I need you to think of someone who annoys you the most. Come on, you know who I’m talking about – someone with a presence that just irritates you and gives you high blood pressure. When you’re around them, you simultaneously roll your eyes and let out a sigh of annoyance.
They’re that person you Just. Can’t. Even. With.
Got your person?
Now, imagine this individual following you around wherever you go.
To begin your day, you find them lying in your bed next to you after you were abruptly awoken by the alarm. They immediately start talking to you: “Hey! What’s up? Hello! Hi! Get up!!!!! You have a lot to do today and can’t be late!!!”
As you get ready, they stress you out about the upcoming day’s events as you lather, rinse and repeat. They also double check that you aren’t getting shampoo in your eyes because you know, that could probably cause an eye infection. They make you second guess your outfit choice because you’re going to see so and so today and so and so will think you are weird for wearing that shirt with those pants. So you change. And they warn you that if you wear those shoes you might get blisters. But if you wear those other shoes and it rains they will become ruined even though they are sprayed with weather protectant. They tell you that your hair looks bad, that it always looks bad and that someone is going to judge you because your eyeliner line is accidentally a little too thick. They make you panic numerous times that you are going to forget to take your medicine even though you have a reminder set on your phone. “Remember that one time when you accidentally didn’t take your medicine and were a complete wreck the whole next day? Yeah. Make sure you take it so you are able to function and communicate tomorrow.”
They remind you to check and make sure that you have everything before you leave. Because important papers and your wallet definitely grew legs and escaped from your bag in the middle of the night, right? They rush out of the door following closely behind you screaming: “You’re going to be late!”
They sit in the passenger seat of your car and point out everything that could possibly go wrong while driving: “You are going to get into a car accident and die today.”
Once you arrive at your destination, you breath a sigh of relief that you made it safely. You start walking away from what you believe to be your locked car, but turn around and check just to make sure. When realizing that yes, you did indeed lock your car and yes, you did indeed put your keys in the bag that is on your shoulder, you are finally able to begin walking: “Make sure you don’t get hit by any cars while crossing the street.”
Throughout the rest of the day, this person continues to annoy and make you panic about even more things. They just have to sit next to you no matter what. They spin around you in circles and creep into your thoughts: “What if, what if, what if?”
They remind you of all the mistakes that you have made: “Don’t mess up this time! Everyone is watching you! Why aren’t you perfect?!”
They inform you of the most insignificant things: “Geez, watch out! You were in their way and now they think you’re rude.”
They tag along to all the social functions you attend: “What if they actually don’t like you and are just being nice? They think you are weird. You should just leave. But don’t be awkward about it.”
They force you to believe the people you love are in danger: “What if your family and/or friends are getting killed right now? You are probably going to get a call that someone has died.”
Once your day is over and you are finally able to go to bed, you realize you can’t. Because somebody will not leave you alone. They keep you up, making you worry about everything you did wrong that day, everything you could have done or said differently and everything that is going to happen tomorrow. And to top off these regrets and fears, they warn you about what could happen during the night: “What if you or a family member gets kidnapped or dies while sleeping? What if tonight was the last time you will see everyone?”
You are finally able to fall asleep, only to be awoken by them in the middle of the night out of sheer panic because of a nightmare you had. After realizing it was just a dream, you try and fall back asleep.
And then you wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
This “person” I am describing is my anxiety.
No, there is not actually a person who follows me around like this. Instead, I have an anxiety disorder that follows me around everywhere. And most days, it makes my head want to explode.
The war that rages inside my mind every day seems like it will never end. But I have hopes that someday it will come close to doing so.
Taking medication for my anxiety is one of the best things I have ever done. Although I can’t expect medicine to cure my thoughts, I am amazed by the ways it has helped me. I’m now able to live without crying or having panic attacks every day. And that is a beautiful thing.
Finally, to those of you who were so kind to share with me you know what it’s like to have anxiety, too, I want to publicly thank you. You know exactly who you are. Knowing that I am not the only one fighting this battle is so comforting. Let’s continue to empower each other and give this struggle a voice.