I wish more people understood the way anxiety works. It seems like everyone can understand why public speaking makes me sick to my stomach. They can understand why I get clammy when my crush enters the room or when I have a one-on-one meeting with my boss or when I have to make an important phone call.
But no one seems to understand how my anxiety can haunt me, even when I am around people who I have known for my entire life. Cousins. Friends. Classmates. Even my own parents.
There are times when I grab lunch with a friend who I am usually completely comfortable around, but for whatever reason, that day I feel like I am out of my comfort zone. My sentences are stunted. My words are shaky. I have no idea what to say to keep the conversation going. Even though I try my hardest to act normal, everything comes out awkward. Everything feels forced.
During those moments, I feel like an outsider. Even though I know my friends love me, my paranoia convinces me that they are annoyed by how I am acting. I assume they wish they would rather be someplace else, with somebody else, because I am not the same fun-loving person they remember.
The same thing happens during family parties. There are moments when it’s obvious my laughs are forced and there are nerves behind my smile. I might disappear into the bathroom or hide in the corner and stare at my phone while everyone else is joking around, which gives them the impression that I don’t want to be involved, that I couldn’t care less about spending time with them. But that is not true at all.
Sometimes my anxiety acts up when I am around someone who has never made me nervous before. Sometimes my anxiety acts up when I am about to go somewhere I have been excited about for weeks.
I might feel anxious before grabbing brunch with friends that I love and trust. Or before taking a vacation with my favorite family members. There won’t be any logical reason to be nervous, but that doesn’t matter.
The worst part is that I feel like I have to keep everything bottled inside. There have been times when I have voiced my anxiety to loved ones and then have been looked at weird. Friends will ask what they have done wrong to make me so nervous. Or they will ask whether I still like them. They will wrongly assume my anxiety has something to do with them when that is not the case at all.
Sometimes my anxiety is random. Sometimes it appears out of nowhere. Sometimes I cannot pinpoint what caused it or what can calm it down.
I hate feeling anxious around strangers and anytime I enter a new social situation — but it’s even worse being anxious around the people who love me the most. The people I have known for years. The people who I should feel completely comfortable around by now.