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This Is What Anxiety Feels Like

First let me say that social media has truly been a lifeline for me. Finding others online in similar situations has helped in ways I can’t even describe. Saturday night, a new acquaintance of mine started the twitter hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike. Reading what people had to say was so enlightening. Heartbreaking at times, but overall I was thrilled to know other people understood what anxiety is really like. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m so grateful to @TheSarahFader for not only this, but what she does for the mental health community in general.

For the longest I didn’t know I had anxiety and OCD issues. I didn’t realize there was anything amiss to be honest. I was just me. Sensitive, thin-skinned, reactive, repetitive, hyper vigilant, nervous, self-critical, never good enough, me. That’s how I saw myself. People would ask questions like, “why do you care so much about what others think?”, “why is your self-esteem so low?”, “why do you react like this all the time?”, “why aren’t you more resilient?” During panic attacks: “Just calm down!” “What’s wrong with you?!” “Why are you so emotional?” I didn’t know the answer to any of those kinds of questions. And the funny thing is it caused a lot of self-doubt and self-loathing. Which is exactly what people were criticizing me for to begin with.

I thought I was happy and confident. Despite any psychological/social problems I was having, I was always bubbly, extra talkative. Even though I’m somewhat introverted. I just knew I had this other side of me, almost like this other person. And this ‘other person’ just couldn’t cope. Thankfully therapy and medication have really helped. But it’s still a daily struggle.

Here’s an overview of a typical day dealing with anxiety:

Wake up in the morning and hear my housemates moving around later than usual.

Thoughts: Why are they still home? It’s late, did something happen? Are they mad at me but don’t want to say? Did I do something? They probably wonder why I’m still in bed and are waiting around until I get up. Do they want to talk to me? Am I in trouble? C’mon, how could I be ‘in trouble’; I’m an adult, silly. Wait. Am I sleeping too late though? *chides self for 30 minutes for both worrying about what they’re thinking and for not having a conventional schedule*

30 minutes later, still anxious: Are they mad about something I said 2 weeks ago? I asked my landlord to put the dogs away when I have guests, because the dogs bark. Was that offensive? Should I apologize? I should apologize. I should play with the dogs extra (in front of him), to make up for any hurt feelings. I should offer to take the dogs for a walk…

Hours later, anxious thoughts creep back in: Why did my colleague just say that? Does she think I’m having an episode? Am I having an episode? Did I say something wrong? Ok what did I just say? Am I relapsing and don’t know it? Is that why X and Y were still home this morning? Did they think I was being weird too? They did! Oh God what should I do? Should I text them and let them know I’m fine? Are they talking about me? They want me to leave my house, don’t they?…

My apartment is the entire upper floor of my house, the loft actually. But I can hear people coming home downstairs. X slams a door somewhere in the house. Maybe all the way down on the first floor. Thoughts: Oh no. He’s mad at me isn’t he? I knew it! He’s been mad all day hasn’t he? Why didn’t he say something? Why is everyone always mad at me? What if I forgot to pay the rent? Did I pay this month? That must be it! *checks bank account to see if the money is gone and on what date it was taken* Ok so if it’s not that, it must be something else. I’m sure I’ve done something else…

Anxiety can be crippling. It can be managed in a variety of ways, but it never truly goes away. Just now I heard someone moving around downstairs. I had my characteristic anxious thoughts about who is still home and why. I won’t say for how long this went on. Then I remembered its Sunday. No one is supposed to be at work. Oh. Anxiety abated, for the moment.

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