A woman who's meditating outside

I’ve been told I’m good at acting like I’m fine, and I am. I’m really good at it. Yet, sometimes, I wish I could turn around and say I’m not. I wish I could just tell someone I actually haven’t been fine in such a long time.

I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel tired. I don’t mean, “I only got five hours sleep last night” tired. I mean physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. It doesn’t matter if I actually manage to get sleep during the night, I still feel exhausted. My stresses are even coming into my dreams at night.

Yet, people think I’m fine because I can laugh, smile and act like I’m OK. I get up in a morning, and I get on the buses to university. I go to my classes. I go to the library and I do my work. I get home, and I do my reading and essays. I have a cup of tea, dinner and a shower, and I go to bed. I act pretty normal.

Yet, no one sees what it’s like. No one knows in my head I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. No one knows actually when I go for a shower, it’s usually somewhere I can cry and get away with it because I’ll just say I got water in my eyes if they’re a little red. They don’t know when I go to bed, I don’t go to sleep. I lay there tossing, turning and getting more and more frustrated that I can’t sleep to the point where, again, I end up crying.

They don’t know I am so close to giving up because I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of everything, but I don’t. I carry on going, even when I don’t know why I’m doing it anymore. I carry on, smile, laugh and act like a “normal” person would. I feel as though it’s a chore getting up in the morning. Getting up in the morning is so hard.

But why? That’s what is always going through my mind. Why are you getting up? Why are you participating? And I don’t even know anymore. I really don’t. Someone asked me today how I was so good at acting like I’m fine. Honestly, my anxiety started at 15 years old. I’ve been “managing” it for five years now. It’s a part of my daily life, and I’ve just learned how to put a wall up and not show it.

It’s there in my head. It’s always there in my head. It never leaves! It frustrates me so much being there, and it frustrates me that people think I’m fine. Yet, I never show anybody a reason to think I wasn’t fine.

Sometimes, I wish I could bring my wall down and show people, but it’s not that easy. I have to go on with life, do my work and go to university.

I guess, sometimes, I just wish I wasn’t such a good actor.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Dear past self,

I know you think something is wrong with you.

I know you feel like you’re leading two lives, a physical one and a mental one. In your physical life, you know you’re happy. You have a great family, lots of friends, good grades, passions, an awesome job and a hopeful future. You have every reason to be happy, and you know it.

In your mental life, you’re not happy. You’re stressed all the time, and it’s not the “normal” kind of stress. You’re worried about everything. You think you’re going to fail that next test. You think that friend is going to replace you, and you fear being lonely.

You think that guy is going to wake up one day and not like you anymore. You fear heartbreak is going to kill you. You think something bad is going to happen to your family. You think you’re not going to be there to say goodbye because you’re too busy staring at the mirror wondering why you can’t look your reflection in the eye.

I know your mental life is starting to seep into your physical life, but no one else can see it. I know most days you feel like you’re underwater, moving through life in slow motion while the rest of the world continues at a normal pace. I know most nights you’re scared to fall asleep because you think you’ll wake up to find your life moved on without you.

You’ll tell yourself you’re losing it. You’ll call yourself “crazy.” You’ll beat yourself up for it every night, and you’ll tell yourself you just need to get over it. Other people will tell you the same things. You’ll keep them close because you think they’re being supportive.

I know you refuse to use the word “anxiety.” I know you think saying it will make you ungrateful. I know you think saying it will change how others see you. I know memes and social media posts aren’t enough to convince you otherwise. I know it needs to be a real person, and I also know she’ll be there soon.

I know once you start talking about it, things will start to get better. You’ll go to therapy, and you’ll learn how to breathe again, something you didn’t even know you’d forgotten. You’ll do poorly on a few tests, but it’s OK because you’ll do better on the next one. Then, you’ll cry when you get that acceptance letter.

That friend is going to replace you. So is that other friend, but it’s OK because you’re about to meet some wonderful people who will make it impossible to feel alone. That guy really is going to wake up one day and tell you he never truly cared about you. It’s OK because you’re able to look your reflection in the eye, and this will make it hard to be sad. You’re going to be there when bad things happen to your family, but it’s OK because you’ll all be together. This will make it easier to pull through.

I know you’ll always have anxiety, and I know you’ll learn to be OK with that. I know you’ll have hard days, but I know you’ll pull through. I know it’s too late to save you, but I also know it’s never too late to save someone else.

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This piece was written by Brianna Wiest, a Thought Catalog contributor.

There’s really no such thing as having an “anxious mind.” There’s only having your anxiety fueled by your thoughts (which is something that everyone experiences now and again). But some of the people who feel it most intensely are those whose rapid thinking is in constant contrast to their super chill, laid-back personalities. They never know when to fight or flight, everything seems like an over-reaction and their self-angst is maxed out, because their hearts are calm and their heads are crazed, more often than they will ever admit.

Here are some of the things that happen when you have an anxious mind and a laid-back personality

1. You epitomize leading a life of “quiet desperation.” Half of the reason you’re anxious all the time is because you don’t naturally act on or, therefore, process your emotions, and while that’s positive in some ways, it’s debilitating in others.

2. You’re naturally zen in that you observe your emotions objectively. Which is fantastic in that you’re not controlled by them, but harmful because you then start to believe you only have to process or truly feel the ones you want to.

3. You’re highly indecisive; your head and heart are a paradox all within themselves. You feel as though you’re always going back and forth between preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, and rarely in-between.

4. You’re laid back because you know how to quiet your mind. Most of your #chill lifestyle was developed out of necessity. Your brain starts to short circuit when you overload it with any more drama or worry, so you actively go out of your way to create a life where the only problems you have are the ones you make up in your mind.

5. You’re most comfortable with your life when you feel prepared for the worst. Your mind constantly goes back to what you’d do if you were to lose a job, lose a relationship, etc.

6. You seek solitude and relaxing environments so your brain can process and let off steam. You’re not one of those people who needs any more external stimuli to keep them entertained or wondering or interested — you’ve got that all covered, perhaps to an unhealthy degree.

7. You are your own locus of control. And perhaps this is the most positive characteristic you have: you do not assume that anybody else is responsible for your emotions, and you know this because thinking otherwise places you in a minefield of suffering for the rest of your life.

8. You’re non-confrontational to a fault. You’ll do anything to avoid not having to upset anybody, and that often results in you not communicating how you really feel, when doing so would eliminate the problem altogether.

9. You often wonder if it’s your resistance to action that creates your anxiety-thoughts. That maybe feeling jealous or anxious or upset is just an internal call to do better, one that’s being avoided.

10. You keep a tight social circle. You feel like you can only really have fun when you’re in the presence of people you’re truly comfortable with.

11. You’re particular about what you want, yet super chill about what you have. You probably need to keep a gratitude journal if you don’t have one already, one, because that’s something you’d be into, and two, because you have a hard time being completely “in the moment.”

12. You’re all but convinced the smartest people on Earth have somehow transcended their neurological hardwiring, and know how to just enjoy life. You know that “ignorance is bliss” may be a misquote and a generally terrible way to approach life, and yet you often fantasize about how lovely it would be to just not worry at all.

13. Your entire life struggle can be summed up as not having “the wisdom to know the difference.” You’re very good at letting go. You’re even better at trying harder. But knowing when each is appropriate is completely lost on you. Alas: the #struggle.

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I have let anxiety, phobias and panic attacks limit my life. A lot.

But over the past few days, I’m learning to celebrate the wins. All of them.

I rarely drive. When I do, one thing I avoid is left-hand turns. I will go the long way or not drive at all if I have to make left-hand turns.

My win: I made a left-hand turn! To some, no big deal. But for me, big deal! I crossed four lanes to make that turn! I felt proud of myself.

It helps to have a support system that understands these little things are big deals. So I’m happy I can share my small wins. The small wins show progress. The small wins say “I can do this!” Something that was once difficult to do can be done.

Each day, when I conquer something my anxiety and phobias have limited me doing, I celebrate. I’m putting those good vibes in the universe!

Guess what? You can, too. Celebrate your wins, big and small.

Follow this journey on JayCreed.com

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For anyone who thinks having an anxiety disorder is the same thing as “being stressed…”

The love of your life might be like millions of people. Those who are wandering around, attempting to make it through their anxiety and depression symptoms, trying to convince themselves and you it isn’t “that bad” and that they don’t need help. I would know. I was one of them.

I can now acknowledge that my anxiety and depression is not a character flaw. It’s a medical condition. Getting to the point where I could finally seek help was a nightmare. Ask my partner. He took me kicking and screaming to counseling.

So I thought who better to tell you how to get your partner with anxiety or depression to get help than the person who helped me: My partner.

Here’s what he had to say:

1. Show patience and gentleness, without judgment.

“Of course, patience, gentleness and non-judgment are essential. I knew Kyla wasn’t going to agree to see somebody until she decided for herself that she was ready. Forcing it only makes it harder.”

2. Do your research.

“I put a lot of work into learning about what services were available in our city. I always tried to destigmatize accessing mental health. I told her it was totally normal. They don’t put money into those resources for no reason. Accessing mental health services is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I also tried to make it as easy as possible for her to access the services. I started by asking trusted friends what resources they used. I asked for referrals and stories. Learn as much as you can about a counselor’s/psychologist’s background, their education and their approach. I was eventually able to dispel a lot of her fears by having lots of good information.”

3. Be discrete.

“I always asked as if it was for me, not for Kyla. This way she wouldn’t feel implicated. There is a lot of shame and guilt packed into what she was experiencing, and she would have been mortified and hated me forever if I was going around asking for advice on her behalf or talking about her experience with others.”

4. Make the call.

“Once I had a list, I called the organizations I found and had conversations with the front desk staff to better understand the services they offered, the wait times and the intake process. I asked them for advice on how my partner could feel safe coming to speak to them. They were always wonderful and flexible. They suggested she could contact them directly when she was ready or they would be happy to communicate through me if that would make it easier for her. These people are professionals and want to help you.”

5. Communicate.

“Once I was prepared with a lot of information, I told her I had been thinking about some of the things she had been struggling with and I had done a bit of research. I asked if I could share what I had learned. You know your partner best. You’ll have to feel out how best to drop this into conversation.

We are lucky that we already had excellent communication skills and a habit of telling each other everything. It also helped that I had been to see a psychologist before as well. So I could share my experience, good and bad.”

6. Make it easy.

“I kept it really open, telling Kyla I wanted to learn what I could and maybe together we could pursue any options that seemed to have value. I always asked for Kyla’s permission before I did anything more. I asked if she would be willing to speak to the people I had spoken to. This way she could hear for herself and ask any other questions she had.

A key piece of information you need to know is their hours. If your partner calls them or tries to visit while they are not open, then they might give up. I made sure I was always gently holding her accountable, while facilitating each step she wavered on. Making it simple will help your partner avoid the emotional labor of actually carrying out the tasks involved in this process, including finding the phone numbers, office hours and bus routes. It will ultimately help them feel like it is less daunting and give them fewer excuses not to do it.”

7. Deal with objections.

“When I first suggested that Kyla seek help, she was full of excuses and objections. Without a doubt this will happen when you approach your partner about seeking help. She claimed it wasn’t really that bad, after crying in my arms for two hours and mulling over reasons to live. It was clearly pretty bad. You wouldn’t wait until all your teeth have fallen out to visit the dentist. You should not wait until you are on the brink of self-destruction to seek help.

She tried to object that other people had it so much worse. I assured her this was not a good reason to avoid seeking help. She said she couldn’t afford help. I prioritized the cheap or free mental health resources available in our city. Things that are cheap and good are never fast unfortunately. So we found the waiting list was several months long. We talked about it and we agreed that we would put her name on the waiting list and try something else in the meantime.”

8. Mind your own business.

“As the process unfolded and Kyla was put in touch with professionals and started her visits, I took a step back. I stayed involved to the extent that I stayed curious and created the space for her to talk to me if she needed to. Yet, I also realized those conversations are none of my business.”

9. Take care of yourself.

“This is the most important tip on this list. When you are trying to support someone with anxiety or depression, it is absolutely essential that you take care of your mental health as well. Clearly, if your partner is struggling and you are reading this, then it has had some effect on you. If the idea of seeking help for yourself makes you uncomfortable, then you need to challenge yourself to live by example. One of the most effective ways to help your partner prioritize their mental health is to prioritize your own. Show them that there is no reason to be afraid to seek help.

It won’t be easy, and it will be an emotional minefield. Mental illness can destroy relationships, but if you can be there for your partner and support them through this process, you will learn things about kindness, patience and love that will help you succeed and evolve in every aspect of your life.”

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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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