You can’t always see my anxiety. When I’m talking on the phone with you, you might think I’m perfectly fine because my voice isn’t shaking. But you don’t see me pacing around the room, playing with my hair, fiddling with my jewelry, wincing, and making weird faces. You don’t see my internal monologue, where I’m in a constant state of fear I’m about to say the wrong thing or have already said the wrong thing. You don’t see the whole picture — even when we’re speaking in person, face to face.
When I show up to work or a dinner or a BBQ and seem like everything is under control, that’s only because I used my time in the car to freak out. I ran through all the worst case scenarios and came close to turning the car around. But then I calmed my breathing. I snapped myself back into looking fine.
If you would have seen me ten minutes earlier, all alone, you would have realized how much my anxiety has been bothering me. But you only get to see the version of me that comes out in public, when a million eyes are on me. You get my censored version, my on-my-best-behavior version, the version that is trying her absolute hardest to keep her anxiety under control.
You can’t always see my anxiety written across my face, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. Just because it seems like I’m in a good, confident mood doesn’t mean my inner voice has stopped hurling insults at me. Just because you aren’t able to spot any physical symptoms of my anxiety doesn’t mean socializing is easy for me. I might be dying inside, and you wouldn’t even know it.
I’ve become pretty good at pretending to be okay, at telling little white lies to stop others from worrying about me. I’ll tell you my allergies are bothering me. I’ll tell you my stomach hurts. I’ll tell you anything that stops you from asking about the anxiety I’ve been trying to keep hidden.
You might not realize how much my palms are sweating. You might not realize how badly my thoughts are racing. You might not realize the reason why I’m excusing myself for the bathroom is to give myself some space to breathe, to calm down, to convince myself everything is going to be okay.
You can’t always see my anxiety, but most of the time, it’s still there. It’s slowly eating away at me. It’s convincing me to leave parties early and replay conversations in my head over and over again to make sure I haven’t said anything wrong. It’s convincing me to leave texts unanswered and turn down invitations out with friends. It’s convincing me to stay in my bedroom where it’s safe, where I won’t be embarrassed about having a breakdown.
I want you to know, if you’re wondering why I suddenly seem quiet or like I’m acting distant, it probably has nothing to do with you. It probably has to do with the anxiety you aren’t able to see.