What Happens When My Anxiety Meets My Friends' Spontaneity

40
40
0

My sister and I had been planning a trip for a few months. It would be a road trip during her school’s spring break that would take us on a loop of four states, two of which included friends we were excited to visit. We had the details settled and were excited to see the days on the calendar start to fly by, inching us closer and closer to our departure date.

A week and a half before we left, we got an offer to join a few friends on a side trip for a few days before our planned road trip. It would more or less lead into where we were already headed and could be a fun addition. It could be an added adventure. Sure, it would cost a little extra money, but what else had we been saving for besides adventures like these? It would be good, it would be fun, it would be spontaneous and easy.

Except it wasn’t.

Immediately upon hearing about this side trip offer, my sister’s mind was turning. This would be great! It would be so fun! She was ready to pack up, change the plan and leave the next day. But I clammed up. My eyes shied away from her and my mind began to race. The conversation we had been having shut down. I was a brick wall.

Having lived with me her whole life, my sister knows me. She can tell when I’m gone. So immediately after expressing excitement and anticipation for the trip, she began to back track. She saw the anxiety all over my face and did her best to counteract it.

“It would be fun,” she said, “but we don’t have to.”

Shortly after, she excused herself upstairs, saying she was tired and ready to get to bed. She knew I just needed to be alone. To think. To process. But what she didn’t know — what nobody can really know unless they’ve been there — is where my mind went after she left.

We can’t go. It said.

We had a plan and this wasn’t part of it. The change is too much. It’s too overwhelming. I can’t handle this. I have to say no. But, why can’t I just say yes? Why can’t I be more spontaneous like everybody else? Me saying “no” ruins this for my sister. I’m preventing her from doing something she really wants to do. Why can’t I handle things better? What is overwhelming about this? It’s just a few days, get over yourself. I’m 26, I’m supposed to take trips like this. I’m supposed to live in the moment. I’m supposed to be more fun. Why aren’t I better than this? Maybe I just shouldn’t go at all. They would probably have more fun without me, especially if something as small as this is “overwhelming.” I’m pathetic. This is ridiculous. Breathe!

I leaned into my hands, looking at myself in the mirror. My mind was a mess, but the voice of reason was fighting its way to the front.

Just breathe. It said.

We’ve been through this before. Breathe. You don’t have to decide right now. You don’t have to change everything right now. Take it in steps. Break it down into pieces. Breathe. You are not pathetic. You are not weak. You are not ridiculous. Breathe. You shouldn’t be someone else. You shouldn’t act a different way. You shouldn’t think different things. Breathe. You are perfect the way you are. You are OK. You are going to be OK. Just breathe.

My sister had gone to bed by this point, leaving the house dark and quiet. I breathed in and I breathed out. Maybe I wanted to go on this trip, maybe I didn’t. But I didn’t have to decide in that exact moment, it could wait until morning. I breathed in and breathed out. And whatever I decided, even if it ended up being me saying “no,” it would be OK. There would be other trips. There would be other days. So just breathe, I told myself. Right now, all you have to do is breathe.

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

Thinkstock photo via welcomia. 

40
40
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

8 Things Someone With 'High-Functioning' Anxiety Wishes You Knew

TOPICS
, Video
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

A Letter to My Anticipatory Anxiety

419
419
0

One of the hurdles I face and strive to overcome on a regular basis is my anticipatory anxiety. This kind of anxiety builds up prior to my commitments, sometimes days and other times weeks and months in advance. When my anticipatory anxiety is particularly strong, it can be extremely difficult to leave the house and follow through with my day as planned.

The night before any commitment is when I especially struggle with my anticipatory anxiety. I try not to focus on the accumulating worry, but it makes itself known through the coldness of my hands, the tight pressure in my head, the fluctuating temperature of my body and the uneasiness of my stomach. I try to sleep, but I only manage to do so in an interrupted manner. I tend to wake up at one-hour intervals, my thoughts consumed with the next day’s event, wondering if I will be able to uphold my commitment or if I will need to cancel because of the way my anxiousness makes me feel.

I composed the following letter, addressing it to my anticipatory anxiety in recognition of the strong hold it has upon my life and my wish for it to work with me, not against me, as I go about my daily routine.

Dear Anticipatory Anxiety,

Why do you accompany every decision I make? Why do you cause me to second-guess myself? Why do you make it uncomfortable for me to go about my every day?

When I plan to spend time with a friend, you grow in intensity as the days approach our get-together. I so look forward to seeing my friend, but when I’m feeling nervous and tense because of you, I consider canceling my plans. I don’t want to miss out on shared moments with my friends. I know you are just looking out for me, but my friends are here for me too. My friends are an important part of my support system, and they make me feel safe and comforted by reminding me how much they care about me and how much they believe in me. Please believe in me too.

We are in this together and need to trust each other as you accompany me throughout my life. I want to be a team, where you help me to be perceptive of others’ needs and my own, and where I grow in acceptance of you, recognizing you are a part of me that contributes to who I am — a part I don’t need to be ashamed of anymore. I am humbly asking you to not be a hurdle I need to jump over. Help me keep running in the race, because I know I have the strength to do so and I don’t want to give up on myself.

Yearning to better understand you,

Stephanie

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

Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz

419
419
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

I Know My Anxiety Is Going to Spike When I Feel These Physical Warning Signs

835
835
8

It starts with a slightly empty-stomach, nauseated feeling. I might not notice it at first, probably because I’m more focused on why there seems to be a pain point behind my left eye. These are small things that can easily be brushed off as being hungry, thirsty or needing some caffeine in most people. But for me, they are the first warning signs my anxiety is starting to spike. If I can seize control before a full blown anxiety attack, I can limit the physical symptoms to ones that people won’t notice. I can ease them out through tics like bouncing my knee, tapping my fingers or chewing my nails. Little stuff that is so common most people don’t notice.

But after that first indicator, my hands start to tremble ever so slightly and the vicious cycle of negative thoughts encouraged by my own fears — rational or not — start looping in my mind. At that point I get restless. I have to move, I need space to breathe because it feels like there is a weight on my chest and lungs. I have to get outside or into a bigger room or a quieter room to be able to figure out if I’m actually suffocating or if my mind has told my body it is, even when it isn’t.

Then the gut wrenching stomachaches start and the nausea grows worse. I can’t tell if I need to throw up or not and I wind up so dizzy that standing is hard. So I press my back against the wall and try to breath, try to stem the tears the lump in my throat and the burning in my eyelids tell me are going to fall. The symptoms spike quickly once I’m past a controllable stage and spread to weakness in my knees and legs, uncontrolled crying and desperate gasping for air.

Anxiety isn’t just an excuse to try and slide out of obligations, it’s a real illness with real symptoms that manifest both psychologically and physically. No two people with anxiety will display the same symptoms when they are feeling anxious, so I wanted to caveat my article with explaining these are the physical symptoms of my anxiety.

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

Thinkstock photo via Silmairel.

835
835
8
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What I Need as a Person With Anxiety, but I'm Afraid to Ask For

3k
3k
22

I take my medication and go to sleep. I wake up every morning knowing I’m going to worry.

Yes, it is a part of my daily life and it is not the most enjoyable thing, but I don’t need pity and I personally don’t need to be defined by my anxiety. Most of the time I am too afraid to tell my loved ones what I need from them, but all I need is support and a listening ear. I don’t need you to rid me of my anxiety. I don’t need you to feel bad for me. I need someone to try and understand me.

I freak out sometimes and by sometimes, I mean a lot. I want my friends to know I know my thoughts are irrational. I know I’m overreacting and because of that, I feel like a burden to you. When you ask me what I need, I will always say nothing because I assume you are just trying to be nice and I do not want to bother you. When you ask me to let you know if I need your help, I’m never going to reach out because I do not want to bother you. When you try to assure me you are always there for me, I will still hold in my emotions because I do not want to bother you. I do not want you to be annoyed by me and every time I apologize for annoying you, I feel like I am just annoying you more. This is the negative thought cycle my anxiety provides me with. This turns into me isolating myself, which turns in to depression. It’s truly a vicious cycle and I wish I felt comfortable reaching out to you. I don’t know why I don’t. You try and I try, but I do not want to bother you.

If I could tell all my friends what I truly need, this is what I would say. I need you to be the one to reach out sometimes. It doesn’t have to be daily, but just ask me how I am doing every so often. This will take some pressure off me and make me feel like less of a nuisance. When you do reach out, I do not need you to find a solution. I just hope you can be there to support me and listen to me without judgment. Sometimes I will tell you the “craziest” worries, but please don’t treat me like I’m “crazy.” I put myself down enough. Sometimes I won’t tell you anything I’m feeling because I’m too afraid. Please don’t get too frustrated. I am more than frustrated that this is the way my brain works, but I’m doing my best.

Please know this is only a part of me and the best thing you could do is reach out to me every once in a while. If you don’t, that’s OK too — I don’t want to bother you.

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

Thinkstock photo via dragana991

3k
3k
22
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Redefining My Anxiety in the Age of Trump

95
95
1

Since November, I’ve been dreading a Trump presidency. Since Inauguration Day, I’ve dreaded every day of it. But as a person living with an anxiety disorder, I’m used to dread. I’m used to fear of the unknown. The thing that makes this so different is it’s real and palpable in a way my anxiety usually isn’t. Here, the dread and anxiety are over tangible and concrete actions beyond my control that affect my life and the lives of millions of others  —  some of whom I know and love, others I don’t know at all.

Normally, the things I have anxiety over aren’t a matter of life or death, freedom or restriction, peace or war, or love or hate. They are everyday occurrences, social interactions, the send button on an e-mail, or locking the door to my apartment  —  all of which seem trivial right about now.

One of the main rules you learn in therapy is to accept the things you can’t control and realize most of your anxiety is controllable  —  by you because you are the one with the power, not your anxiety. But that rule doesn’t necessarily apply to a presidency.

Every day I find something I dread more than the next. The Dakota Access Pipeline. The travel ban for Muslim-majority countries. Chemical pollution of waterways. The deconstruction of the Affordable Care Act. The list goes on and on and on. For many, the realization that the majority of the next four years will be like this is just now settling in. The fact that I, as an individual, have little impact to chart any part of the next four years has settled. And I’m fearful. I am so full of dread. I am so full of sadness. I feel I am at a loss.

This era is a new chapter of my life. I am having to redefine my anxiety in the age of Trump. I’m both struggling and, in many ways, succeeding in finding small, concrete things I do have control over and using them to reach sturdier ground and help others if possible. I’m standing firm in my opinions. I’m donating money when I can. I am sharing information. I am joining the masses in the streets. I am talking to friends and strangers. I am telling people I love them more often.

I’ve made so many strides in my anxiety in the last five years or so that to let myself be sunk by Donald Trump would be a tragedy I refuse to allow a stage to play out.

There are many others in my same position. I know I’m not alone, and I hope they know they aren’t either. As we redefine anxiety in the age of Trump, let’s remember that individual human agency is a powerful thing. Power doesn’t always come in pop and circumstance. Sometimes, it’s in the small, almost hidden things we say and do every day.

Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

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

Image via [email protected]

95
95
1
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.