My Anxiety Makes Me Question Everything

This piece was written by Holly Riordan, a Thought Catalog contributor.

Anxiety makes me question whether there’s something wrong with me — for being afraid of talking to strangers, for being afraid of looking “stupid,” for being afraid of stepping out from my bedroom door.

I wonder why the group of girls that just walked past me started laughing — even though chances are it wasn’t about me at all. I wonder why some stranger has been staring at me — even if they only glanced.

I question every move the people around me make, because I’m worried that they’re focused on me. That they’re making fun of me. That they hate me.

I even question whether my friends actually like me — even though they’ve proven time and time again they do care. Even though they’re there for me whenever I need them. Even though they haven’t done anything to suggest I mean nothing to them.

But it doesn’t matter if every sign points to the truth, that they’re my genuine, honest to goodness friends. I still question their friendship, because I don’t see my own value.

I don’t see how anyone could enjoy being around me. I don’t see why they would choose to spend time with me when they could be hanging out with someone more fun, more “sane.”

That’s why I always wonder if a group would be having a better time if I wasn’t around. If they’re only being nice to me, because they feel bad for me. If they’re going to talk about me behind my back the second I leave the room.

I can’t stop doubting myself, wondering whether I’m making the wrong moves. I question whether the words I wrote in a text sounded stupid. Whether my stories are too boring. Whether my laugh is too annoying.

Friendships and relationships are difficult for me. If someone asks me out, I question their intentions. I question whether I have what it takes to sit through a dinner without embarrassing myself. I wonder how long I can keep someone interested before scaring them away.

I don’t know how to talk to people. I don’t understand people. Sometimes, I don’t even understand myself.

That’s why it’s so hard for me to socialize. I never know what to say. What to do with my hands. How much to smile. How long to look them in the eyes.

Instead of listening to what someone is telling me, I get distracted by my own thoughts. I focus on what I’m doing — how I’m coming across — instead of what they’re actually saying. I’m busy questioning every gesture I make, every breath I take, because I’m terrified of looking dumb.


But mostly, I question whether I belong on this planet. I question whether I have a purpose, if I mean anything to anyone. If there’s a reason for me to keep on existing.

Anxiety makes me question everything — especially myself.

This story is brought to you by Thought Catalog and Quote Catalog.

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The Two Words Randall Said on 'This Is Us' That Hit Me Hard as a Person With Anxiety

First off, if you haven’t seen “This Is Us,” go do yourself a favor and watch all of the first season. Make sure to have a box of tissues by your side too. I have never been so invested or attached to a show like this before. That’s saying a lot if you know how much I love “Gilmore Girls.” This show is much different than that and from most shows today. It hits all the right emotions in me in every single episode.

Spoilers below.

The one thing I have loved the most about this show is the awareness it’s bringing for mental illnesses, specifically anxiety. Randall, who is a middle-aged African American man, has experienced anxiety attacks all of his life. They showed us him having anxiety attacks as a child while writing a paper, having anxiety attacks before his daughters were born, and now having anxiety attacks because he just has a lot going on in his life.

The writers didn’t make us aware of this until the last two episodes of the first season. I love the fact that they did it this way because they first showed us that Randall is a man with a successful career, a wife, and two beautiful daughters. He seems to be the perfect man who has no flaws — until his anxiety starts to build up and he starts having anxiety attacks again. I’m not saying this makes him imperfect; it just makes him seem more human. He ends up having to be hospitalized for awhile until he is better. The writers don’t focus on the hospitalization as much as they focus on how he made a comeback from it.

Another aspect of this show I appreciate is all the support he receives. He does not seem like an outsider to his loved ones, which is the way it should be! His brother sacrificed his career just to be there for him and to take him to be hospitalized. His wife goes to therapy with him.

His birth father told him he was surprised Randall deals with all of this because he seems to be really put together. Randall replied by saying he is “too together.” These words. If I had to describe someone with anxiety, including myself, I would use these two words.


When his father was asking about his anxiety attack, he used the word “breakdown” and then immediately asked if that was the correct language to use. Wow! Not many people are aware of the correct language to use for people with mental illnesses; most don’t even bother to ask. Randall responded by saying there are a lot of ways to word it, and he threw out different phrases people used. Randall, himself, called it “anxiety” and “anxiety attacks.” They were then able to talk about it more openly because there was a two-way street of empathy.

It amazes me how I can see myself within Randall. Even though he is of a different race, gender, generation, occupation, and economic status I can see myself. I saw myself while he was shaking in the shower crying. I saw myself while he was on the floor of his office hyperventilating. I saw myself while he was calling to cancel big plans because of his anxiety. I saw myself while he was talking to his therapist. I saw myself while he was trying to explain his anxiety attacks to his father. I saw myself when he learned to let loose a little bit while driving with the windows down.

The fact that I was able to see myself within him made me feel even less alone. It made me realize how universal anxiety truly is. I’m sure if this show was in a different language that I didn’t know and I was watching these scenes of Randall I would still feel the same way. Not only is the writing of this show amazing, but the acting of Randall is out of this world. He embodies anxiety attacks so well that it’s kind of freaky. But in a good way. I am beyond thankful for this show and for Randall.

I have noticed a big change just within myself coming out about my mental illnesses. More people on my Facebook feed are sharing or writing about mental health. I have noticed TV not being afraid to bring up mental illnesses and doing it in a respectable way. My biggest hope is for this awareness to keep on spreading. One day I hope the majority are understanding and knowledgeable of people with a mental illness.

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14 Songs You Wouldn’t Expect to Help People With Anxiety, but Do

Anxiety is frantic. Chaotic. Loud. Frazzled. Jumbled. Fast. Messy. (Often kept under wraps, of course, masked by a person who may seem like he or she is calm, cool and collected.)

It makes sense to combat its internal noisiness with soft, soothing, music — tunes to slow your heartbeat down, put your thoughts in order, ground you a bit.

For many, that works (and that’s great!). Others find anxiety-reducing effects in bellowing drums, screeching guitars and voices, uncomfortable, angry or even silly lyrics. If you love music and are frustrated it hasn’t been able to help your anxiety, maybe you need to switch up your playlist.

We asked our mental health community to share an “unusual” song that helps relieve their anxiety. Maybe some of these will resonate with you, maybe you’d rather stick to the more obvious options. Or maybe you just need to turn the sound down completely and find comfort in some silence. Whatever you choose is the right answer.

That being said, here are some unexpectedly anxiety-reducing songs from our community:

1. “Monster” by Skillet

The secret side of me / I never let you see / I keep it caged / But I can’t control it

2. “I’m on a Boat” by The Lonely Island (Feat. T-Pain)


Hey ma, if you could see me now / Arms spread wide on the starboard bow / Gonna fly this boat to the moon somehow / Like Kevin Garnett, anything is possible

3. “Under Pressure” by Queen (Feat. David Bowie)

It’s the terror of knowing what the world is about / Watching some good friends screaming, “Let me out!”

4. “Papercut” by Linkin Park

Why does it feel like night today? / Something in here’s not right today / Why am I so uptight today? / Paranoia’s all I got left

5. “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake / Shake it off!

6. “Bye, Bye, Bye” by *NSYNC

I loved you endlessly / When you weren’t there for me. / So now it’s time to leave / And make it alone

7. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

Is this the real life? / Is this just fantasy? / Caught in a landslide / no escape from reality

8. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones

You can’t always get what you want / But if you try sometimes / You just might just find / you get what you need

9. “Wake Me Up” by Avicii

Feeling my way through the darkness / Guided by a beating heart / I can’t tell where the journey will end / But I know where to start

10. “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars

Don’t fight the feeling / Invite the feeling

11. “Fuel” by Metallica 

Fuel is pumping engines / Burning hard, loose and clean / And on I burn

12. “Ninth Wave” by Trifonic

13. “What a Catch, Donnie” by Fall Out Boy

I got troubled thoughts / And the self-esteem to match / What a catch, what a catch

14. “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson

Hey you, what do you see? / Something beautiful, something free?

What “unusual” song helps ease your anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.

A woman looking through her fingers. Text reads: 34 Strange Things You're Not the only one doing because of anxiety.

34 'Strange' Things You're Not the Only One Doing Because of Anxiety

We’re familiar and mostly accepting of some nervous habits brought on by anxiety, not giving more than a second glance to nail biting, minimal hair twirling and even foot tapping. But what about some of the — for lack of a better word — “stranger” things anxiety makes us do? Things we might be embarrassed about, even though to us they’re perfectly natural responses to what’s going on in our heads.

To show there’s nothing “strange” about some of the less-acceptable things you might do when you’re anxious, we asked people in our mental health community to share one “embarrassing” thing they do when they’re anxious. If you do any of these, you’re not alone.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “I often end up talking to myself, trying to anticipate others’ responses as if we were actually having to conversation. It’s nice because I can talk through an issue without having to talk to anyone, but it stinks because I’ve gotten in the habit of just talking to myself all the time. Like, any time I’m alone, I’m talking to myself. Obviously I need that verbal release to process what’s going on in my life, but it scares me sometimes.”

2. “I repeat questions or things I’ve already said. It’s embarrassing because then the person I’m talking to says, ‘You’ve just asked/said that.'”

3. “I make up new words mid-sentence or combine two existing words and act as though I didn’t just say that.”

4. “Crack my fingers each joint… If I’m really anxious I’ll pinch or scratch myself. I also become very fidgety.”

5. “I roll small pieces of paper that I pick off from anything — napkins, notebook paper, anything — between my pointer finger and thumb. I even do that if I don’t have anything there. Another thing I do is somewhat the same kinda thing — roll my fingers on the small corners by the touch pad on my MacBook. It has called small calluses and a sore/cut that gets better, then hurts again.”

6. “Trace words as the person is saying them so I know that I fully understand what they’re saying.”


7. “I hold my breath when I walk past people because I’m afraid they’ll hear me breathing.”

8. “As soon as I get high levels of anxiety, I start smiling or laughing. It happens in the most tense situations so everyone feels like I’m not taking things seriously and they just get creeped out.”

9. “I start signing my thoughts in a form of ASL, but super fast so people think I’m having a ‘fit.'”

10. “I rub my feet together, I don’t even realize I’m doing it!”

11. “I repetitively stroke the top of my hair right where it parts on my head. It’s become a nervous twitch, releasing any nervous energy. Once I start I can’t stop thinking about touching it, but everybody thinks I’m just petting my head.”

12. “When I’m feeling anxiety, I’ll blurt out words like ‘murder’ or ‘die’ or ‘cut.’ Luckily, this always happens when I’m alone.”

13. “I pee. A lot. Doesn’t even matter if I went to the bathroom five minutes before. If something stresses me out or makes me feel anxious, I get this overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom, even for just a trickle.”

14. “I give myself ‘pep talks’ inside my head when my anxiety gets bad. Sometimes this can be accompanied with eye movements, etc., so sometimes people may think I’m strange as it clearly looks like something is going on.”

15. “I lie. I get so nervous and anxious that I’m not smart enough, adventurous enough, pretty enough, exciting enough that I constantly lie about my life.”

16. “I get hiccups when I speak. They are loud, and when I think I have them under control and try to speak again, I hiccup some more.”

17. “I have this awful nervous laugh when I get really anxious; it’s like a joker style laugh and it freaks people out and it only happens when I’m having an anxiety attack.”

18. “I rock back and forth. I won’t even notice I’m doing it until someone points it out. Sitting or standing, I’ll find myself rocking… it’s oddly calming.”

19. “I will come home from a long day at work or become overwhelmed at a party and ask my husband to squeeze me! Sometimes just my arms/hands, but hugs work the best!”

20. “I repeatedly tug down at my tops. Doesn’t matter how short or long. I pull and pull at the hem until it resembles a dress, trying to hide myself.”

21. “Repeat myself over and over. My anxiety thinks that I’m not being clear so I have to try and say it as many ways as possible to get my point across.”

22. “A friend caught me breathing really heavily when they walked in the room and asked if I was ‘OK,’ and I was surprised by the question because I hadn’t even realized I was anxious at that moment.”

23. “I hum or say things randomly out loud to distract myself from my overthinking. I also pick at the sides of my fingers until they bleed.”

24. “Spam people with messages. Whenever I’m talking to someone, and I send a risky text, I end up spamming the person with about 20 to 30 messages, which makes my anxiety even worse.”

25. “I get ‘obsessed’ with a particular food. It’s all I’ll want, every meal of every day. Until one day, I become sick of the sight of it and move onto something else.”

26. “When it’s too quiet in the room I stop breathing. I’m petrified people will hear me breathe so I hold my breath and breathe as slowly as possible, and it always sounds like I’m out of breath and panting because I’m always out of breath and end up trying to quietly gasp for air.”

27. “I have a really bad eye twitch. One eye will blink a lot so it looks like I’m winking or I constantly look up with that eye. It gets really distracting when I’m in class or if I’m trying to drive. When people point it out or make fun of it, it gets a lot worse.”

28. “One of the many embarrassing things I do when my anxiety strikes is sing, and oh man, do I sing. Usually Wham! or whatever 80’s song is stuck in my head. Then I get anxiety because I’m like, “Oh man they are staring at me.” Life with anxiety…”

29. “When I get anxious, I physically cannot look another person in the eye. If I try, I end up looking away after less than a second because I feel so afraid and embarrassed. I do this on a regular basis with people I’ve never met, but when I’m really bad, I’ve done it to my boyfriend. I feel terrible about it, which makes me more embarrassed, which makes me look away and dissociate even more.”

30. “Oh. I also scold myself out loud. Like ‘stupid idiot!’ And then I get ‘What!?’ Oh it’s just me being silly as usual. Thinking of things that ‘might’ go wrong…”

31. “When I’m having anxiety, to call myself down, I have sit in random places, listen to music and just observe. The other day, I sat on the ground, outside by a car loop at my college and just watched everything that was going on. It was calming and refreshing to get a new perspective.”

32. “I carry around little figures of a character I like, such as different little Doctor Who dolls, that make me feel better and safe. Or wear a locket with the an actor’s picture in it for support.”

33. “When I get anxious, I break out in hives. Sometimes I don’t even notice it, but then someone will point it out and I’m left to make up some excuse as to why I have hives. It usually draws a lot of attention, which just makes the anxiety worse.”

34. “Because of my anxiety I carry small stuffed animals with me everywhere I go. They ground me when I dissociate due to my anxiety, and can act as a distraction in many ways so they’re able to calm me down and keep me calm in anxious situations. But it’s strange for other to see a 21-year-old in university ‘playing’ with stuffed animals.”

Why Living and Working With Animals Helps Me Manage My Anxiety

Mental health illnesses have a tendency of making people feel unwanted, unloved and a whole range of negative feelings and emotions. Personally, I can become buried in self-hatred and pity, feeling as though I am a huge burden on those around me who love me unconditionally. I become a shadow of my former self. Some days are better than others. I may struggle to get out of bed on some days and I may be able to brave the day on your better days. Either way, I am not weak because of my struggles and I am not defined by my illnesses. I must try my hardest to grow through what I go through.

Many hear the word “depression” and associate it with crying and all things dark. Well, I do anyway. I associate depression with sadness and vulnerability. Loneliness and numbness. A dark hole that seems endless. It’s like walking through a dark forest wandering aimlessly for a way out, but with no luck. Screaming for help in an isolated room with nobody around to hear my desperation.

Everybody has their own coping strategies and methods of getting through difficult times. For me, there is no better therapy than being surrounded with something I have an admiration and passion for. Something that puts joy in my heart and a sparkle in my eyes that enables me to feel something other than pain and distress. During my worst times, it’s important to surround myself with love and things that mean something to me. For example, some people get their source of happiness from art, others from sport or from baking.

There is something about animals that enables me, personally, to feel calm and at ease. When in the company of animals, I instantly feel relaxed and comforted which works wonders for my mood and my low self-esteem. In my opinion, it’s reassuring being amongst beings who don’t judge me for being me. Although I may have clouded views of myself, animals help me see myself and the world around me in a different light and from a brighter perspective.

With people, there is always my fear of being judged. Because lots of people fail to understand the difficulties people with mental illness are faced with due to our illnesses, animals detect the smallest of things and it is in their best interest to provide a sense of comfort and therapy. For instance, at home, there have been multiple times I have been very low in terms of my depression, and my cat (Tigga) has immediately picked up on it and has come to sit with me, letting me know I am not alone. Animals educate me on the importance of caring for myself and showing myself the same amount of love and compassion I show to them.


Similarly, I have been in college and have turned to two gorgeous pygmy goats (Poppy and Penny) for assistance and for an ear to listen. I believe goats have cheeky, unique and loving personalities and I can happily confirm a conversation with them, and an unlimited supply of hugs, works wonders for reducing the symptoms of my depression. I find expressing my thoughts, feelings and emotions to be near-impossible at times, but I have no problem whatsoever when it comes to interacting with animals.

There has been times I’ve struggled to get out of the house, not because I’m “lazy” like people could possibly assume, but because of the high levels of anxiety that debilitate me every single day. In addition to this, I have managed to take the bus on my own and have travelled distances to be with animals during my voluntary work. In my experience, anxiety is wanting to do things but being unable to do so because of the endless thoughts swimming around in my head, the doubt and the tight knot in my tummy. But knowing I have a reason to go out of the house and knowing there are animals awaiting me on the other side, provides me with a sense of worth, need and importance.

Animals have worked as therapy for me, and still continue to do so. I believe this will always be the case as I work hard to achieve a career within the animal care industry where I aim to save and rescue animals. I also wish to have a positive impact on their lives like they have for me.

Talking isn’t always the way around things — though it does help massively. I feel simply surrounding myself with animals helps me immensely. Talking can get to be too much sometimes for me. It can be very draining and tough letting people in, but when I am doing something I enjoy, I can work at it for hours on end, which helps to boost my mood and reduces the thoughts I’m experiencing.

I always feel motivated and enthusiastic when thinking of animals and being with them. I owe my life to them for assisting me in looking at the future and all I have to fight for. My motto is “save yourself, save the animals.”

Because when animals are involved, I am never alone. 

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The Ways Anxiety Appears in My Everyday Life

I can’t know for sure how anxiety manifests in other people – and to be honest, it’s only in recent months I acknowledged I have my own manifestations of anxiety. As I’m currently feeling extremely anxious, I thought now would be a good time to put my thoughts and observations “down on paper” — so to speak.

The biggest and most obvious way anxiety appears in my everyday life is in my need to be liked. I cannot bear the thought I might do or say something to cause someone to think ill of me. I’m left with a pounding heart, shaking hands, I’m unable to speak and on the verge of tears.

Socially, this is difficult. I’m happy and comfortable around friends I have known for decades. I can say and share anything and we have a level of trust, support, friendship and love that balances any fear I may have. I am still nervous about saying the wrong thing, but I trust the consequences won’t be devastating – we listen, we learn, we forgive, we move on.

Outside that support network, it’s trickier. In work situations, it’s much trickier. In casual social outings or being introduced to strangers it’s hideously tricky. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I haven’t read their vibe and personality correctly? What if they judge me before they know me?

I don’t know where my fear of being disliked came from. Perhaps it was my mother always worrying, “What would the neighbors think?” Perhaps it was learning as a youngster that other people’s feelings are more important than my own. Perhaps it is my nature, not my nurture that makes me afraid of this. Who knows? It doesn’t really matter in the end – I am nice to everyone and I hope they might be nice to me.

My anxiety also brings a major fear of conflict.

I don’t fight. Ever. I will stand up for my beliefs. I can have a discussion with an alternate point of view. But I won’t fight with you. I can’t do it. You can yell and scream at me until you’re blue in the face, and I will stand frozen to the spot chanting, This too shall pass, silently in my head.


If major conflict arises in the workplace, I will probably resign. I’ve done it before. I would do it again. It shames me to say that. I feel like I have no emotional fortitude, but I can’t do conflict.

Unfortunately, there are also times when my pathological fear of conflict wars with my pathological need to be responsible – to care for others and defend those who can’t defend themselves. In a group setting, I steer clear of conflict – at any cost. But in a group setting, I also need to ensure everyone feels heard and understood and represented. Sometimes I will speak up – usually at a high personal cost. I will choose personal humiliation and grief over abandoning my moral compass which can sometimes leave me in a lose-lose situation. I become extremely anxious and distressed regardless of which path I choose.

Everyday life normally trots on by OK for me. I don’t have major panic attacks. When things are going well, I manage fears the same way I manage all my other emotions – I ignore them. Every single day is scattered with a thousand little moments of fear I try to ignore. There’s no relaxation or down time until I’m curled up in my pajamas. And to calm the chaos in my head, I’ve become extremely adept at organizing the chaos around me.


When everyday life throws curve balls, that’s when my anxiety quickly skyrockets. And when the rockets are skyward bound, that’s when thoughts of self-harm and disordered eating behaviors flare out of control. The unknown is a bad place for me to be and it is easy to yearn for old coping behaviors that numb difficult emotions and still those runaway thoughts.

I read somewhere that 2017 is the year of the Rooster, and that after the pesky Monkey messed around with everything last year, the Rooster will bring good luck and prosperity. I am depending on that little Rooster to calm my nerves and create a positive mindset so my anxious thoughts can settle and not escalate.

This too shall pass…

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