There will be days when I feel like I’m making progress. When I’m able to have a conversation while looking the other person directly in the eyes. When I’m able to walk up to a complete stranger and ask them a question. When I’m able to socialize without feeling a pit in my stomach and sweat forming across my brows.
On those days, I feel like my anxiety is slowly disappearing. Like I am gradually growing into a person who is comfortable inside of their own skin. Like I am finally becoming the social butterfly that I have dreamt of being since I was a little kid afraid to raise my hand in class.
I will be so damn proud of myself for speaking without stumbling over my words, for standing up straight without staring at the ground, for feeling like I belong for the first time in my life.
And then the inevitable will happen. My anxiety will return without warning. I will have a phone call to make or a meeting to attend or a friend to visit, and instead of dealing with the event with confidence like I have for the past few days (or hours or seconds), I will turn into a stressed mess.
I will go right back to overanalyzing the way someone looked at me or didn’t look at me. To planning out the words I’m going to say inside of my head hours before I have to say them. To curling my hands into fists or hiding them under tables so no one else notices how hard I am shaking.
During those moments, I will feel like I’m taking a step backward. I will feel like all of the progress I thought I made has disappeared. I will hate myself for remaining the same awkward human I have always been when I thought I was actually moving forward for once.
My anxiety is never going to leave me alone. I am never going to get rid of it completely. It might ease up on me for a little while, but when it returns, it will be more powerful than ever. It will make up for its absence by killing me inside.
I know I should enjoy those rare moments when my anxiety gives me a break from its symptoms. I should cherish them while they last because they never last long. But those moments give me a taste of what it’s like to be normal. To act without overthinking. To speak without worrying about what others might say behind my back. To be myself without fear of the what ifs.
Those moments make me hate my anxiety even more because they give me a firsthand view of how much easier everything is without it. It’s so much easier to have a simple conversation. It’s so much easier to speak my mind. It’s so much easier to breathe. It’s so much easier to exist.
It takes so much courage and strength to live with anxiety. It takes so much work.