A Formal Request To Stop Talking About Anxiety When You Don’t Fucking Have It

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I didn’t have a word for what was wrong with me for most of my life.

I knew I couldn’t sleep and I would lie awake at night with my mind continually playing things on a loop. I knew that I easily became obsessed with things and people and ideas and had trouble letting go. I knew that making decisions was so exhausting that impulsivity and acting irrationally was easier in the moment. I knew that the aftermath of said impulsivity though was about a thousand times worse than whatever decision eating at me had previously been. I knew that most mornings I would lay in bed, stare at my ceiling, and feel an all too familiar flutter in my chest and sense of static running down my body.

That’s the only way I can think to describe it. Like all of my nerves were at an eight on a ten point scale and the only thing that would calm them was sleep, which I couldn’t do.

I was always going. Running away, wide awake, pushing forward, and so on and so forth. To a certain extent, this was character defining and good. I learned how to maintain a certain level of productivity and keep on keepin’ on (for lack of a more elegant metaphor).

But on the other hand, it was completely crushing.

Imagine being awake for an entire week and attempting to run a marathon, but the finish line is never in sight. That was how I functioned on a good day before I had the terms and the tools for combatting my rampant anxiety. On the bad days, I wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed because everything was just too much, so I would resign myself to laying horizontally on the floor of my kitchen while watching 30 Rock reruns, hoping I would fall asleep for at least a few hours.

Talking about anxiety for me is very weird. I tell people I’m an open book when in reality, I only really like to be that open book when I’m talking about how awesome I am. Admitting that I check every hotel room I stay in for hidden cameras or peep holes and that I have heart palpitations if someone ever utters the words, “I need to tell you something,” in my presence to me, is like admitting failure. And admitting that failure gives me anxiety and thus the circle of panic continues.

So on one hand, it makes me happy that people are becoming so transparent about anxiety. Because to a certain extent that means I am off the open book hook. Other people can talk about it and I can continue biting my nail-beds until they bleed everywhere and fighting with my doctor about Prozac in private. (I am very fun and very chic.)

Somehow, having anxiety is the latest trend. It’s right up there with desirable traits like clear skin and full lips and Zooey Deschanel bangs. And whenever some things becomes quote unquote popular, it’s going to be surrounded by statements that are at times inaccurate, and at other times just plain wrong. The problem with everyone suddenly wanting to hop on the shaking anxiety train, is that a lot of really terrible information and opinions have started to be at the forefront of the conversation, even though they are not even remotely accurate.

On one hand I completely recognize that it’s not really that big of a deal. California is trying to secede from the nation and we have middle schoolers trying to bring guns to class, there are bigger fish to fry than the girl on tumblr who keeps making the bad analogy about anxiety. On that one hand, saying things like, “Anxiety is the feeling you get waiting for a text to come through your phone, and never seeing it happen.” is just A) frankly, a pretty weak metaphor and B) simply annoying. I get it.

But on the other hand, it has the potential to be wildly damaging.

And it’s damaging because likening anxiety to something as normal as waiting for a text message stigmatizes the very abnormal things anxiety actually does.

Yeah, you heard it here, folks. Wanting someone to text you back is normal. Human nature, even. Something that everyone wants because it’s attention, a response, or whatever.

Wanting a text back is normal, being unable to breathe because going to the bank sends you into a spiral is not.

So why is this so damaging? Because it’s complete misinformation. And it’s trivializing. And it’s speaking about issues without the terminology necessary to speak about them.

And if the girl who didn’t have the words for what was wrong with her had read something that simplified anxiety in such an “lol everyone does it!” kind of way, she would have thought she was even crazier.

I don’t like talking about anxiety. I haven’t left my apartment today because I’m in a strange city and being out of my element is really jarring for me and makes me into a co-dependent person that I adamantly dislike. So being inside and on my own seems safer, even though I want to be out and doing things. And talking about that and admitting that feels desperate and unlike myself, so I don’t like doing it.

But if admitting that me — happy-go-lucky, extroverted, life of the party, loud and bold me — has this anxiety and deals with this stuff helps someone find the words for what’s going on with them, I’ll talk about it. I’ll do my part. I’ll speak up.

At least, I’ll try. TC mark

I asked women to be honest about their Instagram photos

“The essays in this book are short and sweet, and incredible. Love love loved this.” — Alex

“I’m so in love with this book! It’s so moving and some of the stories bring me to tears not because it’s sad, but because it’s relatable and shows that we’re not alone.” — Kendra

This is the reality of Instagram...
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