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To the Person Who's a Master at Hiding Your Anxiety

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I see you. I see you sitting there, with a desperate plea in your eyes that touches my heart so deeply you couldn’t begin to understand.

You smile sweetly. Others are blissfully unaware. You are a master of covering up the way you feel. You use situations within your control to hide the deep fears that bubble away underneath your strong exterior.

But I see you. I see your pain. I understand the questioning. I know your heartbreak. I see it because I see myself in you.

I see the constant internal battle between holding it together and crumbling apart.

I see the way your eyes used to sparkle, but somehow, that lightness has begun to dim. You wonder if you will ever shine again.

I see the subtle changes in your face. I see how beautiful you are, but how your own belief in that has faded away and how, when you look in the mirror you simply see a strained and anxious face.

I see the tension in your body. The subtle postural changes that tell me you are protecting your heart from further pain and anguish.

I see how you find it hard to look at yourself without experiencing disappointment and frustration at what your mind and body presents to you.

I see the guilt. I see how you feel you have let down people you love. I see that you believe you are not entitled to feel this way.

I see that you are compassionate, loving and so beautifully kind that you believe your feelings are irrelevant compared to another person’s pain.

I see that you are strong. I see that you are worthy. I see that you are capable of the most incredible things.

I don’t see you as your anxiety. I don’t see you as your worries. I don’t see you as your quirks and concerns.

I see you.

You see, anxiety doesn’t have a “look,” a “type,” or a visible “symptom.” It hides itself away so deeply that even you sometimes think it isn’t there. This means people don’t see your battle or see your pain. It makes it hard for others to understand, to empathize and to acknowledge how you feel.

I see you though.

Anxiety makes you feel like you have to be strong, even when you can’t be. It makes you believe you will be an inconvenience to others if you show your worries, like you can’t let anyone else see beneath the outer surface.

I see you though.

Anxiety makes you feel as though you are at fault, and if you ask for help, then others will think you are being weak and dramatic. It makes you feel like your problems are insignificant compared to the wider problems in the world. It makes you hide yourself away for fear of burdening others with your pain.

I see you though.

Anxiety makes you feel like you are not you anymore. That you have lost the person who once let their inhibitions run wild, purely for the sake of fun. That you are no longer the person who can let their hair down and not worry about the consequences. That you are no longer the person who was loved by all their friends and family. You want to be that person, but sometimes it is just too damn hard and too damn exhausting to pretend all the time. Sometimes, it is simpler to be invisible.

I see you though.

Anxiety makes you desperate to hide, yet desperate to be seen. A beautiful contradiction of emotions that lead you to almost creating an alter ego for yourself. The self who sees glimmers of “letting go” and embracing spontaneity and freedom versus the self who can’t speak to people, can’t eat in front of people and can’t even breathe around other people.

I see you though.

There are moments when you feel like you again, and you cling so hard to those situations that they so quickly slip out of your grasp, only to remember the feeling in your stomach, the ache in your muscles, the lump in your throat, the sting of tears in your eyes as you hold them back again, again and again. Then, you feel despondent, removed, heart broken that maybe it wasn’t really you at all.

I still see you.

When your heart pounds in your chest, when your mouth feels dry, when your breathing is short and your head is spinning, yet you still manage to hide it from the outside world. You manage to keep anxiety invisible to everyone but you.

I still see you.

That feeling of being torn between wanting to retreat and wanting to scream for help. Wanting to tell someone how you feel but being too terrified to say it out loud. Wanting someone to hug you but never daring to ask for it.

I still see you.

Anxiety is invisible to a lot of people, but not to me. For that, I am eternally grateful. I feel honored to see you. I feel lucky to be able to see through the outer shell. Through the wall you have built up. Through the strength. Through your own prison bars.

I see you.

You see me.

Words are not needed. Interaction is not required. I see you in front of me, and it only takes a glance to know that to each other, we are no longer invisible.

I will always be able to see you. Not anxiety, not worry, not stress, not discomfort. You.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 3, 2016
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