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When Anxiety Feels Like a Flimsy Umbrella in a Rainstorm

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Sometimes when I get out of work, look outside, and see that’s it’s raining, I think to myself “It’s a good thing I brought an umbrella!” Then I get outside, open it up, and start to walk. I feel protected. I feel safe. Nothing can go wrong. I’m so smart. Look at all these people who didn’t check the weather. Good thing I’m ahead of the game. And then the wind blows or the rain gets a little heavier and my umbrella starts to wobble, flips inside out, and ultimately becomes completely useless. That’s what anxiety is.

Anxiety is sneaky and unexpected and honestly? A nuisance. Sometimes people tell me to calm down or take a deep breath. Do you know how helpful that is? It’s the same as the stranger on the street who tells me I “should really get a new umbrella.” Thanks for the advice, but that’s really not what I need to hear right now.

How is anxiety sneaky and unexpected? You don’t buy an umbrella with the hope that it’s going to be too flimsy. I don’t wake up in the morning hoping to have an anxiety attack. I don’t go around and seek out certain words or situations I know will give me anxiety. Sometimes the rain gets a little too heavy. Sometimes life is a little too hard.

People might think that anxiety isn’t the umbrella, anxiety is the heavy rain I never could have predicted. It’s the wind that likes to start a fight. But that’s not anxiety. That’s life. There are days that start off good. I don’t have to shake away my thoughts or focus hard on something to ease the tension in my soul. It’s a rain that my umbrella can handle. But sometimes when my car is first in the line and I’m at a red light, I wonder what would happen if the light fell. There are times when I’m home and I hear a noise outside and immediately think someone is breaking in. Sometimes I’m walking through the city and see the crowd of people and I’m simply overwhelmed by how many people exist. I don’t plan for these thoughts, fears and what ifs to happen. I have as much control over them as I do the weather.

When these thoughts might occur to other people, they have a stronger umbrella to protect them. They have a raincoat and boots to keep them dry. I’m wearing sandals and a white dress and my umbrella just ripped.

Anxiety is having days when that umbrella is enough, so why get rid of it? Anxiety is wishing I could buy a new one but the umbrella store is closed. Anxiety makes you get a little wet in the rain.

It’s hard to walk around and see the people who are dry and smiling. It makes you want to yell or cry or both. But there’s more than one flimsy umbrella out there. That doesn’t make it OK, but it makes it a little easier to know that you aren’t the only one struggling with the storm. And when you have anxiety, a little easier can be more than enough.

Originally published: July 5, 2016
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