What My 'Anxious Voice' Sounds Like
Everybody has a voice in their head. I’m talking about that little voice that pipes up in your mind at the most inconvenient times. But for those of us with anxiety, this internal voice becomes the herald of doom and destruction, a forever negative commentator that consistently points out the flaws and possible complications of any situation.
Anxiety can be seen as a fear or apprehension of what “may” happen or what “could” happen, no matter how realistic — or unrealistic — the probability. This often irrational fear can be debilitating. Take for example a simple question that a friend may ask you: “Are you coming out tonight?” Now a normal response to this is either yes or no based on whether you feel like it and whether is practical for you to do so. But for me, it’s not quite that simple. When someone asks me, “are you coming out tonight?” there is this sudden burst of activity from my anxious mind that releases a thousand questions such as: what if they feel like they have to ask but they don’t want to? What if it’s a trick? What if they’re just gauging your response, but don’t actually think you’ll say yes? What if there’s another reason behind it? What if it’s a test? What if they feel socially compelled but don’t really want to have to spend time with you?
There are so many negative thoughts that burst into my mind and emerge from the dark corners of my anxiety that just a straightforward question like that is sometimes really hard to answer. Now while this many things are racing through my mind, it often causes me to engage in prolonged silence as inside myself, I have to spend energy working out what is real and probable and what is actually just my anxiety telling me about a worst-case-scenario where I’m going to be emotionally devastated because of misreading the situation. It makes me second and triple guess if not more, every single thing that is said to me. It makes me analyze every single word in the sentence, every possible context, every margin for error. It tries to tell me there are multiple interpretations of what has been said and that the way I interpret it is wrong, because I am stupid. Even if the original question was basic and simple, it tells me I don’t understand or that I’ve missed some meaning I should have picked up on. It tells me I’m not even capable of basic human conversation and understanding.
It takes a lot of skill and patience to silence that voice, and I haven’t mastered it yet. Sometimes I ask people questions like “are you sure?” and they think I’m being odd with them. I have worked out over the years that the basis for my personal anxiety is usually down to the initial thought, “I’m not good enough.” This is something that has fueled not only my anxiety but in the past, my anger and my sorrow. In my head when you ask me, “are you coming out tonight?” my mind is flooded with the negative queries. It’s not because I don’t think you’re a genuine person asking a genuine question, it’s because somewhere deep in my subconscious I can’t work out why you would want to spend time with someone like me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a confident woman, I take life by the horns, but my anxiety and my depression have always plagued me with that one initial whisper, “I’m not good enough.” It doesn’t matter what I do to try and get rid of it, it’s always there. These days I can recognize that thought and I can usually stop myself before I go too deep into the negativity, but the voice in my head is adamant and wants me to think I’m not good enough or important enough or clever enough or whatever enough for you to genuinely ask me whatever it is you’re asking me.
This anxious voice in my head constantly tries to tell me that nothing is real and people just want to play with me for whatever ends I do not know. Bear in mind this is not necessarily rational at all, in fact, most of the time it’s completely irrational and illogical. Unfortunately, the voice in my head also has access to my body and my emotions so while it’s whispering into my ear about how I am worthless and nobody would want to be in a social situation with me, it also then starts to produce the physical effects of anxiety and panic and it speeds up my mind so I become a little confused. It might seem like the smallest and easiest question in the world to some people, but sometimes battling my own self to try and work out what is reality and what isn’t is thoroughly exhausting. I haven’t worked out how to silence that inner anxious voice yet, but at least these days I can usually realize when it’s messing with me and though it leaves me feeling completely vulnerable I try and just do whatever it is anyway now, just feel the fear and keep going. I’m extremely stubborn.
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Getty Images photo via LanaBrest