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'You Have Nothing to Be Anxious About!' That's the Problem.

I often have people tell me I don’t have it all that¬†bad, so what could I be depressed or anxious about? I have a steady job and a¬†roof over my head, so what could I possibly have to worry about? I couldn’t¬†agree more. Why then, am I still afraid and worried all the time?

Just because¬†I do not have a ‚Äúreal reason‚ÄĚ to be anxious doesn’t mean I am not anxious. After¬†all, if I had ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ concerns I was worried about, wouldn’t that be the healthy¬†response to those concerns? The very problem with anxiety is that I am worried¬†about anything and everything I can be, rational and irrational. I decided to keep track of the anxious questions that wash over me as a single day rolls by.

From the moment I wake up in the morning:

What time is it? Did I oversleep? Have I worn this shirt too¬†many times to work? Will people notice? This is the shirt I am wearing in my ID¬†photo; people will think it is the only shirt I wear. Should I try to do something¬†new with my hair? It’s too boring; it’s the same hair I have always had. People¬†will think I am boring. Is that too much cologne? Will people think I am trying¬†too hard? Are my windshield wipers going too fast? Does it look like I am¬†overreacting to the rain? Am I going to be pulled over? I should turn my music¬†down because if others hear it they will think I am weird.

That’s before I even get to work and interact with anyone. Let’s¬†continue:

Will someone notice I am just sitting at my desk? Will they¬†report me for wasting time? When will they realize I don’t know what I am¬†doing? Do people think I walk funny? Are people taking advantage of how nice I¬†am? Am I letting people walk over me? Am I being too nice to this person? Do¬†they think I am flirting? Will I get taken to HR? Am I being creepy? I feel¬†like I am not doing enough. Am I being lazy? Do they know I have no idea what¬†they are talking about? Should I have taken this job? Maybe I should have¬†stayed where I was unhappy but at least knew what I was doing. They will find¬†out I am making it all up as I go.

I need to stop spending money. Why can’t I stop spending¬†money? Why can’t I lose weight? Do people think I am fat? Do they make fun of¬†my height? I need to stop texting my friends. I am being overbearing and¬†annoying. They have real lives, and I am bothering them. Does the waitress think¬†I am rude for looking at my phone? Do I come here too often? Does my roommate¬†think I am too loud? Do I bother him when he wants to be left alone? Why is my¬†room such a mess? Why can’t I keep it clean? Why haven’t I finished reading that¬†book yet? Why do I look at Facebook?¬†No one is talking to me. They have their¬†lives, and you are bothering them.

This all seems petty, mindless and pointless, right? That is¬†the point. It wouldn’t be a problem if I was constantly worried about important¬†things. The constant flood of stressing over the unimportant things is what¬†makes my anxiety what it is. I know just as much as the person telling me I am¬†worrying over nothing that I am doing just that. The part that annoys others,¬†that they are so ready to dismiss as not a ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ problem is exactly what the¬†problem is. So now, in addition to the myriad of other little worries raining¬†down on me, tearing me apart like a storm of needles, I have to worry that I am¬†bothering you with¬†these other trivial concerns.

Please understand I know more than you do that I should¬†not be worried about these little things. Please also understand that is¬†exactly what anxiety is. When you dismiss my anxiety, you actively participate¬†in confirming all those little fears and insecurities. Instead of adding to the¬†pile of worries of someone you care about or even do not care about, remember¬†that if I had rational fears it would be a survival instinct. It’s the¬†irrational fears that make it a sickness. Please consider that, and act accordingly.

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Photo by Noel Moore