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My Anxiety Isn't 'Everyday' Anxiety


If you live with anxiety, you’ve probably experienced that heart racing, gut wrenching, twisty insides feeling that comes with it. The physical symptoms and the feelings it brings. Everyone has anxiety, it’s part of life. But with mental illness, these everyday feelings get amplified. For example, its normal to get anxiety over an important test you’re about to take. What isn’t normal is feeling that same anxiety about even the thought of raising your hand in class.

It can be extremely difficult to explain to someone why you’re reacting so strongly to events or situations that are simple everyday occurrences. Why your hand is shaking or why you’re rambling and dwelling, why you can’t take on another big task that day of focus. Someone calling my phone with a number I don’t know makes my voice shaky. I arrive 10 minutes early because I’m terrified of being late. When I’m emailing someone I triple check it and have to take a deep breath and build up the courage to press send. Then I worry all day about getting a response, overthinking if I spelled something wrong or wondering if they didn’t get it.

Many things can bring on a normal level of anxiety, like getting something in on time, meeting someone new, making important phone calls, answering the door, going for a doctor’s appointment, all of these small and big things that we each face every day. These make people without mental illness nervous, so when you do have it they can feel almost unbearable. That is sometimes the problem with understanding, someone can acknowledge that something makes them nervous but they are able to get through it, so why can’t you?  Someone with anxiety, and especially extreme anxiety, it’s much more difficult.

I know rationally that sometimes something I’m feeling anxious about isn’t a big deal. I know it will probably turn out OK, but at the same time my body is telling me it won’t. My mental illness is causing me physical pain and discomfort. My mind races, I jump at any sound my phone makes, I desperately try to distract myself. So when you know someone with anxiety, try to imagine what they might be feeling, both inside and out. Try to not be dismissive of their experience, because understanding is an important step towards being supportive.

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Thinkstock photo via Rively