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My Anxiety Makes It Hard for Me to 'Take Up Space'

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The hardest part of dealing with my anxiety is the fear it has created within me. I had always been a confident girl and an outspoken one despite any self-doubt I had about myself. I was always able to work through nerves or discomfort and be who I was. However as the years have gone by, I have let that fear take more and more control of my life.

It comes in waves until it’s crashing the shore and all that’s left is the ocean and I feel like I’m drowning. It’s like an electricity that runs through my body and tightens all my muscles. It leaves me immobilized even in the brightest of moments and that is the hardest thing to deal with. My anxiety comes without reason or cause. It just appears and begs to be noticed, and I always notice. The trouble comes not from the feeling, but from everything afterwards. I can feel afraid all the time, but I cannot let that fear control me.

I find myself at parties or in the company of close friends and feeling like a shock-wave is running through me. It’s a nervous electricity I can’t shake and it makes me fearful of being myself. I used to be able to be with my friends and be there fully. To talk, to laugh, to engage in games, to drink and any other social conventions you can think of. But lately, I can’t escape the waves. I find myself feeling so hyper-visible. Like every movement or word I say and do is on display, and this kills who I am. Because suddenly I am not a person anymore — I am a collection of shocks, nervousness and fear. I am unable to be with my friends because I am so in my head. I am so conscious of my body, of my thoughts and of myself. That consciousness is a result of the fear. So I do not struggle with the fear that comes with my anxiety, I struggle with the hyper-awareness it results in.

Dealing with hyper-awareness is one of the greatest struggles that comes with my anxiety. It turns my days into a calculation of actions. I do not go and see friends and think: “I am so excited to just hang out and be here.” When I see my friends it is a collection of questions and modification. I find myself thinking, “Well do they really want me here?” “How can I take up the least amount of space?” “Should I leave early?” “Should I maybe talk less?” “Should I maybe talk more?” “Should I drink, or would that just be a disaster?” It’s the constant state of consideration of my being. I do not think in terms of engagement and fun, I think in terms of taking up the least amount of space.

I was becoming someone I was not. I was losing the possibilities of myself, and of the things I loved in my pursuit to take as little space in this world. I put myself as a backup to the consideration of others. Not that others ever felt I took too much space. It was fear that pushed me to become smaller and smaller until there is was only a speck of my former self left.

Trying to regain control is a battle. But it is a battle I am excited to take. I pushed myself to find ways to become myself again. I pushed past fear and tried to face things. I started by rediscovering my hobbies to give myself a sense of self again. I put pen to paper and began writing, and I put words to actions and forced myself to be with friends. None of this was easy, or even desirable. I found that I had to play the part of someone who wanted to get better, in order to get better. It’s still a battle, but it’s one I won’t let fear control.

Getty Images photo via Grandfailure

Originally published: March 1, 2018
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