Anxiety is an endless battle.
Many, many people live with some form of an anxiety disorder. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness among adults in the U.S.
And as one of those people with anxiety, let me tell you – it’s HARD.
Anxiety makes you second guess almost everything. Every word people say to you, every intent behind other people’s actions, everything.
Anxiety makes you feel defeated, constantly. It drains you of any fight, leaving you thinking, “It’s not even worth trying.”
Anxiety makes you feel like you’re constantly on the edge of breaking apart.
It leaves you crying from anxiety or panic attacks over even little things, sends you spiraling for hours before you can pull yourself out. It makes you hate yourself, sometimes even making you want to die so you can stop feeling SO MUCH because it’s just all too much.
Anxiety can make you shut down, mentally and physically. It can be over something as small as a comment someone makes that’s even the tiniest bit critical, or it can be something bigger. You feel like you’re drowning, pulled under by thoughts coming all too fast and spiraling so quickly out of control.
Anxiety makes you scared of yourself sometimes.
You feel like you have no control over what’s happening in your own mind, your own body. Anxiety sometimes even makes you say things you don’t mean, born out of an anxiety-created need to defend yourself by lashing out, even when the person on the receiving end has done nothing to deserve it.
This is something I have personally been guilty of more times than I would like to admit. I’ve become someone I hate far too often at times when my anxiety has taken over. And I do mean “take over” – I have lost all control to my anxiety before and found myself saying things I know are wrong and later regretted. I’ve damaged friendships, hurt the person I love who’s been by my side for four years, by speaking when in a dark place.
This just makes the anxiety stronger. It feeds this fear that I’m a horrible, mean person that no one should be around, that no one should love because this side of me is part of who I really am.
Anxiety makes it so hard to trust people, to let them in.
Anxiety convinces you that people will just hurt you down the line. For some people, like myself, that’s certainly a justified fear if it’s happened before. But even when you meet people who stick around and have proved your fears wrong, it just doesn’t. Go. Away.
It makes relationships so hard. You feel like a constant bother to your friends, like you always come off as needy. You feel like you can’t talk to them because you don’t want to become a burden to them, something they constantly have to deal with.
It makes you doubt when people say “I love you” or “I miss you.”
Anxiety makes you believe that you’re so unloveable, so broken, so not worthy of love that even when you know someone loves you, you constantly find yourself wondering, “But why?”
Anxiety often makes it hard to believe that someone really values and cherishes you, that they actually have reasons to love you – that they see something in you that makes them want to be with you. With anxiety, you feel like you are never good enough for your significant other.
There is an often unfounded fear lingering in the back of your mind that they’ll eventually realize you aren’t the one for them, or that you’re too much to deal with, and leave you. People with anxiety need constant reassurance that their significant other truly loves them and really does want to be with them.
Anxiety can sometimes make trying to be productive a thousand times harder.
Your mind just becomes so overwhelmed by the level of work you have to get done that you ultimately can’t get anything done. I’ve had many days where I had so much to do that instead of being productive, I found myself so mentally overwhelmed that I just could not manage to get myself to do any of it. The mental and physical energy was just not there at all.
One of the toughest things about living with anxiety is pretending to be okay.
Let’s be honest, even with the more open discussion of mental health, celebrities speaking out about it, and online platforms and spaces on social media that foster discussion about mental health, society still has a long way to go in the normalization of mental health and the behaviors that accompany it. There is this feeling that no one wants to see you “being a downer” or to honestly hear what you’re going through, to know that you really aren’t okay.
So you find yourself saying “I’m fine” a lot.
You become a natural at acting – not because you like to act, but because you’ve had to learn how to pretend that you’re not falling to pieces on the inside. That you aren’t disintegrating mentally and want nothing more than to hide, at least until you can get into a better mental space.
The hardest part is the complete illogical nature of anxiety.
It’s frustrating, infuriating, and really hard. Anxiety is not always rooted in some deeper psychological happening in the past – after all, part of the whole root of anxiety is irrational fears and thoughts.
One of the most frustrating things about anxiety is when people don’t understand, don’t try to understand, and/or refuse to be respectful of the serious struggle behind what we’re experiencing – especially when they do something that triggers our anxiety. These people will often perceive the anxious person as “being ridiculous,” “overreacting,” or “making a big deal out of nothing.”
Except we’re not. To us, whatever is triggering our anxiety is a big deal.
Just because you may not understand why, doesn’t make what someone with anxiety is experiencing any less valid. Saying anything that delegitimizes what a person with anxiety is going through only makes things worse.
(Here’s a good list of things someone might say to a person with anxiety or any other mental illness that would actually make things worse.)
If I tell you that something or some action makes me anxious, please don’t do it.
You may not understand the why, and I will usually do the best I can to explain it to you. But there may be times where even I don’t understand why something makes me anxious.
Even if you don’t get why a person with anxiety is anxious over something, please respect what they are experiencing. Don’t ignore or disregard it simply because you don’t get it. Don’t brush off someone with anxiety who straight up tells you something you’re doing or saying is triggering their anxiety. Don’t laugh it off or mock them. JUST STOP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING OR SAYING WHAT YOU’RE SAYING. Simple as that.
Remember that what we are dealing with is only so much within our control.
Medication can help, along with therapy and finding appropriate coping methods. But at the end of the day, anxiety will still be there. It’s still a demon we have to battle daily.
But remember: you will be okay.
Remember that your anxiety does not define you. Your anxiety is not all of who you are, what you can or can’t do.
What you are experiencing is valid.
Don’t EVER let anyone tell you otherwise.
And most importantly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
There are so many other people out there experiencing the same things as you, who understand what you are going through.
Accounts to follow:
I also recommend following The Mighty on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The entire focus of the platform is mental health and destigmatization and will really help you feel understood. You can even submit pieces and become a contributor.
Mental health organizations:
National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI)
The Trevor Project – for LGBTQ individuals
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255