There are a million articles and blog posts on the internet about having anxiety. As someone who struggles with my own strain, I find solace in hearing others’ stories. It seems having anxiety is becoming the norm, and I’m not sure if that has to do with our evolving modern lives or if people are more comfortable talking about it now. Either way, it seems like most people find themselves face-to-face with the monster at some point. Even though it’s common, everyone experiences it differently. No case is exactly the same, but knowing that you’re not alone brings much needed comfort. So here I am, adding to the many people who have bravely shared their stories.
I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. The most noticeable form is my social anxiety. Growing up, other kids would ask me all the time: Why are you so quiet? or Why don’t you talk? I didn’t have an answer for them because, honestly, I couldn’t understand it either. Anytime I’m in a social situation where I’m not comfortable (which is basically every instance), my mind blanks; I can’t come up with a single thing to say. I think my demeanor gives off vibes that I’m aloof or stuck-up when in reality I’m just extremely uncomfortable. I rehearse food orders and phone calls to make sure I don’t mess up. I’m an absolute mess before, during, and after a job interview. When the tables are turned and I find myself interviewing people, I’m pretty sure I’m more nervous than they are!
School was the absolute worst for my social anxiety. I never spoke during any class unless I was directly called on (which happened more than I liked) and I dropped classes if I found out there was a presentation involved. If a presentation was inevitable, I read the words verbatim from my note cards and occasionally looked up at the wall in the back of the classroom to feign even just a hair of confidence.
Considering I’ve suffered with social anxiety since I was a kid, I’m not really sure what it stems from other than a fear of rejection or fear of feeling embarrassed by what you say. When I finally muster up the courage to say something and it happens to be embarrassing, I dwell on it forever. I guess not saying anything at all is just a defense mechanism to avoid that feeling! But then I’ll feel guilty for not saying anything…it’s a vicious cycle.
Most people, whether they understand what it is or not, can see my social anxiety. It’s something I’ve never been able to conceal. The other anxieties I experience are much more internal. I carry them with me as invisible emotional burdens, but I try to make sure they don’t affect my everyday life. These are just things I think of day in and day out that worry me. Will I still have a job tomorrow? Where will I be next year? How bad did I just screw up? Are we safe? Remember that really embarrassing thing you did 7 years ago? Did I forget to turn the stove off?
Anything and everything that could possibly cause a worry crosses my mind more often than I’d like. There are certain things that cause spikes in my anxiety like traveling, traumatic events, bad social experiences, and deadlines. Sometimes I get what I like to call “sender’s anxiety” because I will stare at the screen for several minutes before I push any sort of ‘send’ or ‘confirm’ button!
As far as living with anxiety, I’ve learned to mostly accept that it’s just a part of who I am. More often than not, I have such a hard time getting out of bed in the morning because I feel depressed for seemingly no reason. It’s a feeling I wish I could shake for sure. I try mostly to do what I’m comfortable with, but I also find sometimes I have to bite the bullet and go out of my comfort zone. For me, I don’t see a magical cure-all in sight, but I do consistently try to stop worrying so much about things out of my control. Luckily I have found an amazing husband who has been my rock and offers an abundant amount of emotional support. I think having someone you trust, can confide in, and who can talk you down is key in helping you manage your anxiety.
This is just a broad overview into my experience. Anxiety is a looming monster, but I try not to let it control me. I know it’s just the power of the mind at work – things really aren’t that bad, but your brain tricks you into thinking they are. It’s always a process trying to cope with these feelings, but I’m hoping I eventually get to the point where I can figure it out…at least a little bit.