What My Anxious Mind Believes People Are Thinking About Me

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For someone who has anxiety, or for anyone who is an over-thinker for that matter, there is an understood rule: We often degrade ourselves and make up things that people aren’t really thinking. What do I mean? Here’s an example:

A friend hasn’t talked to me in a little while, maybe several weeks. Last time we talked the subject of my anxiety came up, and I feel like I may have over-shared with that person. So I am now thinking, Of course, that person is being silent because they think I am “crazy,” strange, maybe even annoying. Who wants to be friends with someone who worries all the time? How could they just desert me like that, though? Now I am upset. Thinking, Wow, there goes another friend lost. After maybe a month I hear from that person. And now I have harbored resentment against them and act coolly. With the toss of my head I say, “Oh, how nice to hear from you.” All the while thinking, This is fake, like they really care.

OK, so this may be an extreme example. But I would say it is just one of the ways someone with anxiety may think — this is just the thought pattern of someone who may either expect to be rejected, or worries when they do not hear from others. In the other person’s mind it may just seem like life has gotten busy and there hasn’t been time to catch up with all the people they would like to talk to. So why is their friend acting so passive aggressively all of a sudden?

Well, it is because we expect others to be thinking about us what we think or say about ourselves. Do I daily tell myself about all my failures and call myself stupid? You bet I do. So after a long time of doing this, it is only natural that I assume others are thinking these things, too. But it just isn’t true. These things we imagine about ourselves and others is wrong, because those thoughts are based on our own undervaluing of ourselves.

The biggest thing I think I would say to someone who struggles with anxiety, depression or even someone who just thinks too much is this: Step back and realize you are your own worst enemy. Take your thoughts captive, and reverse the way you think. Stop speaking negative words over your life. Be positive and love yourself as much as you love others. Those compliments you give to others? Try saying them out loud to yourself. Start recognizing your successes instead of dwelling on your failures.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

Anxious person, this post is about you. I have previously written about what the loved one in your life should or shouldn’t say to you, but this post is about what you should and shouldn’t say to yourself. Replace words like ” stupid,” “failure,” “worthless” and “hopeless” with words like “loved,” “valued,” “beautiful” and “talented.” Because friend, you are those latter words. We all fail, we all make mistakes and we all have our bad days. But if I know you, I know you are going to take those things a little harder than those around you might. And you are going to turn those feelings into an angry storm of self-defeat. Hear me say: Don’t do it! This road leads to destruction.

And if ever you need that reminder from a friend, write to me and I will remind why you are beautiful, loved, talented and worthy.

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They Can't See the Anxiety Behind the Disguise

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Beating…faster…faster

My heart is pounding a hundred miles an hour.

Cold, so cold,

My hands are freezing and feel like ice.

Trembling, I’m trembling.

I can’t stop this involuntary movement my body is making.

My eyes are darting back and forth,

From side to side.

I take one step after the other,

Left foot hitting pavement,

Right foot hitting pavement.

I keep my head up to disguise the discomfort I’m feeling.

People will look at me and smile and I’ll return the smile,

All the while worrying I may be seen as the fraud I am.

Strong?

Confident?

Her?

Can they see my heart beating through my shirt?

She isn’t strong.

Can they see my eyes shifting back and forth, my hands shaking violently?

She isn’t confident.

Can they see the anxiety swimming through my veins,

Like the blood I need to stay alive?

Swimming through me like the blood that is making my ever worried heart pound, harder and harder?

Can they see the worry?

Do they see my truth?

Do they see me?

They smile.

I smile.

They walk past me as I continue on with my disguise.

This post originally appeared on The Anxiety Chronicles.

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If My Friends Googled 'Anxiety,' I Hope They'd Find This

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Google is an amazing thing. The technology and algorithms that go into something like that is mind blowing. Sometimes I wonder how many things get Googled per day. But this article isn’t about that.

In a previous article, I had talked about how anxiety was such a monotonous thing to describe, and I often just tell people to “Google it.” So, to all those I’ve said that to and all I will say it to, I would hope this is the article you would find if you ever Googled anxiety.

Anxiety is scary. Let’s start with that. It’s not your everyday stress over school or work. I’m sure you’ve seen the shows with the devil sitting on your shoulder trying to tear you down? Well. That’s anxiety in a nutshell. That little devil sits on your shoulder all day, making you think things like “what if” this and “what if” that. Imagine living in constant fear. With no escape, except sleep. Imagine your mind racing at speeds of what seem like light speed. Anxiety sends your nerves into overdrive. Imagine your worst nightmare being on repeat. I know that’s a lot of “imagines,” but I’m just trying to make sure you grasp the concept of this anxiety.

If you know someone with anxiety, show them you care. Be there for them, and if they ever ask you questions you think sound silly, answer as you would any other question. Treat them like a regular person. And if they say they don’t want to do something, don’t make them. I know anxiety sounds like it makes life a lot easier, but trust me, this is not something you want, and in no way does it make any aspect of life any easier.

I hope this article has at least enlightened you on the scary, wild, mental illness that is anxiety. I hope you walk away having learned more than you came with. I know it’s complex, but you deserve a pat on the back for at least trying to understand this for your friend or whoever it may be. I wish you the best.

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5 Ways the Book '10% Happier' Changed My Life for the Better

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If you watch ABC News you know Dan Harris. He can be found anchoring World News, ABC New tonight and Nightline. You may also know him as the anchor who in 2014, ”had a panic attack live on Good Morning America in front of an audience of 5.019 million people.”

After this incident, Harris explored the world of meditation to figure out a way to tame the negative voice in his head. This “fidgety skeptic” has taken the practice of meditation to heart and found that it has changed his life and made him, as his book describes, at least 10 percent happier. A friend passed this on to me and (after I skeptically commented, “What, don’t you think I’m happy enough?”) I went on to read the book.

Reading it is changing my life. Here’s how:

1. I feel understood.

I don’t do yoga, though I have tried it. I eat meat. I’m Italian and I cannot be calm. Basically what I’m trying to say is, I’m not your stereotypical meditation/yoga/mindfulness obsessed person. However, this book made me seriously think about the way I react to and perceive events in my life. Dan Harris is no doubt a hardworking person, but he doesn’t spend every minute working or thinking about his career. He has found some balance and though he has not achieved perfection or “enlightenment,” he is able to enjoy his family, friends and continue be successful in a very high profile field. Working all the time is not a badge of honor. Reading this book made me feel like I was listening to a friend explain a change in his life he didn’t quite understand himself. I trust him. And the way he explains how his mind works against him is frighteningly familiar. Yea. I need to shut that thinking down. Yesterday.

2. I am benefitting from daily meditation.

Harris has created an app for those of us who are new to meditation. You can choose the amount of time you want to spend on this, what you want to focus on and he has leaders in the field handling the heavy lifting, so to speak. When I feel my mind spinning, when my daughter has a bad day, when I need to calm down, I spend 10 minutes listening to the app. Just in case you were wondering, it’s OK, expected and normal to not be able to quiet your mind. Being aware of what you are thinking about and pulling your mind back to the meditation is the practice. It’s interesting to realize what pops into my head while I’m trying to calm my mind (Do we have cookies? I really need to finish weeding the yard. How are we going to afford college? And on and on and on…). Meditation helps me focus, kind of like a daily to do list. If I can’t make my mind stop thinking about it, it’s time to do something about it. And if I can’t do something about it, this practice is helping me learn to let it go.

3. I can help the children in my life.

After reading Harris’ book, I went straight to his podcast and became a subscriber. This led me to some amazing one hour interviews with the Dalai Llama, Arianna Huffington and my personal favorite, Ali Smith. Smith is a certified yoga instructor and executive director of the Holistic Life Foundation, and he teaches meditation to children.

This fall, I will be practicing meditation with a group of elementary students. Our children need this practice to help them deal with their daily stressors, too. This will be a tool they can use in the future to help them continue on the path to success and stay healthy in the process. Some students inhabit “worlds of chaos,” to quote Smith. We need to address how to help children handle the chaos.

4. My friends are benefiting.

I’m sure you can relate to this. You find a great new restaurant, a great deal at your local store, watch an amazing Netflix movie and you can’t stop talking about it. I have passed this book on to many people, and I talk about the podcast and app daily. No one has it all together. We are all struggling with something, and stress is on everyone’s mind. The message I’m getting back from others is the same. The way Harris delivers this information is great for the person coming from a somewhat skeptical point of view, but who is open to doing something to change their live in a positive way.

5. This could be the solution I’ve been looking for.

When I think about the events of the last few months, years, even decade, it can truly be scary, disheartening and worrisome. Maybe if we all had a way to calm our minds, we could handle this one life we are given in a more thoughtful, kind and positive way. We are all facing struggles. Meditation might be a way to help us all relax and learn to be empathetic toward each other.  At the very least, maybe we can be 10 percent happier.

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How I Counteract the Anxiety That Makes Me Lose Sleep

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I usually sleep well, but today I have woken at 5:15 and can’t sleep.

There is fierce, raging activity in my head that consists of a series of worries and anxiety.

1. Something happened at work last week. I am worried that, although I know I did the right thing, others may not see it like that.

2. I have to run a working party today with a range of colleagues, and I fear they won’t like me and will realize I don’t know what I am talking about.

3. When the meeting is over, I will have to write it up and produce notes and actions, but I have not put any time in my diary to do this.

4. I have training to deliver on Monday and Thursday next week, but I also haven’t planned the training yet.

5. I have entered a singing competition in three weeks and do not know any of the songs yet.

6. My daughter is still unwell after flu and has stopped eating properly.

7. My husband may have to stop working, which may leave me with sole financial responsibility. And my cleaner has left.

8. I have woken up too early and will be exhausted today. I’ve arranged to take my kids to see a live stream Shakespeare for three hours tonight, but I’m now worried I will go beyond exhaustion because of it.

I could actually continue with more, but eight is probably enough.

What to do? Give up? Ring the doctor? On paper, these things may seem trivial, over-dramatic, irrational. But they feel very real.

I can manage them. Because I have before. A useful exercise I discovered before Christmas is to write them down, name them as feelings/worries and then force myself to counteract them with what I know.

Here’s how I counteracted those worries:

1. Something happened at work last week. I am worried that, although I know I did the right thing, others may not see it like that.

I have lots of evidence of what really happened, and I need to hold to that.

2. I have to run a working party today with a range of colleagues, and I fear they won’t like me and will realize I don’t know what I am talking about.

It is not about them liking me. I have done huge research, and I have a plan, agenda and a clear vision.

3. When the meeting is over, I will have to write it up and produce notes and actions, but I have not put any time in my diary to do this.

I will write detailed notes in the meeting.

4. I have training to deliver on Monday and Thursday next week, but I also haven’t planned the training yet.

I have PowerPoints I can adapt with experience and ideas. It is not about me but about what my audience needs.

5. I have entered a singing competition in three weeks and do not know any of the songs yet.

I can record the songs and listen to them as I drive.

6. My daughter is still unwell after having the flu and has stopped eating properly.

I can’t control whether she is hungry, but I will help her get better however I can.

7. My husband may have to stop working, which may leave me with sole financial responsibility. And my cleaner has left.

We only to have to get through two years and things will improve. I do need a new cleaner, though.

8. I have woken up too early and will be exhausted today. I’ve arranged to take my kids to see a live stream Shakespeare for three hours tonight, but I’m now worried I will go beyond exhaustion because of it.

Remember my university days. Frequent nights with four hours of sleep. Baby days — ditto. Did I die? Nope.

Our minds can be devious, and feelings and worries play tricks. But by getting them out, ordering them and challenging them, I believe we can get through them.

I try to focus on solutions. I have within me the skills and experience to solve problems and face challenges like this.

If your worries are stealing your sleep, take time to write them down and challenge them. And maybe talk them through with someone else who can help you find solutions.

A version of this post was originally published on staffrm.io.

Image via Thinkstock Images

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When Anxiety Makes You a 'Revolving Door' Friend

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“It’s not you, it’s me.”

I’ve said this line far too many times for someone who’s never even dated anyone. My anxiety makes me a revolving door friend, in your life one minute, out the next. In your eyes, you may think I’m unreliable. Before you give up on me and our friendship, there are 11 things I want you to know:

1. I haven’t given up on you.

2. I care about you. More than you know. Please, understand when I can’t be there for you, there is no one more hurt than me.

3. Sometimes I just need space. I promise when I feel OK, whether it’s two days or two years down the line, I always come back around.

4. Don’t try to fix me. Also, don’t tell me what to do. That will only push me away further. What I need to know is that you love and accept me the way I am.

5. Keep inviting me. I never cancel because I get a better deal. There are days when my anxiety is so strong, I cannot pull myself out the door. There are also days when I can. When I can, I will.

6. I’m not fine. I say I am because I don’t want to bog you down with the chaos inside my head.

7. My intention is never to hurt you. In fact, sometimes I am too scared I will like you too much. I know I’m not good with commitment. I fear getting close and disappointing you.

8. Please, be patient. Even though I may not deserve it, hold on a little longer.

9. I hope one day I can be as good of a friend as you are to me.

10. I’m here for you. Even when you think I’m not. I hope you know if you ever are in an emergency, call and I will come around.

11. I’m sorry. I’m aware it’s not fair how I treat you. I hate that my anxiety gets the best of both of us. All I can do is try again tomorrow, the next day and the next day (so long as you allow me too).

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