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When You Have to Talk Yourself Out of the Lies Anxiety Makes You Believe

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This piece was written by a Thought Catalog contributor.

Anxiety tells me people don’t want to stay but feel they have to out of a sense of obligation.

Anxiety tells me they wish they could leave but they are afraid of what it will do to me.

Anxiety tells me people aren’t choosing me, they just feel sorry for me.

Anxiety tells me my best friend might leave soon.

Anxiety tells me the only reason they are answering is because they’re polite.

Anxiety tells me everyone waiting for the right moment to exit with grace.

It tells me I’m a burden.

That I’m weird.

That I’m unwanted.

Unloved.

“Crazy.”

Anxiety tells me I need to keep apologizing.

Anxiety tells me I need to overcompensate so people have a reason to stay.

Anxiety tells me they aren’t answering because they don’t like me.

That they are deliberately ignoring me because of something I’ve done or said wrong.

Then anxiety reminds me of everything in the past that could apply to that scenario.

Anxiety tells me that one-word response is them hoping I go away.

So I pull away slightly.

Anxiety tells me when they really get to know me, they’re going to hate me.

Anxiety tries to teach me to hate myself.

Anxiety fixates upon my flaws saying if I were different, maybe I’d be happier.

Anxiety tells me this is my fault.

Anxiety adds fuel to a fire that is self-doubt and criticism.

Anxiety keeps me up at night fixating upon everything I’ve done wrong or things I could do better.

Anxiety tells me I’m not good enough.

Smart enough.

Pretty enough.

“Normal” enough.

Successful enough.

Anxiety tells me I’m going to fail.

That everything I’ve worked for I’m going to lose.

That everyone I love will leave.

Anxiety tells me the love I have to give is not enough.

Then I wake up the next day still tired trying to counter that voice that haunts me.

Anxiety reminds me of everything I’ve done wrong in my life.

Anxiety beats me up and punishes me for mistakes I can’t forgive myself for.

Anxiety does not let me just move on.

Anxiety tells me every worse case scenario will come true.

Every worst fear will come to life.

Anxiety makes me feel like I’m always waiting. And I don’t even know what I’m waiting for — I’m just uneasy.

I’m always comparing myself to someone and falling short.

Anxiety tells me I’ll never be good enough.

So I try so incredibly hard.

And most people are impressed.

Everyone but me.

I’ll never be a good enough friend, sister, daughter, girlfriend.

Anxiety tells me I need to fix something that isn’t a problem but I make it one.

Anxiety makes living in the moment hard. I’m constantly dwelling on the past and afraid of the future.

Anxiety tells me to hate myself for this. And as I break down and cry alone for things I can’t understand, anxiety knocks me when I’m already on my knees saying I deserve this.

But then everyone once in a while, I come across someone whose voice speaks louder than doubts and questioning that goes on in my head. Anxiety might tell me, they’re here because they feel bad. But then those people counter those thoughts with a hug, a kind word, a conversation. And I realize anxiety might be forever a part of my life but there are people who want to be too.

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

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Thinkstock photo via kevinhillillustration.

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How to Love a Girl With Mental Illness

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This girl is broken, but that doesn’t mean she is damaged. Every invisible scar is beam of light that shines stronger and brighter with each newly formed one.  Scars don’t make me bitter, they make me better.

Loving a broken girl can take patience and strength sometimes. But the ones who can handle those bumps in the road are the ones that can mirror my strength, and they are the ones I will love fiercely for it.

To love me is to understand me — to understand I come with insecurities and self-doubt. That I smile brightly when I am falling apart, that I hide my scars and fears. I don’t feel as strong as I know I really am, but I won’t show it.

I don’t need a man to cling to, I need someone to help me up when I fall, someone who will patiently wait for me to put myself back together when I fall apart. I need a man who loves my scars because they make me who I am. I need someone who hugs me before I ask for it and offers a shoulder when I break down and kisses my tears away.

Loving a beautifully broken girl is exhausting at times, and it takes strength to get through the tough times. But when those tough times turn into something beautiful and I see you, still there by my side, mending the broken pieces, I will give you my heart and soul. I will show you the scars make me beautiful.

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Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia Ltd.

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How Anxiety Both Hurts and Empowers Me

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Some days, my anxiety is a drop of rain on a mountaintop. Some days it’s the mountain.

Most days I don’t notice it, but other days it feels like the weight of the world is crushing me and no one can lift it.

When my anxiety manifests, it’s a lump in my stomach — noticeable — but I get on with my day. Every once in a while, my breath catches on that lump and I can’t breathe, can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong, yet there is nothing I can do.

It’s difficult to rationalize that my body and my mind are betraying me and I have no say over what will happen next. To know that I am definitely overacting, but not being able to react any differently.

Some days, my anxiety makes me feel like I’m in a spotlight even though I’m in the middle of a crowded room. I’m a dingy in the middle of the ocean with nowhere to go; no island in sight to find relief. I feel completely out of touch with my surroundings and I don’t know what to do.

When my anxiety makes me want to hide (and I mean hide) — under a blanket, in a closest, away from everything – I know others might not understand. How could you?

How could someone know what it feels like to be trapped inside their own body by something they can’t explain or rationalize, something that makes them want to die — to stop existing – just so they don’t have to feel this way anymore? How could someone understand that feeling if they’ve never experienced it before?

When you hold me and tell me it’s going to be OK — I don’t know it’s going to be OK. Your words ground me, but I’ve often convinced myself that this feeling is going to last forever. I’ve convinced myself that I’m irreconcilably broken and there is nothing I can do to fix myself.

But some days, my anxiety is strength. After everything I’ve experienced, I must be strong. To feel terror and fear on a regular basis and still be OK — I have to be strong. Even when I can’t get out bed or I call in sick to work for the second day in a row, I am strong.

Anxiety has hurt me, but it has also empowered me. It has shown me that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and even if no one might understand what I’m experiencing, no one wants me to experience it either. Panic attacks inspire me — they inspire my art, they make me a kinder and more caring person. Anxiety is terrible, but it is a part of my life and I can’t imagine myself without it.

Some days, my anxiety is a ball and chain at the bottom of the well, and I feel like I’m drowning. But some days, I’m just me.

Follow this journey here.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Unsplash photo via Ant Rozetsky

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When Your Anxiety Is Mistaken as 'Flakiness'

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I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine about my anxiety and anxious personality. I often don’t return phone calls and text messages in a timely manner (or at all), and although she understands why, our mutual friends that don’t know me as well do not. She then informed me a friend of ours not on social media that texted me a few weeks ago had a baby and was trying to get in touch with me.

Oh, no, I thought. I can’t believe I didn’t respond! I am the worst friend in the world! She then told me bluntly that I may lose friends, not because I am a bad person, but because they will take my non-responsiveness as rudeness. In fact, I have lost friends, or have lost regular contact with people I care about, but not because I don’t care.

In this day and age of smart phones and social media, I often get 30 to 40 text messages/private messages/emails a day during the week. I do my best to respond, but I don’t always.

Quite honestly, I sometimes look at my phone, at all of the apps and text messages and the phone itself will cause me anxiety. I am not kidding. On the weekends I sometimes put the phone in the other room and decompress, only to return to the device filled with what seems like a gazillion notifications. Those close to me have already called me out on my “flakiness” on responding to communication. But I don’t see myself as flaky. I see myself as a caring, compassionate and loyal friend. It is my anxiety that causes the disconnect.

So what I need my friends and acquaintances (and even some family members) to know is that I care, deeply.

In fact, I had thought about my friend with a baby who tried to contact me often, and would always have the thought that I needed to get back to her. I even look at some of my long lost friends on social media and think about private messaging them to catch up, but my anxiety gets in the way. Oh, I don’t want to be a bother, I think to myself. They have busy lives, they probably don’t even want to hear from me anyway.

I hope the people in my life, every single one of them, read this and realize just how much I care. Even if I don’t say it with a digital message every day, I am thinking of you, and you are always in my heart.

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Thinkstock photo via LanaBrest.

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Anxiety Left My Seat Empty at My Daughter's Ballet Recital

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Before my daughter could walk, she could dance. When she heard a song playing, she was moving her cute chubby baby arms to the beat. Once she learned to walk, there was no stopping her from moving and grooving with her talented little legs. When my baby girl turned three years old, I enrolled her in her first ballet class and she did absolutely amazing! She listened to her instructor very well, followed directions great, and I feel she was one of the best dancers in the class. All of her dance moves were on pointe. (Get it? A little dance humor for you there.)

Fast-forward two years later and my little ballerina is now five years old, which means she is old enough to participate in the dance school’s grand ballet recital. Dancing on the big stage in front of a large crowd with bright lights and loud music can be intimidating, especially for little kids, and this is why the dance teachers constantly talked about it with the students throughout the year. I can still hear the dance teacher asking the class, “Is dancing on the big stage scary?” and the students answering with a resounding “No!”

Parents were also highly encouraged to talk with their kids about what being on stage would be like, which I did. The teacher asked for two to three parent volunteers to be Backstage Moms at the recital. I didn’t volunteer, because:

1. I had never been to a ballet recital before and I didn’t know what to expect backstage.

2. I had seen way too many unbelievable episodes of “Dance Moms.”

3. I didn’t think my daughter needed me back there with her.

Whenever I talked about the recital with my daughter, she was always happy and excited. Her little eyes would light up and she would get a great big smile on her face. It felt like she would ask me when the recital was every single day. When it was time to purchase her recital costume, I did. When it was time to purchase recital tickets, I did. I invited our relatives and they bought tickets as well.

The dress rehearsal was the day before the big recital. I had asked my mom if she could take my daughter to the rehearsal, because I had to take my other daughter to an important doctor’s appointment. I told my mom it would be easy peasy for her since my daughter was so excited about the recital. Man, was I wrong.

She won’t get onstage.

That was the text I got from my mom. I texted her back: What do you mean? My mom then called me and told me my daughter was scared, crying and clinging to her. She was refusing to go onstage, despite my mom, her teacher and friends trying to help calm her down and give her words of encouragement. I told my mom to tell her that if she goes onstage, I’d buy her a new toy. That didn’t work. My mom tried everything she could think of to get her to go onstage, but nothing worked. Absolutely nothing. My mom had no choice but to leave the theatre and bring my daughter home.

When I got back from the doctor’s office, I gave my daughter a great big hug and I sat her on my lap. I asked her what happened at the rehearsal and she told me she got scared because she didn’t want the audience looking at her. I told her it is OK for her to feel what she is feeling. I never told her “Don’t be scared,” because honestly, I knew that wouldn’t have done any good. The same goes for telling someone to “calm down.” Instead, I told her I was going to tell her a secret. The secret was this:

“The only people who will be looking at you are your family, who love you very much. All the other people will be looking at their dancer, not you. All you have to do is go onstage, look at your teacher, do your dance, and get off the stage. That’s it.”

That night, my daughter fell asleep easily, probably because she was so drained from crying earlier. I think our talk helped, but I could tell she was still nervous afterwards. She needed more than just a pep talk and I already knew bribing her with toys wasn’t going to get her onstage either. What she needed was to have faith and trust. Oh, and something I forgot… dust. Yep, just a little bit of pixie dust.

Before I get into the fairy magic I made happen while my daughter was asleep, you have to know my daughter absolutely loves and adores fairies, especially Tinker Bell. She says fairies follow her around, she can talk to them, and she can always tell where they’ve been because they leave sparkles. My mom (aka “Nonna”) created a fairy garden in her backyard that my daughter visits every chance she gets. To say that fairies are a big part of my daughter’s life would be an understatement. They are her entire world!

I had previously bought a light up figurine of Tinker Bell on my last trip to Disneyland, which I planned to give my daughter when she was a bit older, but I decided to give it to her now and have it be a special gift from Tinker Bell instead. I wrote a letter to my daughter from Tinker Bell, letting her know she was flying over to watch her dance in her recital and reminding her to look for sparkles backstage. (With all of the dancers running around back there in their glittery costumes, I knew there were going to be a lot of sparkles on the floor!) I also knew that looking for sparkles would take my daughter’s mind off of being scared and nervous. I left the statue and letter out on the kitchen counter for my daughter to find in the morning.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen my daughter’s eyes as wide as I did that morning! She was extremely happy about the surprise Tinker Bell left for her. She was practically radiating joy and excitement. She couldn’t wait to get to the theatre to look for sparkles backstage and to dance for Tinker Bell on stage! Yes! My plan had worked!

When we got to the theatre, I brought my daughter to the back room and got her situated. I helped set up a game of Candyland for my daughter and a couple other girls to keep them busy.  Soon, it was time for the parents to leave the room, so I gave my daughter a big hug and I told her I was super excited to watch her dance and I would see her after the recital. I let go… but she didn’t.

She began crying, and not just little tears. These were big tears streaming down her face. She was yelling that she was scared and she didn’t want me to leave her. I held her, dried her tears, and repeated all of the things I told her the day before… but it wasn’t cutting it. She wasn’t just crying now. She was shaking, sweating, and her heart was pounding. My baby girl was having a full-blown anxiety attack.

I could hear the announcer telling everyone to find their seats, and I could feel the eyes of everyone in that back room looking at us. I knew I was supposed to go to my seat. I wasn’t a Backstage Mom. I wasn’t allowed to be back there anymore. Some of the other Backstage Moms and the kids tried to comfort my daughter, which I truly appreciated, but my daughter didn’t need them. She didn’t need fairy magic either. What she needed was just Mommy. Just me.

So what happened next was that I just sort of, kind of, never left my daughter and became a last-minute Backstage Mom, which I never thought I would have done in a million years. I sat on the carpet with the kids and played games with them, introducing them to the classics like Telephone. I sang Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” with them. I interviewed the kids and asked them silly questions that made them laugh. I helped give out snacks, made sure their hair looked good and helped clean up. This all came very naturally to me because I am a retired daycare provider and I can honestly say I had a blast being backstage with those girls. The best part though was how simply being backstage helped my daughter feel less anxious, nervous and scared. I, on the other hand, was nervous about getting into trouble about staying backstage without permission, but to my surprise, the teacher, director and theatre employees were all very supportive and appreciative that I decided to stay back. Whew!

I am happy to report that, because I stayed back to be with my daughter, that was all she needed. Although I could tell she was still a little nervous before she walked onstage, I had provided her with just enough confidence to get out there and dance her little heart out. As always, she did amazing. Although I never did get to sit in my seat I had purchased, the director pulled me aside as the kids were going onstage to let me stand directly next to the teacher while the kids performed. I felt like I had the best spot in the whole theatre. Tears filled my eyes and pride filled my heart as I watched my little ballerina dance onstage for the first time. I will never forget that incredible feeling and I am blessed to know I will get to experience it over and over, most likely as a Backstage Mom again, because I will always be there for my daughter in any way I can for as long as I can.

Someday, my daughter will be ready to let go when I tell her it’s time for Mommy to leave (and I’m not just talking about dropping her off backstage at her recital). I’m talking about when she goes away to college, moves out, and even when I die. Thinking about those life-changing events for too long makes me cry, but knowing my daughter will have the strength and confidence to handle them gives me such pride in being her mother.

Just keep dancing, my little ballerina, and Mommy will keep helping you one step at a time.

Previously published on www.mylittlevillagers.com

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How I Curb My Anxiety Around New People

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I have had depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. I remember crying at night, terrified I had swallowed a piece of glass, or balling my eyes out because of the starving children commercials I had seen.

Having depression had given me an overpowering sense of empathy for others, or maybe it was my empathy that gave me depression. Either way, I had to learn to survive with my condition. I had no idea what it was and I didn’t have any treatment until way into adulthood.

When I was in my 20s, I learned a trick to help curb my anxiety. New people are always the hardest. You do not know them and any new meeting could go either way.

I learned that when I could make them feel at ease and happy, it would also put me at ease. My empathy would also allow me to feel how they felt, and feel outrage when they did, so I would agree and help them in any way I could. I would in a sense treat them how I would want to be treated. I heard that golden rule long ago and had thought “Well, why wouldn’t you?” In life, not everyone has empathy and I feel many don’t have it to the degree I do. It can sometimes consume me — it feels like what the other person is experiencing is happening to me.

When I can make someone smile and be happy, or just laugh for a moment in a world like this, then I feel more at ease. So, maybe I don’t do it for them. I do it for me. I do it for my anxiety. I do it for my depression. I do it for those who may be struggling right now, and you may never know what going on beneath the surface.

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Thinkstock photo via lorenzoantonucci

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