Right now, my hands look like that scene in Black Swan. If there’s loose skin, I’m picking it off. I’m pulling it, even when my body is telling me to stop. Even when it appears someone popped a pack of red Gushers all over my fingers. I can’t stop.
I can’t stop because I’m anxious about something utterly out of my control. Maybe we’re driving over a bridge or I’ve started panicking that the mole on my back is looking different and now I’m in a WebMD black hole. Whatever the reason, I can’t relax. I can’t just take a deep breath and let it all wash away. I can’t do what my yoga teacher tells me to do. Not right now. Because my anxiety has me in a chokehold. So instead, I pick at my skin, my nails, my cuticles, whatever. Picking is in my control.
Anxiety isn’t cute. It’s not Zooey Deschanel in New Girl.
It’s not a hot girl rambling about bumblebee facts (but, like, it’s adorable because of how hot she is). It’s not being quirky or playing the ukelele while nervously giggling. It’s not checking your phone and turning to your cat to melodramatically say, “BLERGH! Will they ever text me back??? It’s driving me nuts!!!”
Anxiety looks like my hands. Chaotic. Messy. Sort of gross, if we’re being honest.
Not cute. Absolutely, positively not cute.
Plenty about me could qualify as cute! I think my heart is cute. The way I care. My softness and emotional availability is probably cute. How my eyes light up whenever I see a dog, even though I have lived with a minimum of 2 dogs at all times. My freckles. My oversized Hey Arnold! shirt. All this stuff, relatively cute.
My anxiety? Nope. That bitch is downright ugly.
Anxiety looks like me sitting in my car for 15 minutes instead of getting out and going inside the grocery store like a normal person would. It’s me, there, frozen for literally NO REASON I can logically explain. Just a bad feeling. Just some system of alarms going off in my brain and I can’t find the off switch.
Everyone gets anxious. Everyone experiences anxiety occasionally. It’s like getting sad. Getting upset. Getting angry. These are all universal feelings. These are things everyone understands, to some extent.
Yeah, you get anxious before a job interview. You get anxious when someone says, “Can we talk about something later?” You get anxious when there’s a huge life change.
But living with an anxiety disorder is different. There’s no cause you can point to.
Like, duh, of course you’re going to be anxious before a job interview. That’s a big deal! That’s nerve-racking. And this is where the Zooey Deschanel character enters. This is the new face of anxiety. Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s *hair flip* anxiety.
That’s not what I am. That’s not what my anxiety looks like. It doesn’t end when the 30 minute sitcom concludes. It’s not tied up neatly.
As a kid, I used to stare at the ceiling and feel a heaviness on my chest. Luckily, I had parents who were super proactive and understanding, parents I could approach with my mental health concerns. And for me, medication helps curb some of the issues from my anxiety disorder. But not all. Because nothing is ever perfectly, magically healed. That’s just not how this stuff works.
Anxiety is not an identity for viral consumption. It’s not for likes or praise.
Anxiety isn’t cute. There are tons of articles trying to turn it into something sweet.
Anxiety fucking sucks.
And for some reason, people want to chameleon themselves into an anxiety sufferer. They want to cry out, “I’m SOOOO nervous about this date I’m going on! I’m such an anxious person!” and have you applaud them. That’s a problem.
At its worst, anxiety can feel like death.
At its best, anxiety feels like a cramping stomach.
Neither are cute.
Am I cute? Hell. Fucking. Yeah.
But my anxiety? That’s not cute at all. It’s something I actively work against every single day. And that’s what you should applaud.