People think it’s harmless when they tell me to calm down. They think they’re helping when they remind me other people have it worse and my problems aren’t that big enough of a deal. But, in reality, they’re only making me feel guilty. They’re making me feel like I don’t have a right to worry — even though I cannot possibly stop myself from worrying. It’s not something I can control. It’s something I have to deal with every single day, regardless of whether anyone else thinks my problems are worthy of upsetting myself over.
People think it’s harmless when they joke about how loud I’m being when I haven’t said a word in hours. They think they’re including me in the conversation. They think I’m part of the joke. They think their words are lighthearted and fun — but they severely impact my self-esteem. I’m already acutely aware of my quietness. I don’t need someone else to single me out, to draw attention to me, to embarrass me in front of a crowd when I’m already feeling awkward and alone. I don’t need to feel like any more of an outcast.
People think it’s harmless when they peer pressure me into ‘fun’ situations. Since they enjoy going to clubs and singing karaoke up on a stage, they wrongly assume I would enjoy doing those things too. They think they’re helping when they push and push and push me to join them. They think everything will be fine as soon as I break out of my shell. They think forcing me into doing something ‘fun’ will be good for me. Even though I’ve already told them a million times I’m not interested, they never believe me. They think they know me better than I do.
People think it’s harmless when they ask me to hurry up without taking my anxiety into consideration. They don’t realize how much energy it can take me to call a number and order pizza or stop at the gas station and refill the tank. They don’t understand I want to be productive, but it can take me a lot longer to accomplish seemingly simple tasks than other people. Sometimes, they think I’m lazy or I’m procrastinating, when really I’m just trying to gather the courage to do what I need to do.
People think it’s harmless when they make casual comments about how to ‘fix’ my anxiety. They don’t understand how problematic it is to tell me to smile more, to stop stressing so much, to stop caring so much. They don’t understand how unhelpful it is to tell me how much happier I would be if I put myself out there more, if I went outside more, if I stopped spending so much time in my room. They don’t understand my anxiety isn’t going to go away simply by faking smiles and agreeing to more plans. They don’t understand I’m already putting effort into my mental health, I’m already trying my hardest to overcome my anxiety, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to go away.