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The Loneliness That Comes With Anxiety

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Imagine standing on a crowded street in Times Square. All around you, lights flash, car horns blare, street performers call out to tourists. You stand, feet glued to the pavement, as streams of people bustle around you, jostling you, yelling at you to move. But you can’t move. The sounds and lights and movement enclose you, the stimulation causes you to freeze. You can focus on nothing but your Converse shoes that are cemented to the pavement, wishing all of the chaos would turn to frozen silence. This is anxiety, back again.

All the while, you are surrounded by people. You feel them all around you, brushing by as they hurry on their way. When you look up, some smile, some wave, some might ask if you’re lost. But you can’t smile back, you can’t wave back, you can’t say, “Yes, I am lost. I am lost beneath an ocean. I am lost in the crashing waves of anxiety.” You are frozen, unable to ask for help, completely alone.

The loneliness feels like a weight pressing upon you. Instead of standing on a street corner in Times Square, you are being crushed by the gargantuan pressure of the ocean. The loneliness drags you down to the bottom of the deep blue water, a sandy bed. Sometimes you stare at the ocean floor and wonder if maybe it would be better to lay down and bury yourself under the sand, say goodnight to the world.

The thing about the loneliness that comes with anxiety is that you can be surrounded by people, standing on that street corner in Times Square, and still feel like you are the only person on the planet. Anxiety clouds your vision. The saltwater seeps into your eyes and makes the world a blurry blue, a sad blue, a lonely blue. Ocean blue. Beneath the surface of the water, you hear the world as if from behind a glass wall, the sounds muffled and distant. The silence magnifies.

You stare out at the chaos of Times Square, the distorted shapes of rushing pedestrians and honking taxis, and wonder if they know about the chaos taking place in your mind. You wonder if they can feel the turmoil radiating off you as they bustle passed, if they can hear the crashing waves inside your mind. But you know they can’t. You know that all they see is an immobile figure on the corner of a crowded street in Times Square. The only thing they wonder is why you are standing there frozen, why you aren’t speeding along with the flow of the crowd.

In the middle of Times Square, you have been overcome by a wave of anxiety that you cannot control. This has happened before and it will happen again. You are well acquainted with your pounding heart and pulsing veins. You are well acquainted with the ocean that pulls you beneath its surface. Most of all, you are well acquainted with the loneliness. The loneliness that comes from the feeling of hopeless that grips you as anxiety pulls you beneath the waves, as you struggle to keep your head above the surface. The saltwater floods your lungs and you cannot scream for help. Fear is in your veins. You are immobilized, unable to tell anyone about the chaos ripping through your mind. You worry that they will not understand, that they will not want to save you, that they will leave you to drown, and so you stay silent – you allow the waves to drag you into the riptide of loneliness.

You are not alone.

You are not the only one who has frozen in the middle of Times Square, forced to fight an ocean of anxiety. The waves will be rough as they crash around you, the current will be strong as it tries to pull you under, your eyes will sting with the saltwater that clings to your lashes, and you may feel like you can’t hold on any longer. But you can. And maybe knowing you are not alone will make the holding on a little easier.

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Pixabay photo via masterbee3

Originally published: June 17, 2017
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