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How My Anxious Mind Works

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I fear confrontation.

Confrontations give me this overwhelming feeling a huge wave is about to fall on me and I must truly stay quiet. Ever since I was a child, I had problems expressing my discomfort. I always felt people would be so hard on me that I wouldn’t have the strength to keep going. And now in my 30s, I can’t still get over that. When someone needs to clarify something with me, even if it’s a tiny thing, my hands won’t stop shaking and my heart will feel like a hammer. My terrified eyes will betray me all the time and I will feel so disoriented that the guilt for acting poorly won’t leave me alone.

I’m terrified all the time.

“Terrified” is the right word and so is the phrase “all the time.” I am not overreacting, I am always living in terror. If a tiny thing happens, my mind will carefully lead it to become an imminent catastrophe and my mind won’t let me live in peace until I “solve” the problem. I spend my life trying to solve problems I don’t know how to solve. This never stops since a thousand things happen every day and an anxious mind doesn’t need anything special to create a nightmare. I always live as if the worst danger were out of my house and I have no idea how to face it. I am always thinking about it as if a monster is waiting for me. When you have anxiety, you feel like there’s someone chasing you all the time. You just want to hide, but you never find a place.

I fear I will never have the life I want.

I see myself with a family in the future, but how am I supposed to face these challenges and the ones to come if I can’t face them now when I am single? How am I supposed to make a child feel safe and a husband happy if I am always shaking inside?

It’s discouraging. I feel disappointed, resigned, angry, sad and like I’ll never win. I haven’t learned to live with this and even though I try every day, there’s something inside me that whispers “You will never make it.” I try to understand this is part of  anxiety, but I can’t help believing it.

I sometimes feel like a leaf in the wind who goes whatever direction the current takes me, with no power. I’m tired of crying, tired of being terrified and tired of carrying these voices to wherever I go. Sometimes I wish I could turn off my brain and the voices and the terror and feel free for once in my life. But I have to keep fighting. I have to stay grateful for being on the road, able to see sunsets, have books and have friends who are going through the same. Their bravery gives me the power to continue, even if anxiety tries to proclaim itself the winner.

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via Berdsigns.

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The Silver Lining of Living With Anxiety

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For as long as I can remember, anxiety has been a constant in my life. I remember throwing up from anxiety often throughout my childhood and into adulthood. I remember laying awake at night, fearful of bad things that could happen to me. My heart always raced too fast — it still does — and my stomach is always churning. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have been a part of me since the beginning.

Anxiety for me is overthinking each thing that happens in my day. Anxiety for me is feeling sick to my stomach. Anxiety for me is being restless and jittery.

Anxiety for me is a tightening feeling in my chest. Anxiety for me is intrusive thoughts and compulsions. Anxiety for me is excessive apologies.

Anxiety for me is also in the form of dermotillomania – picking my skin until it bleeds. Anxiety for me is excessive doubt.

Anxiety for me is never quite feeling good enough. Anxiety for me is feeling the need to self-medicate. Anxiety for me is feeling trapped under a tidal wave of fear.

Anxiety for me is torture.

But then again, there are good things that have come from my anxiety.

Anxiety has made me more empathic towards others’ situations. Anxiety has made me truly appreciate moments of calm and tranquility. Anxiety has made me grateful that bad things aren’t actually happening and that most of my worries are in my head.

I might even be able to say that anxiety makes me creative — some of my best writing and art has been produced while I am trying to calm down my anxiety. I also credit anxiety to the reason I’m never late for an appointment or meeting. Anxiety has helped me organize my schoolwork. So in many ways, I can be grateful to have anxiety in my life.

Anxiety disorders are definitely not easy to live with, but I suppose there is a silver lining to every cloud.

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

Thinkstock via Victor_Tongdee

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Anxiety Made Me Realize My Worth Isn't Measured by My Grades

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I’ve always been known as a “high achiever.” People expect me to consistently get amazing grades and I came to expect that of myself too.

Naturally then, people expressed concern when my grades began to drop and I was taking part in more activities outside of lessons. However, what they didn’t realize was the relationship between the two did not follow the pattern they thought. My grades were not dropping because I was doing more outside of school. I was doing more outside of school because my grades were dropping. The fear of failure had become so great I was unable to review for exams. It became an achievement if I managed to sit in the exam hall for the duration of the paper.

For too long I had largely based my self-worth on percentages and letters of the alphabet. So as my anxiety increased, the percentages and letters went down and so did my sense of value. Except this seemed to decrease at a much greater rate.

What was I worth if I was failing in school?

I’ll let everyone down.

I’m a failure because I can’t get the highest grades possible.

There wasn’t much point in trying to make people proud, because I wasn’t going to manage it, no matter how hard I tried.

But then I made someone laugh. I comforted a friend during a hard time. I played games with children where I volunteer and saw their smiles. I said nice things and made people feel good about themselves. I offered to help someone. And through this, I found a way to make a difference that didn’t involve numbers.

So I began to do it more. I learned the more extracurriculars I do, the more I help people and the more I am able to plan things I enjoy, the better I feel about myself.

Through these activities, I learned I thrive more on smiles than I do on percentages. That a grade, no matter how high, can never compare to the feeling when someone tells you that you have made a difference in their life. For far too long, I believed I was a success if I came out on top of the class, but was failure otherwise. I started to believe, despite the protests of others, unless I was perfect, I wasn’t good enough. If my score wasn’t 100 percent, I had failed and deserved to feel bad. I deserved happiness only if I scored highly enough.

The thing is, this turned me into someone I am not. I became competitive, jealous, bitter and had to do better than others.

Not anymore.

Now, I view myself as a person. An imperfect, clumsy, dorky person who gets things wrong sometimes. And not only am I OK with that, but I kind of like it. I enjoy spreading happiness and making people feel good, even if it comes from accidentally falling over every once in a while. I enjoy showing people how amazing they are and how they can do anything they put their minds to.

I am still trying with school work, of course, but it no longer consumes me. It is no longer the biggest measure of my worth.

So when it seems like I’m slacking with school work or that I seem to be having “too much fun,” I am still, in fact, learning. The only difference is, I’m learning something that should be taught far more in school. I’m learning good or bad grades do not equal a good or bad person. I’m learning I can value myself regardless of a score on a test.

I’m learning I am me, and that is pretty great.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

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A Simple Way to Explain the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety

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Since I’ve started taking medication to manage my anxiety, I’ve had the pleasure of feeling — for the first time in a long time — stressed without feeling anxious.

That’s right — I was pumped to feel pure stress, untainted by thought patterns related to anxiety and depression.

Because “anxiety” and “stress” are often used interchangeably and because everyday stressors can make you feel anxiety, I wanted to explain what this difference means for me — because as someone whose anxiety has hijacked most of my “normal” stress reactions for a while now, this difference is not subtle. It’s significant.

So here, in two scenes, I want to take you into my head and hopefully explain the different between stress and anxiety.

SCENE I: Anxiety

INTERIOR OF OPEN OFFICE SPACE – MORNING

A woman sits at her desk and opens her laptop. Immediately tension creeps up her back. She feels like a balloon is being blown up in her chest. 

WOMAN’S BRAIN

I have too many emails. I have too many emails. I can’t believe I let my emails get this bad. No one else has this many emails. I’m so bad at time management. I’m so bad at my job. Everyone’s going to find out I’m not really good at this job. I’m just a fake. Everyone’s going to find out. I’m letting down everyone. I don’t deserve this job. I’m letting so many people down. I can’t believe I let it get this bad. I deserve nothing. I’m a worthless piece of shit. I should kill myself. I want to kill myself. I want to kill myself…

End scene.

SCENE II: Stress

INTERIOR OF OPEN OFFICE SPACE – MORNING

A woman sits at her desk and opens her laptop.

WOMAN’S BRAIN

I have too many emails. It’s frustrating that I have too many emails. It’s unfair I’m not responding to everyone in a timely manner. This is stressful.

Woman starts answering emails.

End scene.

To me, feeling purely stressed without interference from anxiety means experiencing tension about a task at hand — without spiraling and questioning the meaning of my existence and the value of my worth. I have to admit, it’s nice. It doesn’t fix all my problems or make stress go away, but managing my anxiety with medication has given me a little more headspace to deal with these stressors straight on, which is a welcomed change.

So next time someone explains to you that they’re feeling anxious, understand it might be more than a “typical” reaction to a stressor. In fact, anxiety doesn’t even always need a stressor at all. And while I know I can never avoid a life without stress, I’ll take a life with less anxiety.

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.

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

Thinkstock photo via Favor_of_God


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20 Things People With Anxiety Are Afraid to Tell Their Friends

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There’s often no rhyme or reason as to why and how anxiety affects us — it just does. Sometimes it makes us miss out on social events. Sometimes it’s overthinking so much that texting back feels like climbing a mountain. Sometimes it’s needing reassurance, again — and again — that you’re liked, that your friendship is valued, that you’re going to be OK.

Living this way can be a tough thing to explain to your friends, so some people just don’t — figuring it’s easier to keep their mouths shut. But staying silent about your anxiety often only deepens the gap between friends, and you might be surprised what happens when you let a friend in and explain how you feel.

To start you off, we asked people in our mental health community with anxiety to share one thing they’re too scared to tell their friends.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I desperately crave their help and support but am scared of seeming clingy or scare them off. I feel totally alone even though I’m functioning well and laughing.”

2. “It’s noisy inside my head all the freaking time and my thoughts spiral out of control at the tiniest slightly worrisome thing. I’m so tired of people telling me to try to think of something else or try not to worry about it. Believe me, if I had that choice we would not be having this conversation.”

3. “When I want to leave a party or don’t want to be in a group setting, I’m not doing it to avoid them. I don’t want to have an anxiety attack and ruin their good time because of it.”

4. “My anxiety makes me question everything, leaving me unable to ever actually make a decision. That is why most times I cancel last minute or just don’t show up.”

5. “I’m lonely. I’m terrified. It’s hard to ask for help. I feel worthless. Literally every decision I make in a day stresses me out. I think they only pretend to like me.”

6. “I seek approval from friends and family, but I’m so afraid my craving for reassurance will scare them away. I want them to understand that they mean the world to me and that I trust them if I go to them with my problems, but I also don’t want them to think less of me because of it. I’m afraid to tell them I’m feeling anxious every day because I’m afraid they’ll think I’m ‘faking it’ or I’m being too ‘dramatic.’ I’m always conflicted with the way I feel because I don’t want them to change their perspective on who I am, but that’s probably just my anxiety speaking.”

7. “I’m pretty open with everyone — but only when I’m online and able to hide behind the internet. In person, the most frightening thing is to say, ‘I’m having a panic attack right now.’ I hide my panic and any sign of anxiety to the best of my ability behind quietness, excuses and hiding in bathrooms. Bringing attention to the fact that right now is the very thing I talk about all the time with panic and anxiety is terrifying.”

8. “I feel alone. Totally isolated and alone. Despite their best efforts to cheer me up I always feel alone even when they’re right next to me to no fault of their own.”

9. “I’m not lazy, mean or trying to inconvenience them when I don’t want to go somewhere or I cancel plans we made. Sometime I just can’t do it.”

10. “I’m terrified to tell people that I avoid when things get tough, and it’s in that moment when I need them the most. Yet, I’m so terrified of being judged that I don’t ask for their help. It’s a terrifying, lonely cycle.”

11. “It isn’t their fault I distance myself. I am constantly paranoid around them even though I shouldn’t be. I am terrified I will say something wrong or disappoint them or how disgusting they find me or even that they hate me. I’ll come up with scenarios in my head at night that involve how they’ll tell me they hate me and how they wish they weren’t my friend.”

12. “I am terrified that no one likes me, everyone I know is lying to me and just waiting for the right moment to turn against me… I feel like at any moment I will be left all alone without anyone… I don’t know how to be a person without other people.”

13. “I already feel like a huge burden, I don’t want to add to it. And I honestly 90 percent of the time I can’t explain why I’m anxious. So I’d rather not say anything and just get through it on my own.”

14. “I’m not trying to ignore you when I don’t text you back. It’s hard for me to have conversations via text. I’m afraid my words will be misinterpreted and you’ll leave me.”

15. “No matter how long I’ve known you, how many times I’ve been to your house or how many people I’ve met with you, I will still have anxiety attacks when something changes or someone new comes around. Just let me ride the wave and be there to hold my hand, help me up or talk me down from my irrational thoughts. Please don’t leave me alone. It might be embarrassing for you, but it kills me every time and I’m sorry to be ‘that friend.’”

16.I’m afraid to tell them some of the things that trigger me.”

17. “I don’t always want to talk. I love talking to them, but sometimes I want to be alone. I feel claustrophobic if I feel like I absolutely have to do something.”

18. “No, I wasn’t at work. I couldn’t go to your event or go out for the night because I couldn’t face leaving the house. I couldn’t get over who might be there, who might not be there, who I might have to talk to… I just couldn’t. You’re still my friend and I don’t love you any less. I just couldn’t. I’m sorry.”

19. “I’m always second guessing everything I do and say around other people. That’s why I’m quiet.”

20. “No matter how many times I say I’m fine or that nothing is wrong, please, if you think something is off, don’t ignore your hunch. Ask me about it. You might even have to ask me about it multiple times. Chances are, I’m just afraid that you don’t care or that I’m wasting your time.”



20 Things People With Anxiety Are Afraid to Tell Their Friends
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Dreamers With Anxiety: Don’t Look at the Monsters That Stare You Down

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Dreams aren’t dreams without nightmares.

We have dreams; we all do. But I know no one who has accomplished their dream without struggle. Nightmares? Name someone who has bypassed their existence. The elements those terrors are made of is what drives our retreat. Hurtful words others say are the monsters that chase us. Self-doubt (whether that be outwardly, or inwardly instilled) is the indecipherable face on each of those threatening creatures. Fear is the weapon each demon carries. And each nightmare where you run but don’t seem to go anywhere is controlled by a tar pit of anxiety.

Those of us who experience anxiety on a daily — correction: constant — basis understand the unspeakable power it has over each and every dream — big, or small — we dare set fire to. Perhaps that is why some of us end our chases so quickly. There’s a constant fear of screwing that dream up; of having attention called to ourselves; of having others think us to be odd, or overly ambitious, or selfish or anything else we fear they may think; of never making it; of defeat; of any lie anxiety convinces us of.

Those lies are many.

And, when believed, the lies that haunt us outnumber the dreams we once held tight.

People who have anxiety understand the well-meaning “wisdom” others unsolicitedly give us.

“I’m stressed, too.”

“You’ve just gotta push through.”

“Get a job.”

“Join a group.”

“Pray more.”

“Get out more.”

“If you had more faith, I’ll bet you’d see a difference.”

Everyone’s advice has merit; at some point in these advice-givers’ lives, the words they are imparting on us benefitted them, or someone else. However, because that advice was applicable in their (or someone else’s) life doesn’t mean it’s necessarily applicable to ours.

People with anxiety, raise your hands (if you feel alone, mine is held high). We know how hurtful those words — those monsters — are to us. Words have great — perhaps the greatest — impact. And often, those words lead to self-doubt, giving each of those cruel beasts a face for us to stare at. “These dreams aren’t worth pursuing anymore,” we think. “If they were, it would be easy; I wouldn’t doubt myself.”

We begin to fear our dreams, and as result, the monsters raise their weapons. We shrink back. “What was I thinking? Look at all I would have to do! It’s terrifying; the smallest step is impossible.”

When we can’t run from these monsters anymore, we’ve hit the dreaded tar pit. Anxiety has won. It seems as though we can only sink deeper. We’re stuck. Lost. Paralyzed. Hopeless.

Facing a day? Tiresome.

Getting out? Impossible.

Socializing? Unthinkable.

We are trapped in a nightmare.

…But we can wake up. Just as nightmares corrupt our dreams, our dreams can overpower our nightmares.

Laugh. Please; laugh at this concept.

Then, think. You’ve had dreams, for a human is not a human without a dream. What dreams are your nightmares suppressing? What steps is your anxiety preventing? What passion is your fear consuming?

Only you know how to reach your dreams, and it is your decision whether or not those dreams are worth seeking after.

Yes; anxiety is a powerful, nightmarish hell that only those who have it know exists, but no amount of anxiety can withstand the power of your wildest dreams.

So, if you want to frighten the very nightmares that frighten you, rediscover the dreams you once held so close. No matter how much your anxiety haunts you, never let those go.

Don’t look at the faces your monsters stare you down with.

Don’t listen to their taunts and their lies.

Be bold toward the challenges they throw at you.

Because the dreams we hold inside of us are far more powerful than any nightmare could ever be.

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

Thinkstock photo via lupashchenkoiryna

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