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When Anxiety Means Living Life in ALL CAPS

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a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

How does this translate to life with anxiety?

An imminent event being the next breath, phone call or face-to-face interaction.

An outcome being everything.

The best way I have come to describe my anxiety is that it’s kind of like everything is in all CAPS – ALL THE TIME. I talk in all caps and people ask me why I’m yelling at them. I walk in all caps and people ask me where I’m going in such a hurry. I breathe in all caps and it sounds like I’m in labor.

I’ve tried my whole life not to let my “crazy” leak out onto others. That usually means keeping everyone at arm’s length knowing with certainty no one would actually want to be in my presence if they saw me in all caps too many times. It’s exhausting when life is screaming at you all the time. Believe me.

I’ve finally reached a place, whether through the process of aging, being surrounded by the right people or divine intervention, where I feel less concerned about getting my anxiety on people. It’s part of me. A big, big part.

I try to be cool. I’m desperately not cool. I try to be calm. It doesn’t work. I try to be everything to everyone including myself. That never turns out well.

Some positive things about anxiety? I care a lot about everything. I will work really hard to make things the way I envision them. I am vulnerable. That’s terrifying but somehow it works as long as it doesn’t come out at the wrong time.

Lastly — I’m strong. It may not always appear that way, but I promise you when every second is as challenging as it is when you live with anxiety, you have to be tough to hold it all together.

What does a person with anxiety need? The same thing as everyone else only sometimes a little more.

It’s hard for me to ask for help of any kind. I worry it will be perceived as incompetence, weakness or laziness. It is in those moments of need I feel the insecurity and inadequacy that comes with anxiety. That little mean voice pops up inside my head — you know it, everyone has it — whispers, “Someone better than you could do this all by themselves. If you were really all you’re cracked up to be you could make this work. You should be able to do this all by yourself.

So in reaction to that mean little voice I know is full of shit, I still dig in. I become resolute to do everything all by myself. That makes me really tired. It’s not a good plan if your goal is longevity. I’m working on it.

Here’s the other thing about that though: Growing up as a kid struggling with anxiety and depression, I failed a lot. I never felt successful. Even when I did good things and never felt like it was enough to make up for all the places where I fell short. So now, even now, every opportunity to feel successful is one I relish and I cherish. It feels good to accomplish something. No matter how small. This doesn’t need to healthy or balanced behavior. I make people tired. I’ve been told that before, “Erin, you make me tired.” I think it was meant as a compliment. I tried to take it that way.

It’s hard to find people who accept and respect you even in the face of life in all caps. I don’t expect a lot from most people. I’m sensitive and it’s hard to let people in when you walk around with no skin. But when I find a person or people who understand, who get me, who don’t mind all of the nuttiness — I make sure to keep them in my life.

The older I get, surprisingly, the easier it is for me to let people in. Only a little easier — I still don’t invite people into a messy house which is why I rarely have people over… it’s always a messy house. I’ll happily meet for dinner, drinks, coffee or whatever. I have good friends — way more than I thought I’d ever have — and I love them. I’m learning to let them love me back. It’s really hard.

The movement of speaking out about mental health issues is growing. We are teaching the world it’s just fine to be sensitive, anxious and “weird.” Our diagnoses, no matter how severe, do not define or limit our capacity for greatness, achievement or love.

Remember It Runs in the Family – and we are all family.

Much love,

Erin xo

Follow this journey on It Runs in the Family.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 3, 2016
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