black and white of a male in his 30s

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 “real reason” to be anxious doesn’t mean I am not anxious. After all, if I had “real” 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 “real” 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


So, a new year at my university has started, and my initial dread has passed. I wasn’t dreading my classes — I was excited to start learning and going to class. What I was dreading was the “introductions week” and the class presentations I knew I’d have to do.

I kept thinking about last year when I started my classes; how we all had to stand up one by one in front of the entire class of 100 student and six tutors to introduce ourselves. We had to say our names, where we were from and some facts about ourselves. It was mortifying as I couldn’t think of anything and I had an accent that was noticeable there.

So I dreaded the first day of class. I cannot deal with standing up in front of a class if I have time to prepare myself, let alone if it is sprung on me there and then — it practically cripples me. I understand we have to introduce ourselves and get it all out of the way. But I wish teachers planned this with student mental health in mind. A person without anxiety might get nervous at the thought, but people who have anxiety can literally feel sick at the thought – and yes, I have actually vomited once when I had to do a presentation. It was the most embarrassing moment of my entire life, having to run out to the bathroom to vomit.

This is starting to keep me up at night thinking about it. It shouldn’t, but it does and it is unbelievably frustrating. I also know some of the modules are graded on presentations. I’ve even been told the work isn’t what’s graded the most — we are actually graded on how we present it. Surely the content of my work should be more looked into. When I present, I can’t look at everyone, I can’t stand tall and confident. I shrink away, I shake like a leaf, my voice becomes unsteady and as I internally panic I can be quite difficult to understand. A teacher once said to me after a presentation, “Wow, I don’t know about the class, but I’m glad you had your presentation on the board because I didn’t understand a word of that.”

Needless to say, I’m fairly sure I’ll fail if I have a presentation graded on performance. I
do understand everybody has a different learning style, and the whole module cannot realistically be graded on just exams, because some people really struggle with exams. But because anxiety isn’t really talked about in school, people think we’re just overreacting. Someone laughed at me and said I was being silly when I was panicking about a presentation. They didn’t realize my heart and head were pounding and I couldn’t control my shaking hands. They didn’t understand the only thing my mind could concentrate on was the panic.

I just wish we got a choice. At least a choice in presenting; if we really have to do this presentation, does it have to be to the entire class? Surely that isn’t fair, when some students literally get sick at the thought of it. But, what do I know? I’m only the student with anxiety.

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Anxiety can have a way of making us feel unable to do everyday things. It can sneak up on us and make us feel weak, alone. The truth is, though, we are stronger than our fears and we can overcome our obstacles. We just need to prove this to ourselves. How do we do this? I suggest following these five steps:

1. Face your fears in small, manageable steps.

By facing your fears in small steps — steps that you choose — you can prove to your anxiety that you are stronger than it is.

2. Practice facing your fears on a consistent basis.

Like with exercising, the more you face your fears, the better you can become at it. By consistently doing things to get through your anxiety and over your other obstacles, I believe you can show your anxiety just how much you want it to leave you alone and how you won’t let it control you.

3. Track your progress.

By tracking the progress you make by writing it down, you’ll be able to see all you’ve accomplished. Not only is seeing your progress in writing proof you can do what it takes to be successful, but it can also help motivate you to do more and more to improve yourself every day.

4. When you feel like you can’t get through your anxiety or like you’re unable to do something, remember all of the progress you’ve made so far!

Being able to recall your most recent progress is a great way to remind yourself you can get through your anxiety and you are stronger than whatever is trying to hold you back.

5. Even if you don’t feel like you can do the main thing you want to, do something smaller.

Sometimes, we simply don’t feel like we can do something. Our anxiety can become extremely overwhelming, and we just can’t seem to break away from its hold. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Try to do some light exercises or something smaller in order to help build your confidence!

Image via Thinkstock.

Follow this journey on Getting Through Anxiety.

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I’m 18 years old and a senior in high school. I have a good life, I’m a happy person, and I struggle with anxiety.

Anxiety is something all of us will experience at some point in our lives. It’s that jittery feeling you get before a job interview. It’s the butterflies you get before a first date. It’s the fear of failing that big test. It’s the voice that warns us of potential threats and stresses us out just enough that we work a little harder, that we be a little more careful.

For most people, the anxiety goes away once the interview or date or test is over. But for people like me, it doesn’t go away. Instead, it sticks with me, making me analyze all the little things, making me think of all the “what ifs” that could’ve happened but didn’t, making me think about all the other tests and interviews and dates I’ll have to face someday. And so instead of smiling because I rocked that interview or said all the right things on that date or aced that test,  I’ll cry myself to sleep because life moves so fast and there’s no time to appreciate this one good day because I have hundreds of other days ahead of me that offer the same opportunities to mess up.

It was during my junior year of high school that my anxiety started getting worse. At first, it was just the little things, like taking a little longer to send a simple text because I wondered if I worded it right or studying for a few extra hours because I worried I wouldn’t pass that test. But it wasn’t long before my anxiety started interfering with my life. It felt as if I was carrying a giant magnifying glass with me all the time: a five-point math quiz became what would determine my final grade, which would determine my GPA, which would determine whether or not I got into college; a ten-second conversation with a coworker became my one chance to make a new friend and I probably stumbled on my words or didn’t make sense and now they probably hate me; or an ache in my arm meant something was terribly wrong and maybe I was really sick and just didn’t know it yet.

I started having panic attacks, and yet I still wasn’t saying, “I have anxiety.” Despite the fact that I felt disconnected from my surroundings, despite the fact that some nights I would look in the mirror and feel like a stranger was staring back at me, I wasn’t talking about my anxiety. Why? Because I didn’t feel like I had a good enough “excuse.” I felt as if I just needed to “get over it.” And I felt as if no one would understand, that if I did tell anyone they’d just tell me I was overreacting and asking for attention.

It wasn’t until someone close to me started talking about her anxiety that I realized I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t until I saw the difference it made in her life that I realized maybe I should talk about my anxiety, too.

Talking about your anxiety is not an easy thing to do – anything that involves confiding your feelings to other people is hard, really – because no matter how necessary it is, it means you’re out there, and that’s a scary thing. I knew I needed to talk about my anxiety, and so I started seeing a therapist, and I talked to my parents. But when it came to telling other people in my life, I couldn’t, because I was scared. Scared it would make me vulnerable. Scared the rest of my family wouldn’t understand. Scared people would view me differently.

These are the things anxiety will tell you because anxiety doesn’t want you to speak up. Anxiety doesn’t want you to get help. Anxiety wants you to stay silent because once you speak up, you’re harder to control.

So I ignore these thoughts, and talk about anxiety anyway. Because while I still have anxiety and while sometimes I have anxious days that seem to last forever, they are much easier when you’re not fighting them alone. Because anxiety is too much to keep to yourself. Because the right people won’t judge you, they’ll support you. Because it’s important to stand up to your anxiety. Because speaking up is the first step to getting your life back.

And maybe you’ll give someone else the courage to speak up, too.

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Those struggling with mental illness do not just want to be heard. There is a want and a need to be listened to. There is a difference. It is appalling how little is known about anxiety, the associated “attacks” or physical ramifications of it.

A panic attack. One of the most terrifying physical and psychological manifestations that can occur. When those like me who struggle say our anxiety is high and we’re horrified of an attack occurring, this is what we mean. This is how it can be experienced.

For me, it starts out with slight nervousness. A knot in my stomach. I have to clear my throat. Then comes the tingly sensation all over my body. My limbs refuse to move. Then, it hits. I am slammed to the floor. It’s crippling, and it takes over.

I can’t run. Everything within me seeks escape from this assault, but there is no such thing. It’s a trap. The walls close in. The air grows thinner and thinner. I’m frozen temporarily, but, in that moment, it’s never ending.

I can’t breathe. I forget how. Hyperventilation becomes my meager attempt at respiration. My chest tightens. The capacity of my lungs seems to decrease. My heart pounds erratically to the rhythm of overwhelming terror. Dizziness comes first. Then nausea.

I can’t speak. On the inside, I’m screaming for mercy, for prayer, for help, for some kind of relief. My jaw is clenched shut. My throat unable to produce speech. The utterances that make it out are feeble stutters and cries.

I can’t regain control. I’m frustrated. Every muscle now becomes rigid yet spastic, moving or rather twitching on its own accord. My body is not submissive to my control.

I can’t locate the trigger. I don’t know why this is happening. Again.

I can’t calm down. I tried the “grounding” technique I’ve read all about in textbooks. I tried to harness my senses. I tried to hone in on the tangible. It failed.

I can’t stop. So, I give in to it. I’ll let it run its course. It has won. I can’t stop. It keeps happening. I can’t stop. The most horrifying 10 to 30 minutes possible whenever they choose to appear.

This is a panick attack. It is only one facet of many mental illnesses.

I hope you understand a little bit better now. It is no exaggeration. It is horrifying. You may not understand firsthand, but you can certainly try to understand. That is all anyone could ever ask.

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on Desiree Nunez.

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Editor’s note: This post contains language about self-harm and suicidal thoughts. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Anxiety. It rules my everyday life. I can’t escape the hands of anxiety. It makes sure to make its presence known every second of every day. With my heart beating fast, hands clenching tightly, and mouth as dry as cotton balls, I sit and wait with anxiety as my wingman. No matter what the situation, anxiety is there to help me fall faster.

anx·i·e·ty (aNGˈzīədē) [noun] – a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

It’s not like anxiety can be turned on or off. I have no control of how anxiety will trigger my actions or emotions. Anxiety is a mental illness of the mind. The overwhelming, mind-numbing worry that consumes the brain is heart-pounding, breath-taking, ground-shaking in all the wrong ways.

“Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior.”

Anxiety is a barrier I must overcome. Not only does it limit my social ability to communicate but it destroys my connections with other peers and my friends and family. It’s also not like I’m afraid of just one thing in particular. I’m not afraid at all in total honesty. It’s the worry that drags me down. I worry unnecessarily about little things such as paying bills (which I don’t need to worry about because I can’t contribute to paying the bills, which worries me about trying to find a job and help my family) or presenting a project to my class (which is just pointless to worry about because if I want the grade, I have to present). I worry about things I have no control over, things such as global warming, the end of the world, racism, sexism, riots, protests, etc. Because of anxiety, I’ve missed out on opportunities I’ll never get the chance to have again. Anxiety has pulled me away from events and other things I’d love to have participated in, but I worried so much about such things that I talked myself out of participating.  

wor·ry (ˈwərē) [verb] – give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. 

Along with my anxiety came depression and insomnia, as well as an anti-social personality. Depression can happen from an overwhelming amount of stress or anxiety that wears people down and makes them dejected about most things. Insomnia happened because not only was I worrying extremely during the day about everything, but at night, my mind would kick into overdrive and start thinking about all the little things I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve done or how I could have made a choice in a better way. I’ll plan out my day for tomorrow in my head. I’ll think about every step of the day, how to not mess up or find embarrassment, and I’ll retrace my steps a thousand times to make sure there’s no way I could make a mistake in my planning.  

De·pres·sion (di-ˈpre-shən, dē-) [noun] – a state of feeling sad; a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way.

Along with depression came mental and physical scars. Mentally because I had completely ruined my mental state. Obliterated it. My mind doesn’t function the same way it did before nor does it function the same way as yours. Physically because my mind leads me to think certain things were acceptable to do to my body because I thought I wasn’t right. I thought I was messed up. Broken. Unrepairable. Beyond acceptable. With the mental scarring and my physical being had been worn down, came suicidal thoughts.  

“Suicidal thoughts are thoughts about how to kill oneself, which can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration and does not include the final act of killing oneself.”  

It’s not like I wanted to think about how I would kill myself or why I should kill myself. It wasn’t healthy, and I knew it wasn’t healthy but my mind told me I was OK. This was what I deserved and I needed to go through this. Not everyone who has suicidal thoughts attempts suicide. I was 15 the first time I tried to kill myself.  

sui·cide (ˈsü-ə-ˌsīd) [noun] – the act of killing yourself because you do not want to continue living.  

Anxiety, depression, insomnia, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, attempting suicide… the list goes on and on. It was a domino effect for me. But that doesn’t mean we can’t bounce back from a negative thing. You can always rebound, make it better. Instead of letting it drain you and take your energy, you look it straight in the face and give it the middle finger while walking away, showing your confidence in yourself and saying you can do this because you can.  

re·cov·er (riˈkəvər) [verb] – return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.  

And yes, there may be hardships and difficulties that you must face, but it is so worth it. Nothing is ever worth you giving up on life. People care, whether you think so or not. You will be missed. You may relapse back into your negative habits, I know I have, but you can always come back from that. And you know what, screw those people who say you can’t come back from it. You can. I did, you can, so can everybody else. You want to stop self-harming and be a more positive person, you can. You want to stop drinking alcohol to avoid problems, you can. It’s not easy, but you can.

re·lapse (ˈrēˌlaps) [noun] – a deterioration in someone’s state of health after a temporary improvement.

I have been through so much crap in my life ranging from drug use, underage drinking, underage smoking, sexual assault, rape, abuse, neglect, and even more, yet here I am, drinking water and studying for an AP test and singing songs with my best friend. Anxiety and depression and insomnia will always be a part of my life, I know that and I know I can’t be rid of them, but I also know I can’t let them control me. I have to overcome them to find the true me. Where I can find and be the real me is when I’ll be at my happiest. So if I can overcome my difficulties and hardships, can’t you? Anyone is capable of anything. All you have to do is try. 

be·lieve (bəˈlēv) [verb] – accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of.

I believe in you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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