What is it like to have anxiety?
A question asked a thousand times, and yet, I somehow fail to answer it.
Or maybe not fail to answer it, but it is hard to explain to someone that has never experienced something similar.
However, I stumbled upon a video last week with the title “Friends with benefits” by Jae Nichelle and when I sent it to someone as a first explanation of how living with anxiety feels like, he asked in a very toneless voice:
“Is that really how it is?”
An invisible friend
In her video, Nichelle describes her anxiety as someone who is always with her. For example, when she decides to take a different exit of her building to avoid someone she already has greeted twice that day, not knowing if it’s ok to do it a third time. She says that her anxiety picks out her clothes, always keeping in mind that Nichelle sweats a lot and needs something that dries quickly. And she points out that even telling people about all that is accompanied by an invisible fight between her and her anxiety.
I watched that video about 20 times now. And only a handful of times beforehand, I have felt the instant need to scream: That’s it! That’s exactly how it is… but I agree with her.
So what is is like to have anxiety?
First of all, you need to understand, it’s nothing that you have… it simply is there. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Anxiety is a part of me. No matter what I do.
Take a simple bus ride… Imagine you take the same bus route every single time to your work place. And usually, you can’t see anything being wrong with that. Until that one day, when the bus route slightly changes and you have to get off the bus at a different stop, or even worse, catch a different line.
Days before I have to do so, I get nervous, I check the timetable over and over again. On the day, I am 10 minutes earlier at the bus stop even though I know it only takes me 2 minutes to get there. And once I’m on the bus, I can feel how my tummy gets upset. With every stop the bus passes, the feeling gets worse and worse. It gets so bad, that by the time I have to get off the bus, I feel like vomiting. Sweat pearls on my forehead included.
Now imagine you have to enter a room full of people you have never met before – no matter whether it’s for an interview, a dinner invitation, a doctor’s visit.
While I already have been freaking out hours before the appointment, trying to find the perfect outfit (something I feel comfortable in, something I can sweat in, something I will fit in with), I am now overwhelmed by the thoughts that are running through my head. Are they watching me? Can they see that I sweat? Oh no, I start sweating even more now? I think I am overdressed. Is that someone I know? I should’ve picked another outfit. Is my hair messy? Did I put deodorant on? Oh shit, I think I forgot.. no, I have. Why can’t I stop sweating? My hair is already dripping….
These are only two situations. Two out of a million. Every. Single. Day.
Living with Anxiety
I guess, it’s a constant fight with my own mind, my own monsters. It’s me against… well, me. And the worst part of it, I can’t make it stop.
No matter how desperately I try.
So keep in mind the next time you tell me that I am getting too thin, I will start staring at myself in the mirror over and over again, asking myself if I once have been too big and if I have really lost too much weight now. I will ask myself if I am still healthy. If I am still beautiful. I will tell myself that nobody will think that I look good, that I don’t deserve to look how I look…
Keep in mind the next time you tell me that I am getting slack with training, because I gave myself a rest day, I will believe you. I will feel horrible because I will have the feeling I gained weight again within 12 hours turning into my old me. I will feel bad for missing out on a training session, punishing myself with my own thoughts telling me I can’t hold on to a certain lifestyle and will give up everything I start anyways.
Keep in mind the next time you tell me that I should be careful with the choice of people I surround myself with, I will think about every single negative aspect they might have that probably doesn’t even exist just to sabotage every single relationship I could have in life. I will tell myself that I don’t deserve to be happy, that I don’t deserve to be proud of, to be liked, and definitely not to be loved.
Music keeps me sane
So, what is it like to have anxiety?
It’s like having my mind being alert all day long, it’s like thinking about every single outcome of every situation I have to go through every day. It’s like repeating every conversation, every argument, every statement over and over and over again. Until I finally close the bedroom door at night.
That’s when my body starts shaking uncontrollably. That’s when I start crying, because it is the only way to release the tension of the day. That’s when I turn on music to ease the pain, to make it stop, to keep me sane.
And when I finally fall asleep, I know I made it through another day.
In Monsterly Love,