8 Things Someone With 'High-Functioning' Anxiety Wishes You Knew
1. For every decision I make, there is a battle raging in my head.
Decisions and commitments are my worst nightmare. Every time I get asked to hang out with a friend, or go out to dinner with a family, or show up for a school function, my mind immediately starts listing pros and cons. And let me assure you, it always manages to come up with far more cons. Most of the time, when I do commit to something, it’s out of obligation or fear of being left out.
2. When I get up and leave suddenly, it’s because I need to.
Sometimes being around people is just overwhelming. Someone may say something everyone else takes as a joke, but it hits right where my insecurities are. When that happens, I just have to get out. Now. All I need is a few minutes away to recollect myself and get my breathing under control, and then I’ll come back. When I do come back, please don’t ask me why I left or if I’m OK. I promise I’ll tell you, but not until I’m in a better headspace.
3. I like to get invited to parties, but I don’t really like to go.
When I don’t get invited to something, my mind starts racing:
Maybe they don’t like me. Maybe they’re all going to talk about me there. Maybe nobody likes me.What if they’re all just pretending to like me. Maybe I’m not as good at hiding it as I thought.
But when I do get invited and go, my thoughts are somewhat like this:
You’re not fun enough. You’re not having a good time like everyone else. You should go make some new friends; people will think you’re a snob if you don’t. Make sure you smile. But not too much or they’ll think you’re weird. Why are you even here? You know you should’ve just stayed home.
It’s an endless cycle of second-guessing myself. Most of the time, it’s just easier not to go.
4. When I ask for help, it means I really need it.
I have a hard time asking for help. And not because I’m cocky or think I’m too good for it, but because I’m afraid of showing you the real me. Too many times, I’ve let my guard down with someone, shown them how needy I really am, and they’ve left. So I don’t do that anymore. I’ve learned to “suck it up,” as they say, and figure it out on my own. Asking for help is really a last-resort type of deal for me. Which means if I do ask for help about anything, I really need you to help me. Or else next time, I’ll drown before reaching out to someone.
5. Just because I don’t respond right away doesn’t mean I’m mad.
Texts and emails are kind of my worst nightmare. I read them over and over, searching for some hidden meaning. Only when I’ve completely overanalyzed the whole thing do I even think about responding. And of course, that could be another 20 minutes of typing and retyping, until I’ve found the “perfect” thing to say that will never be misinterpreted. And then I may send four or five rapid-fire messages after that just to clarify what I mean. So give me some time. I’m not mad, just overanalyzing.
6. When you pull away from me, I think I’ve scared you away.
I know, it’s kinda hypocritical, right? I tell you to give me space and that just because I pull away doesn’t mean I’m mad, and then I turn around and think the same thing about you. But I just can’t help it. Every message that isn’t responded to, every sarcastic reply to something I say, every time you cancel plans we had, I can’t help thinking you are fed up with me and my clinginess. Like maybe I showed you a little too much and you couldn’t handle it. It scares me. And then I get even more clingy, asking if you’re mad at me, or if I did something wrong. Please don’t take it personally. It’s the self-doubt talking. The more comfortable I get with you, the less it’ll happen.
7. The person on the outside is not usually the person on the inside.
The person you see on the outside has it together. Straight-A student, involved in multiple activities, always busy, completes every project on time and to a perfectionist standard. And you probably think, “Man, she has her life together. She really knows how to get stuff done.” What you don’t realize is I have to be this way. I literally cannot sit still. If I do, the thoughts and nervous energy will choke me.
Relaxation is hard, because doing nothing invites what I call “the void.” It invites staring off into space, losing track of time, feeling too much all at once. So it’s much easier just to keep busy, so I don’t even have time to think about anything except what’s next on my to-do list. I’m this way because it keeps me from falling apart, not because I’m put together.
8. There are so many people living like this.
It’s one of the things you wouldn’t know unless you’ve experienced it. I didn’t realize how many people around me struggle with anxiety every day until six months ago, when I finally accepted that I was.
Now I look around, and all I can see are little tells in the people around me. Slightly widened eyes, a hand on the chest, arms crossed tightly as if hugging themselves, the tight-lipped smile and weak, “I’ll be right back” that really means they need to be anywhere but here, and fast.
So many people live this way. And all we want, for the most part, is compassion. Just a gentle voice or act of kindness that shows you understand we’re struggling. Seriously, one moment of kindness goes a long way.
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