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When I Overheard a Friend Calling My Anxiety Dramatic

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“I’m so sick of everything being such drama with her! Just get over it!

I was sitting in a lecture room prepared  for the session. I’d done all the prep work two days before to calm my anxiety as much as possible. My leg was still  shaking my leg in class. Then, a surprise mock test was given out.

To many, this might feel shocking or unexpected, but for those with anxiety, it’s like being punched in the face.

The anxiety that follows can be debilitating, especially if you’re fighting off a panic attack and trying to remain as calm and “normal” as you can — only to then hear a friend of all people say, “Ugh, I’m so sick of everything being such a drama with her! Just get over it.”

The whole world you’d built up with trust and understanding suddenly comes crashing down. The safety you thought you had with that friend disappears, and you’re back to feeling alone and isolated once again.

Everyone’s a stranger.

The reminder of how little people understand, even those close to you, hits you like a train, and the heavy weight of the burden you carry becomes obvious yet again. You feel like someone in a world parallel to theirs; you can talk and interact but you’re reminded you’re different, the rules of their world are entirely different to yours, and they’ll never truly understand what it’s like living on your side.

It’s hard to tell which pain is worse, the pain and guilt from “burdening” others with your problem or that no one understands. Believe it or not, it’s not fun for us either.

We’re sick of the drama that comes with anxiety. We hate how unexpected it is and how quickly it takes control. No one wants to struggle, and we don’t want to be a burden, so when a friend becomes “sick of us,” we remember everyone’s a stranger and it’s easier to stay like that because then fewer people get hurt.

“Just get over it.”

The phrase that makes you realize people don’t understand you. Even those closest to you feel like strangers who may never see the world you live in the way you do, and it makes life hard, and it makes you push people away. 

But despite all this, there are people in your world who understand. There are people who can help. The difficulty is just finding them in the sea of strangers you wade through every day.

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Letting Go of the Fairytale: Life, Love, and Anxiety

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I always had these pictures in my head of what true love looked like. It was almost always grandiose, extravagant, and hopelessly romantic.

I’ve been married for almost three months now, and it’s been anything but that.

My wedding was a fairytale. Down to every detail, it was the best day of my life and the beginning of my own great love.

maisey on her wedding day
Photo by Austin Trenholm

The day-to-day details aren’t like a movie, though. True love is real love put into practice every day. It is hard work, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever experienced. Not every day has been easy, but there hasn’t been a day where I would have traded my marriage for anything.

I live with anxiety (and occasionally, depression). Adding this element to a marriage makes things even more interesting and challenging. My husband and I are constantly dealing with the symptoms of my anxiety, and we’re both learning how to best remedy the dark days.

maisey and her husband walk down the aisle
Photo by Trenholm Photo

Not every day is a dark day; some days are ordinary and some days are extraordinary. That’s life, though. Through it all, I’ve found someone who makes all of those days better and who will kiss me in the middle of a gas station when the moment seems right. It’s then and there — standing in the middle of the cat food and the pork rinds — that I realize this love is unlike any grandiose, extravagant picture I painted in my head. It’s better than that. It’s real. It’s genuine. It makes me want to fight to be the best version of myself.

Everyone deserves a gas-station-makeout kind of love. You deserve a person who will make even the most menial of tasks seem fun. You deserve a person who loves you in such a way that you feel free to be your true and genuine self, flaws and all.

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To the Person Who Reminds Me What's More Powerful Than My Anxiety

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My anxiety is a new thing. Well, it isn’t new, but my ability to look another human in the eyes, and say out loud, “I have anxiety,” certainly is.  I still stumble over it, like I am trying to catch the word as it tumbles out of my mouth. But it was easier to say today than yesterday.

I have anxiety, and recently it has been rampant. Today, and on other hard days, it is like the world’s most impossible game of Brick Breaker. You know, the old-school game. In this version, there are thousands of tiny little balls bouncing all around, shooting off into different directions, colliding, breaking things. It is chaotic and a contradiction a lot of the time. But I can say it was a tough day; I can put some words to my struggle. That is power. Claiming this — no, claiming my anxiety — is a powerful thing.  And when this brick breaker in my brain levels up, I remember what is more powerful than my anxiety.

When I list powerful things, I go through the senses: smelling a well-loved book, tasting a yummy chicken salad sandwich, feeling the rush of wind past your fingers, hearing an outburst of belly-shaking laughter, seeing the sun after a particularly harsh rainstorm.

These things are powerful, but something else makes them more powerful than my anxiety. It is smelling a well-loved book in a bookstore where you are helping me find the exact right book to read. It is tasting a yummy chicken salad sandwich we share in a spot we love. It is feeling the wind rush past as we drive with the windows down on any adventure. It is hearing your laughter and knowing I put it there. It is seeing the sun, the brightness in you.

You see, what is more powerful than my anxiety is me. And what reminds me I am more powerful than my anxiety, more than my anxiety, is you.

In this pesky game of Brick Breaker, you are a second paddle. There may only be the two paddles, and there are thousands of balls. We may not keep them all in the air, but it was never about that. It has always been about not facing them alone.

I have anxiety, and today, it does not have me.  But I always have you, and you always have me. What power. Thank you.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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'Be Here Now': The Tattoo That Helps Me Through Anxiety Attacks

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Sarah's tattoo I’ve always played with the idea of getting a tattoo. After one of my anxiety attacks, I realized I wanted to get one on my wrist to help me through. When I have an attack, the world shuts off, and it becomes hard for me to breathe and function normally. I have two daily medications, but sometimes life and my anxious mind are more powerful. I have a stronger medicine available to take when needed, but I don’t like taking it. I wanted to find something else to help me. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I need to remember to “be here now.” During an attack I leave the present, and that’s when things get worse. If I can be here now, I can recognize the pain is temporary, and I can control it. And just having a visual reminder of that can help immensely.

I had a wonderful experience getting my tattoo. I’m a huge music nerd and apparently so was my tattoo artist, Cole. When I told him I wanted the words “be here now” on my wrist, he asked if it was from the song by Ray LaMontagne. I had actually never heard of it, but he had the song on his computer and played it for me while he worked on my tattoo. This song instantly touched me. The best part was that Cole opened up to me and vice versa. When people understand what you’re going through, it creates this peace within. I decided to look up the lyrics later that night, and I couldn’t imagine any better words to permanently put on my body. The lyrical beauty of this song was amazing. I held back tears as I read it.                                                                                                                  

“Don’t let your mind

get weary and confused

Your will be still, don’t try

Don’t let your heart get heavy, child

Inside you there’s a strength that lies

Don’t let your soul get lonely, child

It’s only time, it will go by

Don’t look for love in faces, places

It’s in you, that’s where you’ll find kindness

Be here now, here now

Be here now, here now

Don’t lose your faith in me

And I will try not to lose faith in you

Don’t put your trust in walls

‘Cause walls will only crush you when they fall

Be here now, here now

Be here now, here now

                                 (Lyrics by Ray LaMontagne)                                  

The meaning of my tattoo is very personal. The words “be here now” are my reminder to be in the present during anxiety attacks. The semicolon not only stands for my choice to continue my story instead of ending it, but it is also a reminder of everything I have and will overcome. Please, if you want to do something like this for yourself, just do it. I’ve learned that if you find a way to help yourself overcome your battles, then you need to do it. Gain control.

Be here now.

 

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When the 'Anxiety Dam' Breaks

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It’s early on a warm Sunday morning, and I am awoken suddenly by my feet, which are already shaking and moving about restlessly beneath the covers. A sign that my anxiety is already in full swing despite the fact I’m not even awake yet.

There are roughly 30 seconds each morning between the moment I open my eyes and when the “anxiety dam” breaks — flooding my brain with everything I “should” be concerned with and worried about. Those 30 seconds each morning are my only peace these days, and I cherish them. This is my life — the life of someone with extreme anxiety.

As I sit up and ready myself to face the day, I have to remind myself to breathe in and out… in and out… otherwise I find myself holding my breath. I wonder what it may be like to wake up each day and breathe easily without effort. I try to remember the last time I was able, and I cannot. I assure myself, as I do every day, that the feelings of dread, the rapid beating of my heart, the tightness constricting my throat, is simply my anxiety already creeping up and settling in. It has made itself at home in my skin. Taken up residence in the deep crevices of my mind and thoughts. An unwelcome guest. It stays close to me at all times, like a parasite. Making its presence known as much as possible throughout the day. Trying to ruin each day in whatever ways it is able.

Anxiety is a bad relationship we would all like to break up with. But it’s here to stay for now, with its arm around my shoulders, around my neck. Sitting too close. Suffocatingly close. Breathe in… breathe out…

For so many of us who have extreme anxiety, each day is an exhausting struggle to make it to the finish line that is the end of each day. Only to find that despite our exhaustion, once we make it there and fall into bed, our racing minds won’t allow sleep in any reasonable amount of time. Nighttime proves to be the worst for my anxiety, so each night I pray for daylight to come quickly. Because maybe tomorrow I may have 60 seconds of peace when I wake up. Because maybe tomorrow is the day I will have a day with no panic attacks. Because, after all, the night is darkest just before the dawn… and my feet are already shaking me awake.

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5 Things You Should Know About My Anxiety Before We Date

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As a person with anxiety, dating has always brought its own set of struggles. Because a lot of my anxiety has to do social situations, dating is something I tend to avoid. And when I do find someone I want to go out with, my anxiety isn’t something I want to talk about. Because, I think, who wants to date the anxious girl?

Instead, I hide it. 

But why should I have to feel like I need to hide such a big part of who I am? If someone is scared off by my anxiety, it’s going to be better for both of us if I’m upfront about it from the beginning. Because even if I can hide it successfully for a while, it can’t and shouldn’t stay hidden forever. 

So in the interest of full disclosure, here are five things you will need to know about my anxiety before we date.

1. There are physical symptoms.

Anxiety is a mental illness, yes, but there can be a lot of physical side effects that go along with it. Something I struggle with a lot is feeling physically ill from my anxiety.

If I say I can’t go out with you because I’m not feeling well, what it probably means is that I was feeling so anxious I threw up, and now I feel like crap. Or maybe I feel like I’m going to be sick, and I don’t want to chance going out with you in case I get sick on our date. Unfortunately, this has happened before (it was exactly as horrible as you might think), and it’s not unlikely it will happen again.

The more I get to know you, the more comfortable I’ll be and the less anxious I’ll feel. Until then, the best thing you can do is to try to be understanding, and not blame me for something I have no control over.

2. Sometimes I need to organize my thoughts.

If we’re having a tough conversation, anxiety can make my brain lock up. Sometimes it feels like I literally can’t speak, as if my mind has gone blank or I can’t figure out how to put into words what I’m feeling. I’m not trying to be difficult, I just sometimes need a minute or two to collect my thoughts and calm down.

Chances are, the anxiety comes from fear of how you will react to what I’m feeling, and I’m trying to fight my way through that to say what needs to be said. I might just need a minute to breathe and think without the pressure to speak, or I might need to leave the conversation entirely and come back later once I have processed my thoughts.

3. I don’t jump into relationships quickly.

Like I said, I tend to avoid dating. I’m sure there are people who will say the only way to get over dating anxiety is to go out with a bunch of different people, but that sounds unbearable to me. I’m much more comfortable getting to know the other person slowly. If I’m going to date you, it’s because I think you might be worth fighting through all my mental obstacles for. It will take me a while to really open up, so you’re going to have to be patient. If that’s not something you can do, then you should move on.

4. Sometimes I feel needy.

My anxiety likes to tell me you probably aren’t really all that interested in me, and even if you are interested, you won’t be for long. So I have a tendency to feel a little needy. Not that I will share these feelings with you, of course. Because then you definitely won’t be interested anymore, since no one likes a needy person.

Instead, I’ll just feel anxious and sad and overanalyze every interaction, waiting for the moment I can tell you are no longer interested. In an ideal relationship, I’d be able to share these feelings of insecurity or neediness without the other person judging me or putting me down for them.

5. It’s OK for us to laugh together about my anxiety.

In my family, humor is how we cope with difficult situations. I make jokes about my anxiety all the time because it helps me deal. If I make a joke about it, it’s OK to laugh. And if you know I’m feeling anxious, trying to get me to laugh can be a good way to help me calm down.

That doesn’t mean it’s OK to make fun of me. What I’m saying is sometimes my anxiety is ridiculous, and I have to laugh about it or the weight of it will bury me. You are encouraged to laugh with me.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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