couple embracing during sunset

I’ve been anxious my entire life. But I’ve been a wife for almost a year. Even before I got married, I had this feeling of not being enough. Because in my mind, anxiety told me he would only stay by my side if I were more beautiful, smarter and sexier, and that above all, I should be happier or at least pretend to be. Because no one likes sad and insecure people, right? But I recognize my luck, more than before, for still having him loving and caring and supporting me all the time. So why do I still hear what my anxiety says and all the bad things it makes me feel?

The answer is simple but tough to accept. Because deep down I know I am not like my anxiety and the lies it tells me. I know this, mainly, because this anxiety is not mine. All that is mine is this perception, this consciousness of truth. It is important to be able to separate what is mine and what generates from anxiety.

Even when I know what matters, I keep hearing those voices and believing them sometimes. There are several nights when I wake up thinking I am not a good wife and do not have what it takes to keep my marriage stable — also that I am not enough to satisfy my husband. So, I feel weak, nervous and powerless to do anything, thus leaving a void in our relationship. I end up fulfilling all my fears, and in this way, I fail not only as a woman to him but as a person to me. All I do at these times is apologize and cry.

But I am a human being, like everyone. I have many faults, and I am far from perfect. I’m a good wife and friend. I worry about what he needs, what he feels, what he wants, and I try to provide everything necessary for him to feel happy. I hear his fears and longings even when I am distressed and my soul is hurt. I often put him on top of everything when I need to be the priority. If this is not being a good wife, then I do not know what is necessary for me to be one. Everything in relationships needs to remain in reciprocal values. When things are in constant balance we get a taste of perfection.

At this point, I try to believe in myself, even though it seems impossible sometimes. I pray every day that this mental disorder won’t be my ruin and that I can always try to overcome myself day after day. May the tears disappear, and if it is not so simple, may I may be strong enough to accept my condition and let the tears fall without guilt. That “I’m sorry” won’t be the only thing I can say. My husband accepts me as I am, and he always says it’s OK not to be OK. So, there is no reason for me to think differently and prefer to isolate myself from the world when I have someone who values me and wants to help me. The secret is to look within ourselves, listen to our hearts and know that what is in our mind is not always the absolute truth.

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Growing up, I always thought I was just a shy person. I was afraid to talk to strangers, or any kind of adult figure. Teachers, cashiers, even older relatives who I didn’t see often. But in reality, “shy” truly wasn’t the word for it.

I never really knew what being anxious meant; I didn’t know it was a condition you could have. I just thought it was a feeling and always associated it with being nervous. And being nervous, in my head at least, equated to being shy. The thing is though, I had a lot of friends when I was a kid. Definitely not now, though. I doubt I ever initiated the friendships I did have as a kid, but still.

As I got older and started college in the fall of 2014, I realized my symptoms were more than just shyness. For example, walking to the front of class to turn in a paper? Forget it. I could not be the first person to get up in front of the class; just thinking about it even now makes me feel like my chest is going to explode. Presentations? You’re funny. Never gonna happen, unless my entire GPA depends on it.

Living like that all through school, I looked into it and realized those were all symptoms of anxiety. Add in my nail and skin biting, how easy it is for my face to flush red when talking to anyone, being afraid to ask for anything at a restaurant, my fear of driving in new places, or even just driving at night. I also used to have a couple of compulsive behaviors that took me years to “grow out of.” For instance, if I touched something with my ring finger, I had to make sure I touched it with the same finger of my other hand. I never told anyone about it, and I didn’t realize it could mean something more serious was going on. I just thought it meant I was a bit “weird.”

I’ve also never been able to initiate conversations with anyone I don’t know without feeling like my whole world is spinning, and the entire time I just keep wondering if they’re judging me. Which also confuses me, because I’m usually the person who doesn’t care what people think. I do what I want, and I can be a very blunt person. But when it comes to strangers, I just always feel so insecure.

Anxiety is not just constant worrying like I grew up believing it to be. It’s feeling like something bad is inevitably going to happen to you without having any reason to think that way. It’s wondering if your best friend didn’t answer your text because they’re mad at you, even though you know she probably is just busy. It’s believing you’re not good enough to chase your dreams, and you’ll never find love because everyone hates you. Or because you’re ugly and no one has the heart to tell you. It’s about feeling a weight on your chest and your shoulders and just being so tired — tired of your mind racing, tired of doubting yourself. Just being so tired.

Anxiety takes so much out of me some weeks that I just go to work, come home and chill on the couch. I won’t even really answer texts or go on social media — nothing. I just lie there, watch tv, maybe try to nap. But napping just makes me more tired, makes my mind race more with what-ifs.

I’ve never been to a doctor to see if I truly have an anxiety disorder, but I’m fairly positive I do. I want to go to a doctor to see what they say, but for some reason, I am so scared to tell my parents. I feel like I’ll just be judged, or they’ll tell me to just “suck it up.” Well, I have just been pushing on my whole life. For once, I just wanna feel OK.

I want to be able to have a conversation with a customer at work (side note: I am a cashier at a grocery store) and not feel like I might throw up at any moment. I’m tired of feeling so drained after having to interact in any kind of social environment. I just want to be me, all the time, in any situation. I want to finally, for once in my life, be free. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to truly live and let go, but hey, I’m gonna try.

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This piece was written by Ari Eastman, a Thought Catalog contributor.

Anxiety convinces you your safety is always in jeopardy. Be it physical, emotional or mental. Doesn’t matter. You’re always worried. There’s a voice you can’t ever seem to mute.

Anxiety means you’re constantly looking for something to ruin you, to undermine any bit of happiness or stability you’ve achieved. And that makes it so hard to let your guard down. You feel like if you relax, that’ll be the moment it all goes to hell. So relaxation isn’t an option. You have to remain alert, vigilant even. You have to be ready for the inevitable.

Anxiety tells you that you’re not going to be OK. Even if you are. It’s not rational. That’s why it’s so frustrating and so hard to explain to those who don’t experience it. You don’t ever truly feel calm. Even if you’re surrounded by loving, trustworthy people. Even if you’re sitting in the comfort of your home, with four sturdy walls protecting you.

Sometimes, anxiety has nothing to do with other people. It’s your brain. It’s your brain racing through every worst case scenario on an endless loop. It’s your brain looking for problems where they don’t even exist.

See, trust requires believing in something you can’t see. And that can be so, so hard for someone with anxiety.

Trusting someone, anyone, means uncertainty and uncertainty to an anxious mind is terrible. When it’s really bad, it can be debilitating.

You turn down social invitations. Not because you don’t want to go. Not because you dislike the person inviting you. But because there’s that trust issue again. You need a meticulous list of what’s going to happen if you say yes. And no one can promise you that. No one has a crystal ball with a play-by-play of everything that’s going to occur.

It doesn’t mean you can’t get there. It doesn’t mean trust is some mythical feeling you’ll never be able to attain.

But it means work. It means trying and feeling like a failure and trying again. It means patience. It means small acts of bravery whenever you can muster up the strength.

And if tomorrow your trust still feels shaky, that’s OK.

The people who care will take their time with you. They’ll let you get there whenever you’re ready.

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

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My dearest boyfriend/girlfriend,

Thanks for taking the time to read this today. I’m sorry if it interrupted your schedule. See, part of my mental illness is to make me feel guilty and ashamed for things (I’m told) I shouldn’t. After the guilt and shame set in, anxiety creeps up. Some people get anxiety and stress confused. Anxiety isn’t stress. You can redirect stress and calm yourself relatively quick. Anxiety isn’t so easy. Let me explain.

I get tense. First in my chest, shoulders and neck. Then, it flows into my arms, hands and stomach. Next, I clench and grind my teeth without noticing. After a while, my jaw hurts so badly that I nervously adjust it back and forth, only to clench again.

I know by this point my anxiety is getting bad. With that, I get more anxious over the wait of an inevitable panic attack.

The interior monolog is the most toxic, horrendous part of it all. I would withstand my racing heart, clenched jaw and fighting tears if only the interior monolog would quit. It’s my own voice doing it to myself, and it’s overwhelming. Let me show you what five minutes inside that monolog feels like.

“Why did you say that? Now everyone is going to judge you. He’s probably angry because you aren’t being grateful enough. I’m so selfish! Why is he even with me? He’s probably thinking of how to break up with me. Stop rubbing your hands all over your body! It’s fine, just breathe. Remember who loves and is here for you. Why would they love me? I’m always dragging them down. I should cut all ties off with them so they can be happy. They aren’t really here for me. That’s why they live so far away; they don’t have to deal with me. No wonder my boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t want to spend much time with me. School is just their excuse. You’re a bad mom. You shouldn’t be allowed to be a parent.”

All these things and more flood my mind, making reality a pool of murky water in which I’m drowning.

However, there is clarity in my muddy waters. It’s you. You, family and friends all can help me resurface again. You can help me by putting my doubts and fears to rest by answering some “obscure” questions. Questions such as, “Am I bothering you? Do you still love me? Why? Are we OK? Are you sure it’s OK?”These “obscure” questions can mean the difference between a short anxiety bout, a panic attack or a month-long session of worry and anxiety focused on one main topic.

Constant apologizing is common for me too, as you know. Unfortunately, for me, it’s not a conditioned response brought on by society. For me, when I say “I’m sorry” over even simplistic things, I say it because my mental illness makes me loathe myself for whatever just happened. So again, the interior monolog starts and if I loathe myself, then you must too — hence I need to apologize before something worse happens.

You can make those interior monologs fewer and not so horrible. Here’s some helpful tips I’ve discovered. First is physical interaction. Holding me does so much. My mental illness likes to make me feel alone and caged even when you’re right next to me. The longer you hold me, the safer I feel. Next, if you see the warning signs explained earlier, try to ask questions and reassure me. Chances are I am too nervous or anxious to start the conversation myself. If you have time, talk to me one on one.

Mental Illness is scary and overwhelming. It’s not easy, but it doesn’t need to be so bad either. The love of others makes all the difference. That being said, I have mental illnesses, I am not them. I am me. There is so much more to me and you have already seen that. I’m a mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend and friend. I’m a woman who loves animals, I love to cook and I love art. I sing and dance in the shower with the music turned up loud. These and many more things make me. I just need help remembering that sometimes.

So, my dearest, thank you for taking the time to read this. You mean the world to me and I only want to grow closer to you. Understanding me in my entirety means a lot to me. I love you.


Your Girlfriend/Boyfriend with Mental Illnesses

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If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Anxiety is inconsolable tears. It’s not being able to answer the phone. It’s pushing away the people you love. It’s uncontrollable shaking. Sometimes it’s not wanting to live. It’s missing out. It’s scars on my stomach, legs and arms. It’s horrible hatred that consumes your whole mind.

My anxiety is constantly changing, always taking on a new form. Although it looks different it is definitely not better, and it never becomes easier to manage. Going from separation anxiety from my mum, to suicide attempts, to shrinking my world, to medication and not being able to do the things I love, it takes all my energy and every time there’s something new. What worked once most likely won’t work the next time.

I have tried different medications and methods to make my anxious thoughts at least tolerable — exposure therapy, light therapy, aroma therapy, occupational therapy… I now think of each therapy I try as an extra tool I have to use in my box.

It’s hard, living with anxiety. The ultimate goal is for it not to affect how you do things — to be able to continue a normal life. I have had to come to terms with my disability. Disability? Strange but true — this mental disorder is a disability. It affects every aspect of my life. I struggle on a day to day basis with work, my relationships, even sleep. Emotional stability is something I am never going to be in control of — the unpredictability of my anxiety is the most difficult.

I have come so far, yet I have so much further to go. Only recently have learned life is not about winning the race but about finishing it, and it’s taken me a long time to want to finish this race we call life. It is something I wouldn’t wish upon anybody, and for those of you struggling, you are not alone and I encourage you to keep moving forward.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Dear stranger on the train,

Thank you for watching from a distance and seeing my breathing change.

Thank you for coming over and offering me water.

Thank you for not judging me when I started to cry for seemingly no reason.

Thank you for giving me the space I needed, whilst still letting me know you were there.

Thank you for reminding me it would pass.

Thank you for breathing with me.

Thank you for staying until you knew I was OK again. You sat with me, sharing in my silence. You knew you didn’t have to speak. You just sat across the aisle from me.

To those who just watched, even those who moved away — I know it’s scary; believe me, I know.

It can be difficult to know how to react in an unfamiliar situation; things we don’t understand tend to make us uncomfortable. They can even promote fear within us. So, for that reason, I don’t blame any of you for not checking on me. I don’t blame those of you who felt you had to move away. I understand; I have been you.

I only ask one thing — if you encounter this again, no matter who it is or where you are, just please don’t whisper, please don’t judge and please don’t stare.

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Unsplash photo via Alex Klopcic

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