There are a lot of posts I see circulating around Facebook and Twitter where people equate anxiety with “stage fright” or “having bad feelings sometimes”. I realize that mental illness manifests differently in every person that it afflicts, but I also want to point out that “having bad feelings sometimes” does tend to just be a part of being a human who lives and breathes. Anxiety is so much more than that.
I hope that one of these days we can open up an honest conversation amongst those of us who are afflicted by God’s honest anxiety, because it can be one hell of a thing to deal and not many people are talking about the dirty truths surrounding life with anxiety disorder.
First of all, I’d like to point out one more time that I realize that disabilities like anxiety manifest themselves differently from person to person. I would also like to note, though, that out of the several mental health professionals that I have met with on my quest to regulate, I have been told multiple times that I have one of the worst cases they have seen in recent years. So, not to brag (LOL), but I do know what I’m talking about for once.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t able to put a label on the things that I was feeling until this past summer when I finally broke down and got myself a therapist. After reading through the countless journals that I kept as a child, we were able to get to the crux of what was (and is to this day) “wrong with me”.
I can’t interact with people.
I can’t hold eye contact for any more than a fleeting glance without getting literal dread-filled goosebumps. I can’t for the life of me hold a conversation (which is why most of my greatest thoughts and most inspirational speeches come in the form of blog posts). I cannot sit on stage to play my instrument, knowing that there are people out in the audience who decide whether or not I pass or fail my playing exams. I am an absolutely abhorrent test taker. I have no concept of when I’m not wanted or when I am and I am incapable of identifying sarcasm. These things compounded with the fact that I cry without warning, regularly have to leave class, rehearsal, work, and social settings due to panic attacks, and vomit nearly every morning and inevitably several times during the day, is the anxiety’s ugly truth.
This is what anxiety really is. It isn’t some pretty thing that can be summed up in a picture or half a page on Odyssey.
Anxiety is having to leave a testing site to vomit because you just can’t take the stress. It’s having people tell you everyday that you’ve just got to “muscle through”, even though there’s absolutely nothing you can do to make yourself do that. Believe me, if there was, you would’ve tried it by now.
Anxiety is knowing that you aren’t taking a professor’s criticisms personally, but still not being able to hold back the tears welling up in your eyes when criticisms do come.
Anxiety is not checking your email for days or weeks at a time because you know there are important things in their that you have to brace yourself for. Bracing can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks.
Anxiety is not being able to leave bed because it is the only place on earth where you can curl up into an undistinguishable ball and hide from the real world.
Anxiety is having no reason at all to feel upset, but still feeling like the world is crushing in on you. It’s the weight of an elephant on your chest as you lay in bed at night, contemplating everything you have to do for the next six months in order to make yourself successful 10 years down the road.
Anxiety is having to face the real world with a smile on your face, knowing full well that as soon as you are able to excuse yourself, you will have to run to the bathroom to cry, hyperventilate, vomit, and then do it all again in twenty minutes.
That’s anxiety for you. Ain’t nothing pretty about it. So please stop posting about how nervous you get around new people and how sometimes you get drowsy in the middle of the day. Or at the very least, please don’t try to “one-up” or “relate” when I finally pluck up the courage to tell you what has been going on and why I’m so damn awkward and bizarre. It takes a lot for me and many people with anxiety to even be able to come out of their shells enough to tell you that there’s something wrong with us and when you criticize it or even try to normalize it, it makes us want to just crawl right back into our hidey-holes and wait another ten years to admit that there’s something the matter with us.
Anxiety is a nasty, ugly, dirty business. We know it and you know it. Sometimes I just need to be able to have somebody there to hear me ramble about how awful the world is, even though I know it’s not. The worst thing you can do in a situation like that is to tell me or whoever has trusted you enough to hear their ramblings is to tell us to “count our blessings”. Trust me, that goes through all of our heads hundreds of times a day, pre- and post- dread-bought.
I know that this has been a bit of a nonsensical, triggered ramble and I apologize for that. Hopefully soon I will get back to posting some more quality content, but for now…this is what you get. Thanks for sticking with me here.
If you like what you’ve read, give it a share on your social media platforms. Maybe we can get the truth out there about what living with anxiety is actually like. Know that if you’re going through the same thing I am, I’m right here with you, and I’d love to talk to you.