Anxiety takes on so many different forms that it can be hard to fit into one box. Some people have more “extreme” experiences than others, but you can’t compare your struggles to someone else’s and make your own invalid. Nothing about you is invalid. I know that can be hard to convince yourself is true; I struggle with it myself even though I blog about it quite frequently.
Below I have more or less a surface look into one aspect of my own anxiety that surrounds my relationships with the people in my life. As I mention, some days it gets worse and some days it gets better, but if you can understand why I apologize all the time or why I try to shrink back as much as possible or why the smallest of things make my day, then you will have a much better understanding of me and hopefully a renewed perspective on those with a similar way of thinking. And if you’re one of those that think the same way? Just know, we are not alone.
I know it seems completely illogical and attention-seeking from the outside, but to the anxious mind, every little thing is a battle. Every little thing is one of our demons we feel the need to suppress to convince ourselves that we are “normal.” I say suppress because these demons never really go away. They may get better over time with the right support system, but they’re always there, always lurking. They’re never truly beaten, at least not for most people. They take many different forms, whether it be a daily occurrence over the same thing or a seemingly random extra bout of apprehension. Sometimes, it takes an hour to convince ourselves to go get dinner. Other times, it takes some extra motivation to not avoid everything and go to bed. And when that doesn’t happen, we’re up all night, tormented by the should-have, the what-if, and the why-am-I-like-this trains of thought.
Loving the anxious soul (as a daughter, friend, sister, partner, mentee, teammate, etc) means understanding that we always feel like we’re in the way. We truly believe every text we send is an annoyance. We truly believe every phone call (when we work up the nerve to actually make the call) is an inconvenience. We truly believe that for every time we hang out with you, it’s because you feel pity or even obligation to do so. We truly believe that we’re a burden to you, even if you’re the one that invited us to lunch or initiated the conversation.
We are grateful for every minute and every interaction with you because we can never see how the gratitude or enjoyment we feel could be mutual. It may be crystal clear that you care about us and we usually pick up on that, but for some reason we feel the need to convince ourselves otherwise. We get it all misconstrued and turned around in our mind.
Because of this, we apologize for everything and we do so frequently. I’ll save this for a future post, but why, why do we always feel the need to apologize for caring? Why do we apologize for existing, of all things? I’m a clumsy person; I stumble over my words just as often as I stumble on the bricks on campus (and I’m only slightly ashamed of that 😉 ). When I try to do or help with something and mess up, that’s the only thing I will think about for the next few hours. It’s hard for us to bounce back. It may not even be a big deal to you but to us, we just ruined the entire day.
We worry about literally everything. We analyze worst-case scenarios for every aspect of life, even the impossible. I’ve had family members in and out of hospitals and good friends with some close calls, as pretty much everyone has. It just eats us up for days because we feel so powerless to protect those we care about. I will always tell you to text me when you get home because there’s a part of me forever convinced that you won’t make it back. There’s so much uneasiness when I know people are flying across the country or taking an Uber or hiking for a weekend or going downtown at night or even just staying home alone. We know that there’s an extremely small chance anything will happen to them, but our minds just can’t accept that.
Of course, we also play out countless different ways a conversation could go over, both before and after it happens (if it even happens at all, which usually is not the case). We overthink every single word we say after we say it and then reanalyze the whole exchange, taking into account every single word you reply. There was a point in my life where I ended up memorizing hours of text messages because I would reread them so often trying to find some hidden meaning that wasn’t really there. It’s unhealthy and it’s a waste of mental energy, I know that. We get it, but how can we stop when our brain never turns off?
We live in a constant state of feeling unworthy of you, like we don’t deserve whatever we have. We live in constant fear that one day you will come to your senses or vocalize this made-up notion in our heads that we’re not really friends and will then disappear from our lives forever.
And we’ll be left alone.
We are terrified of alone. Sometimes, at night, we’re scared of the darkness because it reminds us of the darkness that used to (or still does) cloud our vision of our connections with the people we hold close, of those that say they value us.
If we seem quiet, it’s because we’re trapped in own head. We don’t try to shut you out; in fact we really, really don’t want to. We want the conversation to keep going, I promise we do. We just get so consumed by doubt sometimes that it’s hard to escape and focus on anything else. We put any extra energy into pretending everything is all okay that sometimes we can’t figure out how to step out and keep moving.
We know there’s often no basis for thinking the way we do, but we can’t help it. We try to hide it, to push it away. We try to reason with ourselves. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. All this means that sometimes we just need a little extra affirmation and, well, I’m sorry about that. But if you can do anything for us, just understanding what we go through will mean the world.
None of this means that we’re extremely dependent on other people. I know who I am and I know how to be independent. I’m lucky in that I had to live by myself hours from my family and away from a lot of my friends, which forced to me to put myself out there. It eventually got so much easier to order my own take-out, do my own Target runs, and find my own job. Despite the enormous progress I’ve made, there are still times where it just takes hiding behind a screen and putting all that I feel out into the world to help me deal with it myself.
So, I hope you don’t mind.
Oh wait, that’s what a blog is for anyway. 😉
~How have you been supported when you needed it most?