lonely woman under umbrella lights in the dark,digital painting

When Anxiety Feels Like a Flimsy Umbrella in a Rainstorm

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Sometimes when I get out of work, look outside, and see that’s it’s raining, I think to myself “It’s a good thing I brought an umbrella!” Then I get outside, open it up, and start to walk. I feel protected. I feel safe. Nothing can go wrong. I’m so smart. Look at all these people who didn’t check the weather. Good thing I’m ahead of the game. And then the wind blows or the rain gets a little heavier and my umbrella starts to wobble, flips inside out, and ultimately becomes completely useless. That’s what anxiety is.

Anxiety is sneaky and unexpected and honestly? A nuisance. Sometimes people tell me to calm down or take a deep breath. Do you know how helpful that is? It’s the same as the stranger on the street who tells me I “should really get a new umbrella.” Thanks for the advice, but that’s really not what I need to hear right now.

How is anxiety sneaky and unexpected? You don’t buy an umbrella with the hope that it’s going to be too flimsy. I don’t wake up in the morning hoping to have an anxiety attack. I don’t go around and seek out certain words or situations I know will give me anxiety. Sometimes the rain gets a little too heavy. Sometimes life is a little too hard.

People might think that anxiety isn’t the umbrella, anxiety is the heavy rain I never could have predicted. It’s the wind that likes to start a fight. But that’s not anxiety. That’s life. There are days that start off good. I don’t have to shake away my thoughts or focus hard on something to ease the tension in my soul. It’s a rain that my umbrella can handle. But sometimes when my car is first in the line and I’m at a red light, I wonder what would happen if the light fell. There are times when I’m home and I hear a noise outside and immediately think someone is breaking in. Sometimes I’m walking through the city and see the crowd of people and I’m simply overwhelmed by how many people exist. I don’t plan for these thoughts, fears and what ifs to happen. I have as much control over them as I do the weather.

When these thoughts might occur to other people, they have a stronger umbrella to protect them. They have a raincoat and boots to keep them dry. I’m wearing sandals and a white dress and my umbrella just ripped.

Anxiety is having days when that umbrella is enough, so why get rid of it? Anxiety is wishing I could buy a new one but the umbrella store is closed. Anxiety makes you get a little wet in the rain.

It’s hard to walk around and see the people who are dry and smiling. It makes you want to yell or cry or both. But there’s more than one flimsy umbrella out there. That doesn’t make it OK, but it makes it a little easier to know that you aren’t the only one struggling with the storm. And when you have anxiety, a little easier can be more than enough.

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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.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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