themighty logo

What My Anxiety Feels Like, a Letter From Your Anxious Friend

Dear Friend,

As you probably very well know at this point in our friendship, I bail on plans at the last minute, make excuses to stay in bed, attempt to plan everything down to the last second and experience sudden and overwhelming sobbing. I always want to know everything about everything, I mumble when I speak and sometimes don’t filter and talk faster than I can think. I’m restless, have the bags under my eyes, have a constant need for caffeine and find myself stress eating. I have an inability to make decisions and fear of anything new. I say “nothing” when you ask me if something is wrong, I have an inability to go anywhere myself, I wear sweats for days and I try hard to hide the fact I’m scared.

Very few things calm the anxious spirals I get into — you know, the bad ones where I ramble about my future, the choices I made years ago and whether or not we’d survive an apocalypse. Being around people helps. Hugs help. Talking helps. Crying helps. Distractions of fields trips, walks and watching silly movies help. Sometimes I just need to be reminded I am a real human and not an anxious ball of anxiety. I am writing this in an attempt to be fair to you, because on the outside my behaviors may look “insane,” tightly wound, frustrating and annoying — to say the least. I know you can’t always see why I do what I do, but I appreciate you trying to. I want to explain the reasoning behind the way I act to give you some background.

When you give me advice, it isn’t always me ignoring you. Sometimes it is because I am stubborn, but not always. I know my emotions are hard to deal with sometimes. I know I can go from cracking jokes one minute to being a monsoon of depressed feelings in a blink of an eye. I know I intensely focus on things — much longer than is best for my mental health — but especially than is better for yours. I know our relationship isn’t easy for you and being friends with me can be very challenging. For that, I feel like I owe you this letter.

Anxiety is hard to put into words but here goes nothing:

Anxiety feels like a raging ocean. It hits over and over and over, and I always struggle to keep my head above water, just grasping for an ounce or two of air to make it through for a little bit longer. I always feel overwhelmed, like I am one second, one movement away from falling into the deep, dark abyss and never coming out. And sometimes I do fall in. The ocean is bigger, deeper and darker than I can see. And when I struggle, the higher and heavier the water gets.

Anxiety is a constant battle within my own head. Every worst-case scenario spins around — especially at night — toying with my mind and
often wrecking my sanity. It never shuts off — even when I sleep. I remember dumb things I said today, fights I had years ago. I worry about my future and what people thing of me. I have anxious thoughts during the day. I have anxious nightmares. If I go to sleep anxious, I wake up anxious. It is the most overwhelming, frustrating and at times, scary, thing in the world.

It is not something I chose for myself and not something I would ever wish on my worst enemy, yet it is a part of me. I can’t turn
it off — not now, not tomorrow, not ever. These emotions, worries, fears, panic attacks and stress are not something I welcomed into my life — they just barged in uninvited. I am not a victim, I have an illness. It is not something I can have full control over.

I have spent a large portion of my life learning to cope with my anxiety. To be a productive student, citizen and friend. Most days it is OK. Most days I take my medications, drink some coffee from lack of sleep, hug my friends and get through it. However, there are some days where I can’t quite cope as well as I wish I could.

On those days I am sorry for the “hot mess” I am. I am sorry for the leggings that are probably covered in coffee, the running mascara, the dirty hair pulled into a messy bun, the shaking, scared facial expression. On days like these, let me know you see my anxiety is pulling me under, give me a hug and tell me I can do it. It is days like these when friends like you — ones who believe in me when I don’t or can’t — are so important to me.

I’m sorry I’m so intense sometimes. I’m sorry for the countless times I have sobbed on your floor or in public places or called you in tears or texted you incessantly. I am sorry for the hours I whined to you about the same problem when you had a hundred other things to do. I am sorry I am not always the most fun to be around. I am sorry I worry about stupid and silly things sometimes. I am sorry I have trouble letting things go. I am sorry for dumping my problems on you as if you were my therapist when I know you are not. You are my friend, and it was extremely off base for me to do that to you and I will stop.

Thank you for always being there, no matter how hard it is — trust me, I know it is hard. I appreciate everything you have done for me and I appreciate you being my friend, especially when I don’t deserve it. Having friends like you is one of the main ways I keep my head above water and I truly don’t know what I would do without you. Both you and our friendship mean the world to me.

Your Anxious Friend

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

Thinkstock photo via Transfuchsian.