woman trying to sleep in bed

Have you ever had a moment when you’ve been woken up, not because of a noise or a weird light going on and off, but because of your thoughts?

Have you ever had a nagging feeling that lingered around until you drifted to sleep? If you haven’t, you’re a lucky soul.

Recently, I’ve been having anxiety dreams. What’s an anxiety dream, you ask?

It’s a dream that causes extreme panic, stress or anxiety. It’s not a nightmare, however; it’s a dream that, as soon as it happens, it causes your heart to race. In my situation, they occur super late at night or extremely early in the morning, depending on your perception of time. I’m talking between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. It’s the moment when your body rejects its needed sleep because your mind is telling it to succumb to its demons.

Picture this: Imagine you’re coming home from a hard day at work and all you want to do is relax. All of a sudden, the place you usually love to come home to causes dread in your mind, because you are attempting to predict how to the next night will go. It’s that moment when you wake up in the middle of night, panic-stricken, sweating, heart racing — when you feel like anxiety is only your destiny. You feel like this is the only expectation you can amount to. It has this powerful grip over your mind, body and soul, making it feel like you can’t and shouldn’t amount to anything for the day. It makes getting out of bed 20 times harder when you already don’t have the motivation to do so. These dreams are your mind’s way of experiencing turmoil in your most defenseless state. They cause your body to feel like it either has to fight or get ready for flight. Your mind is racing like the cars on a NASCAR track. It makes you feel nauseous, weak and unworthy.

Often, it’s your minds way of overcompensating for stress. In a sense, it’s saying, “If I have to miserable, so you do.” Having an anxiety dream is like waking up to find out the one you love has left you in the night, or even worse — that you are experiencing a waking nightmare. These dreams loom over your day and impose all these negative thoughts in ordinary daily processes. You’re on pins and needles anticipating whether the day will function as a “normal” one, or if it will end up with you having a breakdown by lunch. This is one of the times when you secretly wish others could see it, to put the myth to bed— “It’s all in your head, just stop thinking about it.” How can you stop thinking about something when it’s the only thing consuming your mind? Sure, you can occupy yourself and forge a facade that makes it seem like you have your shit together, but that only lasts for so long. It’s the moment where you have to differentiate whether you will allow anxiety to conquer your day, or if you will overcome anxiety.


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When Christmas approaches, Christian paraphernalia can be spotted almost anywhere and anywhere. However, when the season arises, I always want Christmas to come and go quickly.

As someone who was raised Catholic, I understand why religion can be relieving for some people — it’s comforting knowing that there’s someone watching over you all the time, that there’s some entity protecting you.

But as I slowly detached myself from my upbringing, I came to realize that religion was not a comfort for me, but rather a major contribution to my anxiety.

In my experience, religion instilled fear…

From the moment I was old enough to comprehend it, the concept of Hell and burning forever if you didn’t follow Christ was forced on me. I knew how to be Catholic before I could write.

I was always afraid — afraid of doing something, anything, even something minuscule, that would piss God off and not allow me to get into Heaven after death. It controlled me and every little decision I made. I was like a puppet.

I was afraid to question anything I was taught, which is why it took me so long to detach myself from it. I was afraid to ask my parents questions that would then raise questions from them such as, “Why are you asking?”

Religion made me feel like I wasn’t good enough…

In order to get into Heaven, you have to follow God’s word — the Bible, the 10 commandments, etc. Yet I was taught you’re still a sinner. You are a sinner from the moment you are born, and this made me feel like I wasn’t truly pure enough. You’re never worthy enough for God. You’re never truly “good enough” for Heaven.

Religion slaughtered my self-esteem. It made me feel absolutely worthless, like the lowest of the low. I didn’t have a shred of self-love. I saw myself as this ugly, disgusting, low-life piece of human trash, unworthy of love and kindness and friendship. But I was taught that how I felt didn’t mean shit because (despite not truly ever being good enough for Heaven) God saw me as perfect.


I never really realized how much it truly slaughtered my self-esteem until I was having a conversation with my best friend, probably something along the lines of how I felt like this disgusting piece of human trash, and he said “That sounds like the religion talking” and I broke down sobbing.

When a family member came out as transgender, my very Catholic parents were completely beside themselves. They were coming from left and right saying things like, “God doesn’t make mistakes” and that he’s going against God by doing this. They have little contact with him now. I’m slowly watching my family, who has always placed such an emphasis on staying a family and staying together no matter what happens, be torn apart by religion, and there isn’t a thing I can do to stop it.

Since beginning the journey of leaving my previous self in the dust, I’ve gained a better understanding of my anxiety, began seeing a therapist and developed self-love.

As I said, I do understand that religion is certainly a comfort for some people. Good for you, do what is best for your mental health. But it was worse for mine.

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What does it mean when it takes someone a long time to text you back?

Maybe they’re at work. Maybe their phone battery died. Maybe they’re having a bad day, and haven’t been able to look at their phone.

The possibilities are plentiful. But for those who live with anxiety disorders, it’s the unknown — those possibilities — that are enough to start a spiral of worries. Even though not everyone with anxiety will react in the same way, it can be stressful when you’re not sure why a loved one hasn’t gotten back to you.

To find out what people with anxiety worry about, we asked people in our mental health community to share one thing that goes through their mind when a friend doesn’t text back.

If you can relate, you’re not alone: 

1. “Have I annoyed them? Have I said too much? Are they avoiding me for some reason? Is it just that my text doesn’t need an answer, even though I want a response? Are they too busy for me? Am I depending on them too much?” — Jocelyn H.

2. “It’s either I must’ve said something wrong or they’re too busy or I’m not important or good enough for them to have a conversation with. It’s these constant thoughts in my head that I’m always wrong. Everything I said or do is wrong. That’s why I’m too scared to say anything or even if I did, I’d probably figure they were just replying to make me feel better.” — Azis N.

3. “I’m a burden. I am a negative person in their life and they are better off when they aren’t associated or communicating with me in any way. Did I say something wrong? Is talking to me something you consider a chore that you hate doing but need to do regardless?” — Amanda W.

4. “I always think I’m annoying them. Or that I have unknowingly done something to upset or anger them. On a high anxiety day, I feel like this about anyone. Family, friends, even my husband. It is exhausting to feel unwanted, all because someone took a little too long to reply.” — Courtney W.


5.Something catastrophic must have happened to them, or our relationship has suddenly and inexplicably imploded and I worry about what I said to make it that way.” — Lindsey S.

6.  “My constant thought starts with: They are just talking to me or being my friend because it’s the polite thing to do. Not because they want to or because we are friends. When they don’t text back I assume I was being too much of a burden and they finally have had enough and have cut ties.” — Gwendalen R.

7.I think they either are tired of hearing a pity party if I’m discussing a problem I have or that I’m bothering them/eating their time and they realize this.” — Matt Y.

8.TBH, I usually go right to the extreme if I know that person isn’t at home. Kidnap, a trip and a fall breaking a bone, car crash. Those kind of things. It’s exhausting.” — Lucy J. 

9.They are dead. Hurt. In the hospital. In jail. In trouble. They’re ignoring me. Leaving. I said something and they’re gone. They opened it and are writing a long response to tell me off. They’re just tired of me and need a break. They’re talking to someone else. My head spins and hurts and it makes me sick just thinking what it might be over and over making it worse and worse.” — Amy M.

10.I have a negative thought, when I hear the phone ring, fear of more bad news. Haven’t heard good news in a very long time. Too long. A negative thought after anything and everything I do or think, hard to enjoy anything. I can’t even breathe without a negative thought ruining my life experience.” — Matthew C.

11.That they just look at their phone and think, ‘Ugh why is she texting me? I don’t like her. Doesn’t she get that I don’t want to talk to her?’ I always feel like I’m this burden and I’m bothering people. Even if it’s just a small conversion, or a question I’m asking there is always that voice in your head telling you that you’re wrong for texting them. Even if it’s your significant other, best friend, or family members.” — Jessica G.

12. “I feel as if I’ve done or said something wrong. I re-examine everything I’ve ever said to them just in case I’ve said something that has lead to them not responding.” — Eric R.

13.They don’t care about me. They’re out having fun with people that aren’t exhausting to be around. I said something wrong again. They’ve seen the text, but I’m too much to deal with right now. They don’t want to say no again, so they’ll text back later and say they’re busy.” — Kim E.

14.I usually think they don’t find talking to me interesting anymore. That they’re bored and that I’m not good enough or social enough to make them want to talk to me. I want to text them again to prove my theory is wrong, but I don’t, because I’m scared I’ll become annoying and clingy. I am not. I just fear they don’t like me anymore.” — Elitsa B.

15. “Have they just been being friendly? Was our ‘friendship’ just to not hurt my feelings? Do they hate me? What did I do to hate me? Did they take my tone wrong? Did they read it this way because I meant it this way? Maybe they put my messages on silent. They’re probably talking about me to their real friends. Am I bothering them too much? I hate texting first because I text back really quick and my mind runs a million miles an hour.” — Karrie N.

16. “When my boyfriend is out and he doesn’t answer I worry he might hate me, thinks I’m annoying or wants to break up even though nothing rational indicates he would. I don’t worry about my closest friends or family, I think it’s because I’ve known them for over 10 years/all my life.” — Elenor H.

17.The number one question: have they finally gotten sick of me?” — Sarah C.

18. “I once was texting someone and they stopped texting me back for four hours. About an hour after they stopped a helicopter flew above my house and I immediately thought they were in a car accident. I knew it was insane but my mind still made me think it.” — Shelby S.

Although all these worries and fears feel real in the moment, we wanted to leave you with this:

“Has anyone ever gotten busy or forgotten to text back? I sure have. I struggle with severe anxiety, but I talk myself through things instead of letting the bad thoughts take over. If someone doesn’t text you back, 99.99 percent of the time that has nothing to do with you. Maybe they’re at work and couldn’t respond and then it escapes their mind. Maybe they are dealing with something themselves; i.e. anxiety. Don’t put yourself down because of other people’s reactions. Give them the benefit of the doubt as well. Also, if it is a recurring thing, then stop texting them! Stay positive people! You’re not a burden, you’re not ugly, you’re not always wrong and they’re not dead.” — Erica S.

Have you ever wondered what your purpose in life is? Have you considered what gift you have been given in this life?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently pondering what mine is. It has been hard for me to figure out what I was put on this earth to be or do — to think and then to accept I may have special talents or gifts to contribute to the world. But as I sat anxiously in hospital waiting for my name to be called yesterday, I was reminded of what mine is.

My gift is not a rare one, plenty of other people have this same gift. I have the gift of empathy.

To me, empathy is defined by putting others first and feeling their emotions as if they were my own, sharing their sadness, anxiety, fear, loneliness, then displaying insight to build the person up with kindness and understanding so they feel seen and encouraged. I want them to feel love and that their burden is now shared, their load lightened. Empathy is feeling another person’s pain in your own heart, even if you have never experienced what it is they are going through.

Through the years I’ve battled with depression and anxiety, I have always wished to be the person I wanted others to be to me. I want people to feel like someone cares, that they matter, are loved and respected, wanted, accepted and safe. I want to make the world a better, kinder, more gentle place — even if it is just for one person at a time. In a world where many people are overwhelmed with the stressors and busyness of their own lives, there is little room for meaningful connections with strangers, the old fashioned warmth that used to bind townships together.

There are so many people out there that need someone to take an interest in them and their lives. This could be from a listening ear, an empathetic hug or just a sincere and kind smile. There are so many ways we can make the lives of others just a tiny bit better. A few minutes of friendly conversation can have a profound effect on our lives, helping each of us feel more alive and engaged.


Yesterday, I was anxious and fearful. My body was shaking from adrenalin, and my head was reeling. I felt sick! All I wanted was to sit quietly in the waiting room and be invisible until my name was called. I did not want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to focus on my own breathing and try to distract myself from the knowledge that soon I was going to have four needles inserted into the base of my scalp to try and treat my occipital neuralgia. It was going to hurt and it might not work. I might react badly and feel really unwell. I was stuck in a world of “what ifs.”

But after I was checked in, I was moved from a large full waiting area where I could be alone with my thoughts, to a small waiting area. There were two other ladies in the transit area who were both feeling nervous, maybe more so than me.

My thoughts and feelings turned to trying to help them alleviate some of their stressful feelings and before long, we were all engaged in friendly conversation. I learned things about these two women: their painful childhoods, their hopes and dreams, their lows and highs, their husbands, children, pets and the jobs they could not longer do, and how that made them feel. I learned how many surgeries they had been through, and about their desperation for help. By the time they were called to go through for their procedures, they were both cheerful and relaxed, they smiled as they said what a pleasure it was to meet, and we said farewell each other.

Helping and nurturing others is something I feel excited by, passionate about. It makes me feel happy, purposeful and gives me a sense of joy and fulfillment. Being able to see someone smile and relax gives me an inner warmth. It is not altogether “altruistic,” I admittedly get a lot from this myself. While all I had wanted was to be left alone to focus on my own miserable feelings, something amazing happened when I turned my attention to empathizing with others. I felt better as well. Put simply, focusing on others when I am anxious helps me, too!

When my own name was finally called, my mood was lighter, I was more relaxed. Sharing my gift with them had meant they had shared theirs back with me. The warm feeling had permeated the theatre too. My normally reserved doctor was chattering happily away to myself and the nurses and one of the nurses even commented the other ladies had mentioned me and how kind I’d been to her.

Love is the only thing that can be divided but never diminished, and empathy is part of love.

Whatever our gift is — I believe we all have one — it was given to us to help others. My purpose is to be a nurturer, my calling is to help others. God has given me the gift empathy, along with kindness and insight. Wouldn’t it be wrong of me to not use them, even when life is difficult?

This post originally appeared on The Art of Broken.

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The older I get the more I’ve been able to understand the impacts of anxiety on my life. From as long as I can remember, unfelt emotions and stressors have triggered anxiety in my present life.

So when I step into the world of dating it makes things a lot more confusing.

For me, dating with anxiety means feeling a flood of emotions all at once. It’s feeling like I’m out at sea, being overcome by the waves. It’s a scary world to navigate.

Before I go out on dates, I panic. Is this going to be awkward? Will I have to eat in front of him? What if there are uncomfortable silences? Will I need to use the bathroom? All the uncertainties and what ifs cloud my head, making it hard to see a clear world in front of me.

This doesn’t mean I’m not excited to go on the date. I’ve had some of the most wonderful experiences going on dates with people I’ve been really interested in, but still succumb to my anxiety before even going on the date. I’ve gone on dates with people I’ve known as good friends for a while but still get flustered and question myself. My level of feelings or comfort around a person does not change the fact my anxiety might play a role. It still does.

My initial instinct in those moments is to cancel. Some days I just want to put my sweatpants on, crawl into bed and watch as many shows as possible to avoid awkward initial first dates or hangouts. I just want to fast forward through all the awkward firsts and skip to genuinely knowing a person deeply. But I have to remember that’s not how relationships work.

Relationships require time and practice. I remind myself to be brave and put one foot out there, even if it means going to dinner with a person I really want to get to know and worrying about having to eat in front of him the whole night.

Dating with anxiety takes time and practice.

But sometimes, I do bail. Sometimes, I’m not strong enough to push my way through the negative self-talk and panic attacks that flood my mind. And that’s OK.


When I do find the courage and strength to push through the anxiety I’m feeling, I still find it in the aftermath. Anxiety doesn’t go away after a date goes perfectly. It continues to follow, popping up at often random and convenient times. When I’ve been in a committed relationship for a year with somebody I love deeply, I still feel the inability to go out in public or be in a large gathering with his friends.

Anxiety is second guessing every choice I make on a date. Anxiety is replaying every possible scenario with somebody I care about deeply in my head at night. Anxiety is wanting to go out and be in public with somebody but feeling inevitably stuck, unable to move or do anything in that moment in time.

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Thinkstock photo via ArthurHidden.

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