What Anxiety Is (and What It Isn't)


There is a difference between just being stressed, and having anxiety. Mental illness is no joke. It’s more than the punch line of your favorite meme. It is definitely not something to be taken lightly. In my experience, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a bitch.

For me, it is waking up and counting those few seconds you have, until you can actually feel your anxiety creep in and consume your entire body.

It is being drenched in sweat regardless of the weather.

It is not being able to push your key into the door because your hands are constantly trembling.

It is not being able to be alone because you have no one to distract your racing mind.

It is always having company when running errands, because you need moral support for things like filling up your gas.

It is wearing beaded anklets “to go with your outfit” because it’s been your fidget spinner for years now so you don’t pick at your skin when you’re uneasy.

It is endlessly watching television shows so you have no time to think about the things that worry you.

It is feeling every single thing, whether it happened 10 years ago, yesterday or is something that will never happen. You feel it. Deeply.

It is thinking every thing good in your life will eventually become ruined somehow, so you sabotage yourself for it to happen sooner than later.

It is walking into a normal situation and having to leave abruptly because you feel like everyone is staring, even though they didn’t even notice you walked in.

It is compulsively going over random conversations so if you end up in a situation, you have a script to work with.

It is panicking when the other person does not follow that script.

It is asking people to repeat themselves when speaking to you because you were too busy trying to figure out if they noticed your fingers tapping, your leg shaking, your shoulders hunching or your sweat dripping.

It is not being able to eat because nothing stays down.

It is being exhausted but not being able to sleep because your mind cannot shut up.

It is looking yourself in the mirror and convincing yourself you and your insecurities are not deserving of anything nice in this world.

It is your everyday life feeling like the set of “Final Destination 5.”

It is chronic physical pain because your fight or fight response has malfunctioned.

It is not being able to make commitments in advance because you never know if you would get out of bed that day.

It is not being able to function without the help of a therapist.

It is feeling like you are drowning when your feet are on solid land.

It is having your illness being adopted by people who have no clue what it is, when really, you know you do not wish it on them, or your worst enemy.

but on good days…

It is also always being prepared, because you are the one who thought about that already.

It is also cultivating fewer, but deeper relationships of incredible value because you cherish those who actually understand you. You need them to know this so they do not leave.

It is also always being hyper-aware of your surroundings.

It is also being able to emotionally support those around you when they need it most because you have firsthand experience in the matter.

It is also having a talent for acting, since it is part of your everyday routine.

It is also developing compassion and understanding for everyone you come into contact with because you know what it’s like to struggle.

It is also organizing everything around you because you cannot function in chaos.

It is also being the one to always have a plan A and a plan B, because it was a requirement for your mental rehearsals.

It is also having people trust you with their darkest secrets because they know you’d understand without judging, and who is better at keeping secrets than someone who kept their mental illness a secret for so long?

It is also having an incredible memory because you replay situations that already happened, over and over during your mental analyses.

It is also valuing everything you have, because you have already seen how much worse it could be for you.

Generalized anxiety disorder can be a bitch, but like everything, if you look at the positives, there is always something to gain from it.

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Unsplash photo via Cezanne Ali.


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