You text someone, and it’s a little too long before you get a text back. You don’t see those three little dots pop up showing they are texting you back. Or, worse, you see the dots, and then they stop and disappear. Or, even worse than that… they leave you on read. (Shout out to Apple for really helping those with anxiety.)
Then the panic sets in. That awful feeling in the pit of your stomach and the racing thoughts.
“What did I do wrong?”
“They aren’t interested in me anymore.”
“They are mad at me.”
“They found someone better.”
You see them on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, so you know they have their phone, but they aren’t answering your text. Or initiating a conversation. Or making you the center of their universe.
Speaking of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, If someone doesn’t like our post or watch our story, that sends us into a spiral. The same type of questions. The same doubt. I recently learned to let go of that. It’s not easy, but it’s so freeing. It’s only social media. It’s not that serious. But I found (okay, still am finding) myself getting upset and hurt that key people in my life aren’t “liking” things I post. Even writing this seems so dumb. But, I know it’s not just me. It’s a weird form of validation that we seem to need, and it’s time to let that go.
You ask someone to hang out and grab dinner or a drink. They say, “Not tonight.” Again. The same panic. They’re over you. Done. This is it.
You get mad at them, they get mad at you, you break up, and your life is over.
But NONE OF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
We all do it, making up scenarios in our heads, and always, always going to worst case scenario. Always assuming someone is mad, disinterested, ghosting us, etc.. This goes for all types of relationships—family, friends, dating, co-workers, even people we don’t know very well or at all. We make assumptions, and we all know what assuming does.
I’m not an expert or professional of any kind, but, from my personal experience I can tell you that your anxiety is a liar.
They didn’t text you back right away? They are probably busy. Sure, it seems like we always have our phones glued to us, but people do have lives and things to do that don’t involve instantly texting back.
They don’t want to hang out tonight? They could be busy, have other plans, or just want a night in alone. I’m very introverted, and there are plenty of nights I don’t want to go out because I just want to be in by myself. If I feel like that, I’m sure other people do too.
I know that I have probably messed up friendships and possible romantic relationships from doing this—becoming overly clingy to avoid that feeling of distance. Becoming crazy and asking questions and assuming. Letting the made up, fucked up story in my head get the best (or worst) of me. It’s such a hard habit to break. I feel like over the past year I’ve come a long way in this. Don’t get me wrong. I still make up the scenarios, but I’m finding that after a little bit of panic, I’m able to take a step back, take a deep breath and realize that I’m probably 100% wrong in my worry. And I usually am. The few times I am right, it’s a different type of feeling. It’s my gut. I need to learn to differentiate between anxiety and my gut. I am learning and working on looking at things rationally and logically. And if for some reason someone isn’t happy with me or interested in me, then that’s okay too. Life has, and will, go on. Worrying and stressing about it won’t help anything.
I told you, anxiety is a bitch. It causes me to overanalyze too many situations, especially relationships. Again, not just dating, but all types of relationships in my life. Some stressed me out more than others. Some were more one-sided than others. If any type of relationship is causing that much anxiety, is it really worth it? I’ve learned it’s not, and as painful as it is, you have to let some of those relationships go.
Anxiety is more than the made up scenarios. It’s constant worry, constant stress about EVERYTHING—relationships, health, money, society, the weather, global warming, the terrible Phillies season. Stress ends. You complete the task that had you worried, and poof! It’s gone. The task is done, but what about what comes after? The anxiety is still there. You find something new in the situation that causes you to still be concerned about. It’s exhausting.
A few things I’ve found that help when my anxiety is telling me a made up story:
Take a deep breath.
Focus on 3 tangible, positive things you have in your life.
Take out a piece of paper and write out the situation. Seeing it and having to write it will help you realize it’s probably not true.
Text a friend. Tell them your crazy situation and they will be able to talk you off the ledge and bring you back to reality.
Don’t listen to your anxiety, listen to your gut.