Anxiety is not a personality trait, it is an emotion some people experience, and a mental illness others have to deal with every day of their lives. But when it is such a big part of your daily experience, it can be hard to forget that you are not it. How often do you hear people say: “I’m an anxious person,” rather than, “I’m someone who has anxiety.” It’s hard to realize that you can be an inherently happy person and still struggle with anxious feelings. Here, a few signs that’s your case:
1. Most of your anxiety comes from the fear that something could actually take your happiness away. You cannot fear losing that which you don’t already have.
2. When you aren’t anxious, you’re a pretty content person, which is what makes anxiety so scary: you have so much to lose. When you’re not feeling anxious about something, you’re happy with your life in general. There’s no one huge thing you can identify as being “wrong” (other than the natural challenges of human life and, of course, your crippling anxiousness).
3. You’re able to imagine what your life would look like without anxiety. That means you’re able to see yourself as a person outside of your illness. If you can imagine yourself without it, that means at some level you know who you are without it.
4. You can remember a time – even if it was when you were very young – in which you weren’t constantly anxious. If you can remember how you were “before,” that means it’s not an inherent part of you.
5. You can name an event or a pattern of events that caused your fear thoughts to take over and try to “protect” you. If you can identify what began or perhaps contributed to your feelings of anxiety, you can see how it was something outside of you that caused it.
6. The things that stress you out are hypotheticals, not realities. You are more upset about what could happen than what’s happening. You are more upset about what you imagine people think than what they’ve really said. This means you have a problem with the way you think, not the way you really are.
7. You can identify parts of your life you are genuinely happy about. If there’s at least one or two things going on that you are consistently grateful for or happy to have, there’s a part of you that is still happy, too.
8. You fear so much because you love so much. This is true of almost anyone who has some kind of existential worry consistently in their life (even if they themselves don’t realize it). If there’s nothing to lose, there’s nothing to be scared of.
9. You’re still easily inspired, despite often feeling down. This indicates that you still have the natural ability to hope, dream and wonder. These are cornerstones of a happy disposition.
10. When you’re not thinking about how you’re anxious, you’re a fairly well-adjusted person. Even if you don’t enjoy all of your life, there are at least some parts of it that you have fun with. Maybe you can connect with people easily, or are super creative (see next point). There’s some kind of forward motion and drive within you.
11. You’re very creative. It’s not that creative people are inherently happy (a lot of evidence argues otherwise) it’s just that when creative people are creating, they are experiencing some feeling of release or fulfillment that is akin to contentment.
12. You want to make a better life for yourself, it’s just that nothing you’ve tried so far has worked well enough. Like it or not, this means that you do have hope for your future, or at least in your potential.
13. You have a pretty easy time getting along with others. Even if you spend more time on your own, when you’re around other people, you can connect with them fairly easily (people with unhappy dispositions have a much, much harder time with this).
14. You’ve forgotten that you’re a happy person because you’ve been through so much stress and trauma. Sometimes the people who are affected by it the most are the ones who are most loving, kind and sensitive. It seems unfair, but these things happen to everyone, and you can either try to work through them, or consider yourself a victim forever.
15. You know, in your heart, that what you are experiencing now is not who you are. It is a part of your experience, but it is not indicative of your personality, or what you future will necessarily entail. The biggest sign that you’re a happy person with an anxiety disorder (as opposed to being just an “anxious person”) is that deep down, you know this to be true.