When Anxiety Is the 'I Can't' Syndrome


This is for those who are dealing with anxiety and emotional disorders, and still haven’t found their way of dealing it and with themselves.

Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be able to surpass my anxiety and fears. Whenever I’m going through one of my emotional turns, things tend to get complicated at all levels – as if all my life was based on an absolute Murphy’s Law which states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

The truth is that after 24 years of living I can’t seem to understand who I am and what I’m dealing with.

Since I can remember, I’ve always felt this intense fear of almost everything, a profound sadness and/or nostalgia and melancholic feelings for anything that crosses my mind. People suffering from anxiety and emotional disorders have triggers, and I’m no exception. But no matter what I did, I could not make myself heard and understood. I tried to talk with people closest to me, like my mother and longtime boyfriend, but it didn’t work. Most of the time, I feel like no one can understand what I’m saying, and it often seems like others see me how they’d like me to be, not how I actually am. 

Recently I had been surpassing some tougher times with a major loss of my dear grandmother. I was considering moving back to my hometown and starting all over, close to my family and loved ones. It was something I wanted – or I thought I did – for a long time: to be able to live close to those I love, and take a chance on a completely new life, with a new job, new people and experiences. 

I started looking for a job, but because I couldn’t unplug my fear and anxiety, I ended up losing each opportunity just because “I can’t.” I wanted to fulfill an old dream of taking part on a specific collective work by a group of photographers I admired. I managed a way to be accepted into the project, and then I just froze and didn’t do it, because “I can’t.”  

I stopped going away for more than a week maximum, because I never knew if it would be the last time I saw someone. Just the thought of that prevents me from going places, because “I can’t.” 

And I can’t. I can’t sleep every night, and I can’t take all the meals without getting nauseated. And that’s all just because I can’t. Because my heart is jumping so hard every single time, I’m afraid it will unleash itself out of my body and disappear. Other times, disappearing is the most desirable thing I can get through my mind.

From my personal experience, other people feel like it’s always an excuse. It’s a way for weak people to keep themselves in a comfort zone instead of living. But let me tell you — I didn’t choose to be like this, and I don’t think anyone would if they actually knew what it is to live with intense anxiety every day of your life.

There is no simple way of explaining how we feel about everything, and how small we feel most of the time. But, we definitely want to be taken seriously, we want our friends and family to understand that sometimes we don’t know the reasons for our fears and insecurities. We really don’t know what it’s making us so depressed and angry. We want people to accept our differences, to accept that we might not be capable of being everything they think we should be, even when they say “it’s better for you.” I want help, yes. But mostly I want understanding. I don’t need others to go against me, telling me it’s all in my head. And believe me, I know it better than they do. I don’t need people to tell me a job, a hobby or something else would cure my insecurities and make me feel normal, but they forget to listen when I tell them the “I can’t” syndrome makes me anxious. Sometimes I can’t leave the house and accomplish things; Sometimes I can’t surpass pain and fear, like some other people do.

I love to read about other people’s experiences with anxiety. It’s a really important to raise awareness and knowledge about mental illness. It’s kind of inspiring to see people who found ways to overcome their emotional issues, but unfortunately I haven’t found a way of surpassing mine, and that’s a reality too. Not every story is motivational or inspiring, and mine is just confusing because “I can’t” figure myself out, so “I can’t” live in full. I’ve been trying to find some guidance by connecting with people like me. My reality is my own, and every story has its traces. But at the same time, I like to make myself believe that I’m not alone. So, I encourage everyone to share their story as well, just because that, at least, “we all can.”

Two flowers
Photography taken by Mafalda Ar © All rights reserved.
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