening.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I am not claiming that I have a cure for anxiety. The info below is based entirely on my personal experience and research.
Above all, it’s important that you follow the instructions of your doctor if you have prescribed medication or anything that is part of a treatment plan.
I am currently on medication for anxiety. If you are taking medication that works for you, I encourage you to take it, but only as prescribed by your doctor.
OK… Now that I have my little disclaimer out of the way, I’ll share my tips.
Here are 14 ways to deal with anxiety in the moment:
1. Just breathe.
When you feel like the room is spinning and your heart is about to jump out of your chest, the best thing to do is just focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale. By bringing attention to your breath, you will feel more grounded. Your breath is the link between your body and mind. Paying attention to it will help you come back to the present moment.
2. Wait it out.
I remind myself that anxiety is often temporary (or it will at least get better over time), and I find ways to deal with it until it goes away. If you’re in a state of anxious paralysis and you can’t do anything except wait it out, tell yourself it’s going to be OK and that you will eventually feel better.
3. Turn on some music.
I love listening to music no matter what I’m doing, and sometimes it’s exactly what I need when I’m feeling anxious. Try turning on your favorite song or band when you’re feeling down. It might lift your mood a little, or at least provide a distraction from the anxiety.
4. Watch a funny TV show or movie.
Oftentimes, laughter is the best medicine. Like listening to music, watching something on TV is a good way to distract yourself from your anxious thoughts.
5. Listen to an uplifting podcast.
I enjoy listening to personal development and motivational podcasts. You should try to find one that interests or inspires you. It will bring positive energy into your day, which can soothe your feelings of anxiety.
6. Do something productive to distract yourself.
Productive activities serve as distractions, and they will also make you feel like you accomplished something. Personally, quite a bit of my anxiety is caused by unfinished tasks that are looming over me and stressing me out. If you’re the same way, try tackling the smaller tasks on your to-do list. When you have fewer things left to do, you will feel less anxious.
7. Get creative.
Creative hobbies work wonders for anxiety (or at least for me, they do). Even if you don’t consider yourself artistic, you could try writing, crafting, dancing, or doing anything that brings you joy. My passion project is this blog, and I enjoy working on my content when I’m feeling anxious or depressed. I encourage you to find a creative hobby if you don’t have one already. You will have something fulfilling to do when anxiety strikes.
8. Take a nap.
This could be difficult if your anxiety prevents you from sleeping, but napping can be a great solution because it passes time.
9. Seek support from loved ones.
I understand not feeling comfortable opening up to others, but sometimes that’s just what you need. Talking to someone you trust will make you feel less alone in the world, and you will probably feel better after venting. I’m a pretty independent person, but even I can’t do everything all by myself. I lean on my support system when I feel like I can’t do it alone.
10. Write in a journal.
If you don’t want to talk about your feelings to anyone, you could write them down in a journal instead. Journaling can be therapeutic, and it will create a record of your thoughts for you to reflect upon later.
11. Recite or write down some positive affirmations.
Affirmations are positive statements that change your mindset and help you overcome negative thoughts. They are good for dealing with anxiety because they help you reduce stress and increase feelings of personal power. Affirmations will make you feel more grounded in reality, and you will realize that everything is going to be OK.
12. Focus on things you can control.
A lot of my anxiety is about things that are out of my control. Worry is a wasted emotion, especially if you’re worrying about things that you have no control over. If there is something you CAN do to improve a situation, focus on that instead of letting anxiety manifest over things you can’t change.
13. Take time for self-care.
I feel anxious about my busy schedule all the time. One way I calm my anxiety is simply by taking a break. A little extra time for self=care can go a long, long way. Whatever self-care means to you, try to incorporate more of it into your life. It will improve your mental health overall.
14. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If things are really getting tough, and you feel like you have no idea what to do next, do not be afraid to ask for professional help. Everyone who struggles with anxiety has a different experience with it, and some people can’t manage it on their own.
Getting help could be the best decision you ever make. I’ve been in and out of therapy over the years, but I got something good out of it every time I went. It’s a personal decision, and I’m not trying to be pushy about it. But it’s definitely something to think about if you feel like your anxiety has backed you into a corner.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope this helps. If you have questions or comments, you can leave me a message below or send me an email at ellestoj.gmail.com . If you’d like to read more posts like this, leave your email in the box below to subscribe.
Social anxiety is far more than just being the “quiet one” at the party — the person who would rather socialize with the host’s dog than be the “social butterfly.” It’s all-consuming, chipping away at your confidence far before you’ve arrived at the party and long after you’ve left the drunken affair and settled in for the night.
It’s constantly analyzing your every word, every action and every movement, falsely believing that you are a collection of flaws, mistakes and ineptitude — and that your perceived shortcomings are all the world sees.
It’s fearing that you are unlovable, that all of your friends secretly hate you no matter how fervently they convince you otherwise and that your partner stays with you not out of love, but rather to save his image as a faithful lover.
It’s standing frozen in front of the phone, your heart racing as your mind battles itself. It’s wishing that you could simply make that call without rehearsing your responses and fearing the impression you will make on the person on the other end of the line, convincing yourself to dial, and then hanging up before the dial tone sounds.
It’s refusing to eat in front of strangers — or even in front of friends — because you worry they’re judging what you’re eating, how much you’re eating or even that you’re eating in the first place. It’s refraining from eating when no one else is — even if you haven’t eaten all day — because you fear they’ll think you’re impolite. It’s wondering if your roommates suspect why they never see you in the kitchen, then worrying that they judge you for eating in private.
It’s listening rather than speaking in large groups, speaking only with your expressions because you genuinely believe you are unworthy of contributing to the conversation. It’s feeling your friends’ eyes pierce through you as you finally speak, warmth spreading to your cheeks as you convince yourself you’ve annoyed everyone in your company. It’s not noticing the genuine smiles in your friends’ responses, the happiness you bring to others’ lives. It’s misconstruing non-judgmental kindness as irritation with your rare self-expression.
It’s feeling anxious for hours after someone unfollows you on social media. It’s desperately attempting to convince yourself they no longer belong in your life and that maybe their decision had nothing to do with you, but instead, arriving at the erroneous conclusion that you’re annoying and completely unworthy of human connection.
It’s perpetually guarding your heart, refusing to let others in to see your scarred beauty because you fear if you express your truth, they will leave. It’s always being prepared for goodbyes but feeling irreparably shattered when others walk away. It’s blaming your wavering openness for your loved ones’ absence in your life.
It’s slowly distancing yourself from friends and family because you’re afraid you’ve revealed too much to them, so now, in the wake of your anxiety, you feel like you have to leave them. It’s justifying your decision to relinquish your relationships by convincing yourself that they wouldn’t miss you anyways, but secretly wishing they’ll come running back to you, wondering where you’ve been.
It’s constantly having excuses at the ready for leaving the party early, as the sights, sounds and voices blur together, overloading your senses. It’s feebly mentioning you feel sick and wondering if everyone can see right through your words. It’s knowing in your heart that you are mentally ill and wishing you could disclose your mental illness with the same ease at which you express your mounting nausea — without fear of judgment.
It’s possibly never even making it to the party because with every minute until it’s time to leave, your heart beats louder and faster, threatening to jump out of your chest as you worry that your friends will leave you and you’ll be trapped in a room full of judgmental strangers. It’s vehemently denying that you want to attend the party, but deep down, wishing you could be as carefree as your friends, dancing under the stars until the sun rises.
Social anxiety is more than just being the “quiet one” at the party. It’s slowly learning to combat the mistruths that haunt your mind. It’s discovering you are worthy of companionship and that people do miss you in your absence. It’s speaking up little by little and learning to see immeasurable kindness in those around you. It’s slipping back into self-destructive mindsets some days, but always resolving to continue the journey towards self-love. Social anxiety is celebrating the small triumphs in the midst of the struggles, in the hope that someday, you will finally arrive at the party — and enjoy yourself, too.
Anxiety disorders are extremely common, and odds are you know someone struggling with one and you don’t even realize it. Often, those with anxiety don’t share that they’re dealing with it due to the stigma. We can sit here all day and talk about how, “It’s OK to have a mental illness,” and “Mental health is so important!” Yet, so many people act like it’s not.
Mental health is important. You are important. I am important.
I’m tired of constantly having to come up with excuses for my anxiety to benefit those who don’t understand or don’t care to. I’m sick and that’s OK! If your brain is sick, then it’s OK.
It’s disappointing I’m more comfortable saying I have a stomach bug than having panic attacks all day. It’s disappointing I’d rather lie to my friends and tell them I have a cold rather than say my anxious mind is weaving its way into my thoughts again. It’s disappointing I’ve been told that “I’m crazy,” “I need to just relax,” and “It could be worse.”
Obviously, I know all of this. Try telling that to my anxious mind, would ya?
The word anxiety gets thrown around so much that it belittles the constant dread and fear the illness holds. I constantly hear the word anxiety being used as a synonym for nervous. News flash! It’s not. I’m not just nervous. I’m not just worried. This doesn’t just last sometimes. This isn’t situational. This is my life.
Anxiety is real, and it sucks. The more we keep holding anxiety under this stigma, the more it will take a grip on our mind and bodies. I want to be able to say I have an anxiety disorder and not receive judgmental looks and disapproving comments. This is real. Pay attention to it, and don’t stigmatize what so many of us have to deal with daily.