Girl in red dress with umbrella in the rain

I tend to view my anxiety negatively, because I often feel inhibited by it. I grow discouraged when I reflect upon experiences I might have missed related to my schooling, job search, and friendships as a result of my over-analysis and fear. In those anxiety-ridden moments, I question my self-worth. I ask myself if I am enough, if the efforts I make are satisfactory enough. The word “enough” echoes in my mind every day, causing me to contemplate what more I can do to feel adequate. I since have discovered the answer. I cannot hold myself to unattainable standards and expect to feel fulfilled, because I will consequently always be striving for something just beyond my grasp. I realize it will take time to minimize the strength of my perfectionist tendencies, yet in the process, I will come to know my best is enough and I am enough.

It can be very difficult to find the positive in anxiety when it seems like only a negative weight I carry. Yet, in accepting my anxiety, I have come to see it differently. I used to think my need to be early and have everything just so was burdensome. These are some examples of questions that would fill my mind: In the effort of reducing my worry about being late, am I inconveniencing the person I’m meeting by arriving in advance? Do the expectations I aspire to uphold cause me to unintentionally strain myself or put a strain on others? In time, I have recognized being punctual and striving to do my best are positive attributes. In this light, I am able to see my anxiety encourages me to be a good planner. My family and friends value this organizational trait of mine and I have started to identify its importance, too.

Worry does accompany each step of mine, but worry indicates I care a lot. All of the commitments I make in my life are meaningful to me, especially the relationships I share with my family and friends. Because I care, I worry. I know negative terms exist to describe the feeling of anxiety, such as “worrywart” or being “uptight.” These labels are hurtful and we must not define ourselves in this way. An anxious mind is a beautiful mind, too. As a person with anxiety, I understand it is a battle we fight every day. An invisible battle, yet so real and intense. Just because our struggles are invisible, it does not mean we are. Even when you may not feel like this, always remember you are fighting valiantly and you are never alone.

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My heart was pounding like it was coming out of my chest… I could almost hear the thumps echoing through my ear. I finally arrived at the Disability Resource Center at my college to take my math exam.

The DRC specialist asked me how I was doing; I smiled and told her I was doing great. I knew I was telling her a lie because I myself would not believe that for a second. As soon as I sat down on the desk and stared at my exam I started to shake. It would have not been to noticeable to others, but I felt it.

I felt it on my hands, my whole upper body, my legs, my lips, my nostrils, and even my teeth. I tried to control my shaking, but I could not. I began to space out, and I could not remember how to do the problems. My mind froze, and all I could do was stare blankly at my exam. All the numbers and wording seemed overwhelming to me. I thought maybe if I just sat there, it would all come to me but nothing did. I flipped through the pages, silently begged myself to remember and do something for partial credit. I did what I could, and finally I let out the F-word, perhaps because of the frustrations I felt or because I was angry at myself. My eyes filled with tears, and I just decided to get up before I started to completely lose it, and I gave my plain test to the specialist and left.

As soon as I arrived home I went to the bedroom, laid in bed and after crying and discussing what had happened with my significant other, I decided to let it go and see what happened. Another failed exam, another failed math course. I will try again next semester. I am hoping for a better outcome this time around. Anything is possible.

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Thinkstock photo by Goldfaery

When you are unable to look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the darkness.

Alone, afraid, empty, exhausted.

That is how the constant struggle of bipolar disorder and unrelenting anxiety can feel to me. And, as if these feelings are not enough, they also combine to create another feeling, one which makes them all so much worse. The feeling of being a burden. The feeling that those people around you who you thought and hoped were your friends actually wish you would disappear. The feeling that you are worthless and you do not deserve their support, love or care.

As much as I yearn to just drop a friend a text or give them a call and say, “Hey, really struggling right now and need a chat and a hug, are you free?”

There is always something that prevents me doing that. Well several somethings…




The fear is what hits first. The fear of being judge or criticized. But this quickly passes as I remember true friends would not behave this way. But then it returns: are my friends true friends? Do they actually see me as a friend? Or am I just some “crazy woman” who is only ever stressed and depressed? This fear builds again, but this time it is the fear of rejection. And this fear is much, much worse. At least if I don’t know what they think, how they really feel, it can’t hurt me. I can continue to pretend. But as soon as I ask them directly for help and support, they could refuse or make excuses and then I might see things how they really are, how I am really am. Alone, unloved and worthless.

So what do I do instead? I try to reach out in other ways: text messages about more general things, questions about their day, suggestions to catch up as we have not done so for a while. Sometimes excuses are made about why they cannot catch up or the conversation is quickly killed as they are busy or uninterested. Sometimes they will ask how my day was or what I have been up to. Often this feels like my only chance to reach out, so I panic, fear takes over. I blurt. I blurt without thinking, say things I don’t intend to, muddle it all up. Avoid the real issue.

Cue more feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred.

I begin to feel as if I am saying too much, I begin to feel that they are starting to resent me, to wish they had never met me, that I am more trouble than I am worth. And still I do not feel any better. I have still not reached out. Not in the way I needed. I needed a chat, to have someone to listen and not judge, to cry and have someone hug me and tell me my feelings are valid and it will get better. Instead I am left feeling like a burden, like I am weak.

This is not what I want. I want real friendship. I want to be there for my friends and have friends who are there for me.

And despite this feeling hard and impossible, I cannot give up. I cannot give up because if I do I truly will be alone. And you cannot give up either because friendship is important and worth the fight.

Keep reaching out until you find someone who will say…

“When you are unable to look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the darkness.”

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You didn’t understand what was going on, but you understood something was wrong.

You didn’t know how to help, but you knew I needed help.

You didn’t know that I was lonely, but you were there for me.

In the dark times, when I was anxious, when I was depressed, I could count on you. I couldn’t always describe how I was feeling or what was going on, but I never needed to. I could tell you I was feeling sick or out of it and you would find a way to make me feel better. You never asked me more questions than necessary. You made sure I was safe and never alone.

You understood loneliness was my enemy even though I never specifically told you. You understood I had days where I just wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.

You never judged me. You never made fun of me. You never gave up on me. You tried your best to know me. You tried your best to understand. You tried your best to comfort. You tried your best to give me my own space, while being the light in my life I so desperately needed.

I didn’t always want your help. Sometimes I pushed you away, which made me feel worse. Sometimes my anxiety left me speechless, but you never needed my words. Sometimes I was in denial of my own situation, but you knew the truth. Sometimes my walls were so thick, I had convinced myself of my glorious mural, but you saw right through them.

Communication was always hard for me, but I never had to worry about that with you. You just knew. You were always there. You understood how to reach me. You understood that sometimes your presence was enough. You understood that sometimes a cheesy comedy was enough. You understood that a dark room and silence was sometimes enough. When all of that was suddenly not enough, you knew the best way to reach me was through words because emotions and expression is always easier through writing.

You wrote me a letter I wish more people could have read. You showed me love and comfort like no one else had ever attempted before, and I couldn’t ever explain how much that meant to me. How much that meant to me in the moment and how much it means to me now – it just isn’t explainable.

All I can say is I appreciate your person.

I appreciate your personality, your love, your compassion, your selflessness, your presence.

I appreciate your smile, your light, your happiness.

I appreciate you.

I only hope if you ever need someone I can be half the person you are for me. I love you.

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Thinkstock photo by Janie Airey

1. Please don’t think I am weak or fragile.

I am not a weak person. On the contrary, managing my anxiety on a daily basis requires a great deal of mental strength and determination. You easily identify my moments of weakness when I break down or panic, but you do not recognize the 10 other times that day I was almost overcome by anxiety but managed to keep smiling and keep moving forward.

2. Please don’t tell me how lucky I am to receive accommodations.

The phrase, “Wow, you’re so lucky” is the reason I waited until the end of first semester in my second year of university to request accommodations with my school’s student accessibility services. I still struggle with the feeling that I am being given extra help and that I am being given an unfair advantage. I do not need you to reinforce my misgivings by telling me I am lucky.

3. I am not being dramatic. Please don’t tell me to calm down.

Believe me, if I could calm down, I would. Feeling out of control is one of the most terrifying parts of having anxiety for me.

4. Please do not tell me I am a disaster or a mess.

I may laugh it off in the moment and I will probably agree with you, but your words will stay with me long after you have forgotten them. They will swirl around my head for weeks and reinforce unwelcome feeling of worthlessness and self-disgust. I am not a disaster. I am a person fighting anxiety, and battles can often be messy affairs.

5. Pease do not tell me how lucky I am that you can deal with me.

I am eternally grateful for the friends who have stuck by me and supported me through difficult times. I do not need you to talk about me like I am an ordeal you have managed to survive, and I don’t need you to point out all the ways in which I make your life difficult. I think about them far more often than you do, and I regret the difficulties I cause you more deeply than you can possibly imagine.

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Thinkstock photo by kissenbo

I’m tired of feeling like a failure because I don’t fit everyone’s definition of success.

Sometimes when you’re told over and over that you can’t do something, you start to believe it. Feeling worthless not just because others doubt you but because you start to believe these doubts.

Many days getting out of bed is hard. Getting through the day is hard. Simple tasks are hard. Hell, hanging out during fun activities is even hard. It makes me feel exhausted to the point where I don’t see the point in pushing through.

I get tired of feeling like a failure because my biggest goals are sometimes just to get out of bed. To be able to go out without fearing an anxiety attack. Being able to make it through a class or through a shift at work without any worries.

I want to be able to talk to strangers without feeling like they’re judging me. I want to be able to talk to love ones without feeling like they’re judging my every move. To be able to be myself.

I’m not a failure because I struggle. I do admit I’ve lost opportunities because of my illness, but that’s in the past. I’m proud of who I am, even if I don’t like myself sometimes. This is because I can push myself through every day even with being judged, on top of living with mental illness. I know I won’t completely “get better,” but one day my biggest goal won’t be getting out of bed.

Your definition of success may not be what my life is, but it’s not your life; it’s mine. My goals will be reached. They may just take longer and they may be harder to get to, but when I get there I’ll appreciate it so much more.

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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