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The 3 Words That Make All the Difference When I'm Struggling With Anxiety

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“Hey, what’s up?”

Sometimes, these words can be all I need to hear to make my day. Other times, my heart will start pumping as if something has gone terribly wrong, as if the end of the world is approaching

This is part of my daily battle with anxiety. 

As someone who’s always struggled with “high-functioning” anxiety, I have learned to cope over time. Taking a second to breathe can sometimes be all I need to get through a tough day. Other times, I need to run away and hide so I don’t have to deal with anything that will make me shake with fear.

Simple tasks like going to a party with my friends can literally drive me into a state of worry that would probably scare most people. I can shake, cry and panic before I leave my house, but as soon as I leave and face the fear of going, I find myself asking why I got into such a state before I left. Sometimes, all I need is a bit of confidence and I can quench my fear, other times I need more support. In ideal situations I don’t panic, but unfortunately this can be far from my reality.

Halloween, funnily enough, is the time of year I feel most comfortable; my mask of being “a normal girl” is finally acceptable to everyone else who is dressing up as something for fun. I often feel like I don’t need a costume as I feel like I’m constantly pretending to be something else, hideing a huge part of who I am. My inner thoughts and my exterior actions often portray two completely different emotional states, a trait that is commonly seen in those who deal with “high-functioning” anxiety.

The strangest thing is, most people don’t know I struggle with this. From the outside, I seem friendly and at times, I can be quite a humorous young woman. I appear organized, I’m always on time and I try to be on top of my workload. I feel I am a person someone one may call a “perfectionist.” I rarely open up and keep my anxiety at bay, but when it pounces, an alter ego, who quite frankly scares me, can appear. Some of my best friends haven’t the slightest notion what I’m going through, I feel my family don’t really understand. “Don’t worry,” they say. “It’ll all be fine.”

“Don’t worry” is, in my opinion, one of the worst phases for someone with anxiety to hear. We don’t worry in a way other people do; it’s not something we’re able to control. If I could change one thing about myself, it would be having the ability to control my mind going off on tangents on the simplest of things.

Is my hair OK? Do I look OK? Oh God, they’re talking about me; no wonder nobody likes me. No wonder everybody leaves me. Oh God, they’re looking at you, definitely talking about you. Your grades aren’t good; why don’t you work harder? Why did I even bother coming today, no one would notice if I didn’t come.

All of these thoughts aren’t baed in truth. They may sound petty or like I’m attention-seeking, but in my case, this is the last thing they are. I just don’t like asking for help. I am not comfortable with the concept of somebody else having to look out for me, but sometimes this is all I need. I am too scared of judgment, too afraid of being left alone, too afraid of losing that support system before I confide in the first place.

In the times when I lose control, it can last months. I could be fine one minute, but end up in tears the next. When I get this low, there is one phrase that can help me get back on my feet.

Three words. Eight letters.

I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not about to go all Chuck Bass on you.

“Are you OK?”

This simple phrase has honestly saved me at times. That feeling that someone is looking out for you can make a day in despair turn into that day of relief you’ve been waiting for. Sometimes all one needs is a prompt to let everything out. Letting someone know how you’re feeling can literally be a life changer. From my own experiences with loved ones and friends, I have learned a lot about my anxiety and as much as I hate talking about it, it really is the best thing you can do. No one will know exactly how you’re feeling unless you open up, even if it seems like the scariest thing you could possibly ever do.

In turn, if you noticed you haven’t heard from a close friend or family member in a while, please check in with them. Asking the simplest things can really allow a person with anxiety (or any mental health battle) to feel like they’re appreciated and cared about. Having support is so important for those with anxiety, the smallest of gestures can really be a game changer, no matter how minuscule it may seem.

To those who struggle, know you’re not alone. You may feel other people may not understand, that it’s not that serious as other conditions, or that no one will notice, that you’re better off keeping everything in. Trust me: I’ve learned the hard way that avoiding your emotions is the easy way out of this one. The sooner you deal with your thoughts and begin to think more rationally, the sooner you will be able to live a somewhat “normal” life. I still get those moments of irrational fear, but after I talk about it, I can control it for the most part. If I need to let it out, I let it out in an appropriate manner. By writing, talking, meditation or therapy, whatever works for you, keep doing it. Beginning this journey, no matter how long it takes, will be the best thing you will ever do. I promise.

If there is one thing in this world you can be truly selfish about, it’s your mental health. Treat yourself when you need to, go outside and get some fresh air, don’t limit what you can be because your mind is telling you otherwise. That thought in the back of your mind might still be there, but try your best to block them out. I know how hard it is and my words may just seem like another person who doesn’t understand, but changing my thought pattern is one of the biggest accomplishments I have ever achieved. The hardest part is actually taking that leap into the unknown and trusting yourself for the first time. Once you begin, with patience and time it’ll all get easier. Even doing the simplest things like answering your phone to unknown numbers, or just even going for a walk instead of watching another episode on Netflix can make your head settle a little bit. It won’t be easy, but you’ll get there eventually. The process can be difficult, but the outcome is worth the wait.

Be brave kids, the fight won’t go on forever; the sooner you face the battle, the sooner it’ll end. At the end of every dreary storm, there’s a rainbow full of color waiting for you.

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: December 7, 2016
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