This piece was written by Holly Riordan, a Thought Catalog contributor.
1. I eat to fill the silence. When I’m at a party, I migrate to the snack table. When I have chips in my mouth, no one questions why I’m not talking. They just assume I’m hungry.
2. I prep beforehand. If I have to make a phone call or approach a store counter, I’ll rehearse what I have to say before I actually say it. I’ll repeat the words over and over in my head until I have them memorized. Until I’m ready to take on my role as “functional human being.”
3. I act like I’m busy. When I’m sitting in class or riding on a bus, I either shove my face in a book or pop my headphones in. That way, no one will talk to me. That way, I can remain alone.
4. I tone down my emotions. Before I start a new job or go on a first date, I casually text my friends to mention how nervous I am. I try to make it seem like I’m an average person who’s slightly shaken with nerves. I don’t let anyone know how hard my heart is beating and how badly I’ve been shaking.
5. I rely on alcohol. I’m always anxious around other people — unless I have a few sips of beer. Then I actually feel relaxed for once. I know it’s unhealthy, but whenever I go to a party, I head straight for the cooler.
6. I lie through my teeth. My anxiety can make everyday activities feel unbearable. That’s why I’m the queen of canceling plans. I tell my friends I’m sick. Or that I’m swamped with work. But I never let them know I’m staying inside because I can’t imagine stepping outside.
7. I hide my symptoms. If my hands are shaking, I’ll fidget with my jewelry. If my face gets red, I’ll comment on how hot the room is. I’ll make excuses for my physical symptoms so they don’t seem unusual.
8. I dress well. In the morning, I work hard to make my make-up and hair look cute. It’s a little easier to survive social situations when I feel attractive. I figure that, if I look good on the outside, it’ll be harder for everyone to see how much I’m struggling inside.
9. I’ll consider every scenario. Before an interview, I’ll think about every single question I could possibly be asked. That way, when I answer them, it’ll seem like I’m calm and collected, but really, I spent hours stressing over the possibilities the night before.
10. I freak out before big events. I don’t get out of the car as soon as you reach my location. I take a few minutes to obsess over all of the things that could go wrong, and then I force myself to stop hyperventilating and leave. And, when I enter the public eye, no one notices what my anxiety has done to me.
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