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For the Times I Don't Tell You I'm Struggling With Anxiety

The most helpful emails in health
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Dear friend,

Just know that no matter what, I care about you. If I ever hesitate to share my struggle with you, no matter how much you ask, it’s because I’m afraid you’ll leave. You’ve seen how I am day-to-day, absolutely fine right? Wrong. Although, maybe you already know.

The truth is, there are days where I can hardly hold it together. Going through years of depression and suicidal thoughts can change your personality. Struggling with anxiety and low mood disorder means that most of the time, I’m just hiding what’s really going on inside. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t struggling with mental illness. I’m afraid of developing more diagnoses and symptoms until my toiletries bag outweighs my clothes bag on vacation. Do you want me to tell you about this? Or to tell you how emotionally unstable I’m slowly becoming, like when I teared up multiple times watching “Eddie the Eagle”? Or how my exhaustion level continues to skyrocket — mentally from being anxious and constantly around people, emotionally from bottling everything up inside and physically from difficulties sleeping? Even if you genuinely want to know when you ask how I’m doing, I’m scared that being completely honest, or at least going deeper than a simple, “I’ve been better,” will be enough to scare you away. To be honest, I’m scared of being deadweight in our friendship.

It’s hard having to redefine success. To have to accept walking out the door without exhaustion or worry as a morning gone well. To celebrate waking up after a luxurious seven hours of unbroken sleep. Not to be nauseous once during an entire day. To come home and not worry about or analyze every conversation. To go to a therapy session and be honest about how my last week has gone. To have a crappy day and not be debilitated by anxiety at the end of it. I look around me and see so many people standing on a pedestal, and even though I know everyone has different challenges and success, and I’m level with where they’re building, my foundations are in a deep hole. Success to me is not seeing the world like that every day.

And here’s the toughest part — I don’t see the world like that all the time. There are days where I am fine, where I can honestly tell you that (almost) nothing is wrong. Sometimes all it takes for things to get better is just a text or a conversation to help me remember that I’m not alone and that whatever new horror I’m fixated on won’t be the end of the world. But then I’m afraid I’ll sound like the boy who cried wolf when life isn’t easy. “Yesterday wasn’t like this, so why is this coming up now?” is how I picture you responding. So there are times when I hide my problems behind a smile and simply wonder if it’s obvious I’m hiding something.

And I know you care about me, because you’ve said so, but I know that as well as I know what the dark side of the moon looks like. I’m scared you’ll give up on me. That I’m too much of a drag to you. If I ignore a text from you, it’s because I don’t have the energy to worry about how to respond to you. But if you ignore a text from me, it’s full alarm bells in my brain. “Why? What did I do wrong? How can I make this up?” I’m scared that one day you won’t respond anymore. That I’m too high-maintenance. I know it might seem silly, but every time you gloss over something I’ve just said or passed off a joke I told, I’m scared there’s more going on, even when there isn’t.

I know I have a few irrational fears. But just because you tell me to ignore the lies doesn’t mean I can so easily. I know I’m not perfect, but I’ve been left on the curb, abandoned by those I thought cared most about me. Those are the traumas that I write about to process, that I discuss at therapy and that haunt me unceasingly. Sometimes even a heartfelt assertion can feel like a Band-Aid on trauma. But knowing that you’re saying it, sticking with me through everything and carrying the weight when I can’t means more to me than I can ever share.

Thank you.

Your friend

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 8, 2016
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