Whether it’s a natural disaster, political tensions, or a pandemic, it can feel like the world is ending. To me, it feels that way almost every day. I struggle to remain composed even when the world feels balanced to most others. Now it’s tilted and I’m struggling to breathe.
In these uncertain times, I am certain only of not being in control. That isn’t really a new feeling for me. I don’t feel in control when a guy I like is taking too long to text me back; I feel lost when I have too much work and don’t know where to start. Sometimes anxiety takes hold when I’m just at home, trying to relax.
Suddenly, though, the rest of the world seems to have caught up to me. Friends who have always been my rock and the steady voice guiding me through panic attacks are suddenly struggling to breathe too. Well, maybe it wasn’t sudden. It crept up on them. They were uneasy at first while watching the news, when hearing stories—unsettled, unsure. Now I watch them catching their breath, cracking their knuckles when they never did before, and looking at me with those same lost eyes that have been staring back at me in the mirror for so many years.
I try to be there for them. They ask me how I do it, how I can handle this so well. Am I handling it well? That’s news to me. But I realize that while anxiety crept up on them, a sense of normalcy crept up on me. The world has caught up to my level of anxiety—talking about it is okay. Saying, “Hey, sorry I can’t FaceTime, I can’t stop crying because all I feel is doom” has become an acceptable thing. I’m no longer the sensitive one, the worrier. I’m just like everybody else. We’re all on the same level.
Can I tell you a secret? I never wished this on my friends—on anyone, really. Anxiety sucks. That’s just the truth. A part of me though—just a tiny part, I swear—is a little relieved. I can finally be a little helpful. I can tell my friends that they will be okay, that what they are feeling doesn’t really mean they are dying of a heart attack, that it is just anxiety. “Just anxiety”—what a lie.
Can I tell you another secret? I want the world to go back to being healthy and my friends to revert back to their more carefree selves. I want them to feel normal, whatever that may mean. I want people to not feel like they’re dying when it really is a possibility for so many. That’s not the secret though. The secret is that a part of me, just another tiny one, almost dreads that day. Because while my friends will relax and people will be able to go through their days calmly again, I won’t. I will be the sensitive one, the worrier. Sure, I hope that the world will come out of this more accepting and with a greater understanding of anxiety, but I’m not going to fool myself. Just like women who go through childbirth often forget just how painful it was, people will forget just how real anxiety feels and just how much it convinces you that the world is ending. They will be okay. And I will once again struggle to remain composed even when the world feels balanced to most others.