People only seem to understand my anxiety when it’s linked to something negative. They understand why it might be difficult for me to make a phone call for a dentist appointment or give a speech in front of hundreds of students in a classroom because they don’t enjoy doctors or public speaking either. They can understand why those things make me nervous because they can relate. They’ve been there before in their own way.
However, when my anxiety is linked to something they consider a positive, they stop relating. They stop understanding. They start looking at me funny and saying things like, “Why are you freaking out? This is a good thing! You should be happy.”
I already know getting invited to a party is a good thing. I already know I should be excited to take a vacation with my family or see my favorite band in concert with my friends. I already know it’s weird for me to be worried about an event I’ve been counting down the days to attend, so you don’t have to point it out.
I already know my anxiety is hypocritical. It doesn’t make any sense. It makes me fear the things I desire the most. It puts me in unfair scenarios.
I will miss my friends and want to hang out with them — but my anxiety will make it impossible for me to send a text they could potentially ignore.
I will be interested in someone and want to grab drinks with them — but my anxiety will make it impossible for me to get changed and meet them at a crowded bar.
I will be passionate about a certain topic and want to start working in the field – but my anxiety will make it impossible for me to press send on the job application.
I will be tired of isolating myself and want to get out of my house for a change — but my anxiety will make it impossible for me to move from my bed in the morning.
Anxiety is about more than not wanting to answer the phone when the doctor calls. It’s about not wanting to answer the phone when your best friend calls, when your cousin calls, when your boyfriend/girlfriend calls. It’s about feeling uncomfortable around people you’ve known forever, people you love, people who should make you feel at ease.
Anxiety makes me dread plans, even when I’m excited about those plans, looking forward to those plans, hoping to actually follow through on those plans.
I don’t know why my mind hops to the worst case scenario. I don’t know why anxiety skyrockets my heart rate even on the days when nothing has gone wrong. I don’t know why I’ve been living like this for so long and assuming it’s normal.
Anxiety is about so much more than dreading the bad things — the smalltalk at hair appointments and the TSA lines at the airport. It’s also about dreading the good things, the blessings, the moments I’m fortunate to experience. It’s about wanting to cancel plans with a friend who means the world to me and not knowing exactly why. It’s about not wanting to show up at a party even though a part of me is dying to attend. It’s about having conflicting feelings about every good thing that happens to me, even though I know how bad it makes me look.
My anxiety makes me seem ungrateful for getting invited to parties, for getting asked to speak at events, for getting weekends away with friends who love me. It makes me come across as entitled and bratty and heartless. But I’m not trying to come across that way. I’m not trying to hurt the people who love me the most. I’m only trying to survive. I’m only trying to cope with my anxiety in the best way I know how — and sometimes, that means making a selfish choice.
Of course, canceling plans never feels selfish because I’m not getting what I want. What I want is to be able to socialize without my stomach rolling. What I want is to feel included. What I want is to live my life without restrictions. When I cancel plans, it never crosses my mind that I might be disappointing you. It feels more like I’m doing you a favor because you don’t have to bother with me. It feels like I’m only punishing myself.
I wish more people realized the way anxiety worked inside of my brain. I wish they understood, most of the time, I want to send texts and go out for drinks and take long road trips across the country. I want to live my life. I want to have a good time. I just have trouble convincing my anxiety to go along with the idea.