Anxiety has many different faces. Everyone experiences anxiety in their own way. For some of us it takes a huge, tragic event to get that gut-wrenching, want to fall to your knees sort of feeling and for some of us it takes a lot less. Yet, in a time where Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are constantly throwing all of your friend’s and celebrity’s perfectly toned bodies and puppies in your face 24 hours a day, where rail thin is ‘good’, AK-47’s can be easily bought in a Walmart, systemic racism is rampant and your boyfriend may have just dumped you, it’s normal to feel slightly on edge, a little nervous or like you’re having a full-fledged panic attack. As someone who has experienced acute anxiety in my life and still does, here are some things I assume you (fellow anxiety sufferers) are fucking done with dealing with:
1. Pretending like you’re calm and collected
The feeling of actually sitting still and feeling at ease is as foreign to you as the concept of understanding the stock market. Most of the time when you’re out with friends or at a job interview your very bones feel like they’re shaking. To keep a calm exterior requires way more energy than you stored from the 2 bites of oatmeal you were able to keep down this morning.
2. Hiding your sweaty palms in your sweater
If you’re anything like me, your palms get very sweaty easily. This poses a problem when meeting new people or even texting on your phone. You might prefer sweaters with long sleeves that allow you to ‘turtle’ your hands in when your hands are feeling extra clammy.
3. Dissecting every little comment until your head starts to spin
Logically you know your boyfriend didn’t intend to call you fat and that he doesn’t think that but what did he really mean when he said you looked “healthy and beautiful.” The other day he said Becca looked “skinny” but he didn’t refer to you that way… so he must think you’re fat. He’s must not be attracted to you anymore… Your brain competes with you in a mental olympics to twist every comment or thought into something negative or problematic. Your thoughts coil inwards and inwards until what you’re really left with is how you feel about yourself.
4. Calming yourself down only to have your heart speed up again
Over the years of dealing with these toxic thoughts you’ve come up with coping mechanisms to soothe the blow they inflict on your psyche. You breathe deeply. You tell yourself good thoughts. You finally reach a place of semi-zen when your body begins to physically react again. Your heart starts hammering away at your chest, throwing itself against your ribcage, reminding you that no, no you can’t relax yet.
5. Being told to “Chill” or “Relax”
There’s nothing worse than a Chet or a Jake telling you to “relax” when your body has sent you reeling into panic mode. Because you are smart, you are intelligent, you are only human and you know how ridiculous you are being. You are aware that it doesn’t really matter but it’s the unrest in your chest that won’t just shut the fuck up— you wish Chet would just understand that.
6. Adversely being told, “Really? You don’t seem anxious”
This response is problematic as well because it’s also invalidating. You probably don’t ‘seem’ anxious because of years of working on your outer shell, like a developed callous, and although it makes you slightly happy that you don’t come off like a total mess all of the time, you do want people to understand that you’re struggling.
7. Rushing to the bathroom solely to have some time to breathe— alone
Sometimes you just wish your thoughts wouldn’t flair up and your chest wouldn’t turn into its familiar jackhammer and you could just be; exist and enjoy the crowd. But you can’t, and you seem to consistently find yourself staring at your reflection under the florescent lights and wishing you could just stay there forever.
8. Getting lost in your own tangled thoughts
Your thoughts travel in a patterned web that you can’t even really comprehend. You can lose hours following a thread of thoughts that lead you around in aimless circles. Did you make a fool out of yourself? Are you overreacting? Did Allie mean it when she said your joke was lame earlier? Are you pursuing the right career? Are you a good person? Should you just break-up with him? Are you just thinking that because you think that’s what he really wants? What do you want for dinner? Are you going to have time to make that? It’s exhausting.
9. Constantly feeling annoyed with people when you’re really just annoyed with yourself
This consequence of anxiety is often the hardest to deal with. Other people’s ticks and quirks that you find irksome sometimes just reflect qualms you have with yourself. But how can you actually like yourself when so much of yourself (your anxiety) makes you miserable?
10. Picking at your hair, lips, anything to relieve the stress
You most likely have a calming, destructive habit that temporarily alleviates some of your anxiety. You pick at your hair, your face, your lips or you bite your nails— something that’s distracting, if only for a few minutes. This can be the hardest shit to stop because it’s a compulsion.
11. Wondering if this knot-in-chest feeling will ever end
Looking towards the future with anxiety can be extremely exhausting. Mainly because dealing with it today is already tiring enough, you don’t want to think about a future with this monster. It’s like being in a bad relationship you can’t seem to extract yourself from. So you choose to take it day by day.
12. Not being able to fall asleep
Anxious people and insomniacs are often one in the same. Like a lion stalking its prey, at night, when you’re tucked under your shirts and finally completely alone is prime time for your anxiety to strike. You dread the nightly struggle checking your phone to see the hours pass until it’s already morning and you have to start all over again.
13. Picking fights with people you love the most because you need to let your bad mood out somewhere
You project your insecurities and emotions towards the people that you know will always be there for you unconditionally. They can handle it and are probably used to it, but that doesn’t mean you’re not sick of treating them like the angels that they are. It’s just that sometimes at the end of the day the anxiety machine is programmed to let those feelings out somehow and your family and friends are the first target. These are the only people capable of punching your anxiety in the face right back, so keep them close and appreciate them.