You look at me, and you’d never know.
From the outside, I look like your typical, mid-30s mom.
My girls’ lunches are packed and refrigerated the night before.
Outfits hung in preparation.
Breakfast bowls out on the counter.
Almost always late to one function or another.
Trying to tie a renegade shoelace.
Or wipe away a flood of unforeseen tears.
From the outside, I look like your typical mid-30s woman.
Sporting athletic shoes, an oversized bag and the latest-trending jewelry.
Enjoying a glass of wine on occasion.
Working overtime to balance family and career.
Always putting on a “happy face”.
Outside of these four walls.
You see, that’s just it.
From the outside, I appear “normal.”
Like I have it all together.
Like I can laugh my way through anything.
Like a great and supportive friend.
Like a deeply devoted mother.
Like a hardworking wife.
My smile is my best accessory.
As well as my favorite mask.
To protect myself from potential hurt.
Because, if you took a look at me from the inside, I would look completely opposite.
A “mess” of sorts.
Floating from one worry to another.
Without a breath in between.
I don’t have panic attacks.
Yet, my heart races through my chest.
I don’t act outwardly.
Because I am too busy keeping it all in.
I don’t have trouble concentrating on something.
But my mind never stops running.
And that’s exactly it.
Those of us who live with anxiety?
We cannot be squeezed into a one-size-fits-all mold.
We are too many.
We are unrecognized.
We are more “commonplace” than you’d ever imagine.
We are right next door, and you’d never even know it.
We are your neighbor.
Your daughter’s teacher.
Your son’s baseball coach.
Your youth minister.
Your 20-something coworker.
Your team’s star athlete.
Your school’s valedictorian.
Your best man.
Your very best friend.
We are many.
We are unrecognized.
Because this thief?
He doesn’t discriminate.
He will steal happiness and peace from anyone and everyone.
Without so much as a blink of the eye.
We don’t look the same.
We don’t respond to our anxiety the same.
We don’t live our life the same.
Because we are not the same.
And we cannot be put into a “box.”
We are anywhere. And everywhere.
Ready to shake the stigma associated with our mental illness, once and for all.
Image via Thinkstock.