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When the Fear of Anxiety Comes From 'What Ifs'

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Fear and worry are a constant state of mind, and they are real to me. Even if there is no imminent threat before me, my brain interprets stimuli as danger. If my girlfriend goes out to the store, sometimes I worry about her getting into a car accident or being harmed by another person. One time I was speaking on the phone with my girlfriend, and the call suddenly dropped. I tried calling her back, and her phone went to voicemail. I text, called again and again, and she didn’t call nor text me back.

I remember thinking, “I didn’t do anything wrong. So she can’t be upset with me. But what if she is? I don’t understand what I did. She seemed fine just a minute ago. If she had to take another call she would have let me know.” Then, the anxiety began. “What if she got into a car accident? Oh my. What if she’s hurt?” My heart was racing. My hands were tingling. My chest was tight. I opened my laptop after about a minute of pacing and pulled up the California Highway Patrol website, looking for any reports or alerts of recent accidents. I grabbed my car keys with the intention of driving through the route she takes home to see if I can spot her car. She then texted me back a few minutes later saying, “Sorry, my phone died!” The anxiety subsided.

This is only one instance of the anxiety I encounter daily. Often anxiety pumps thoughts into my mind that wreak havoc and put me in a state of fear. I fixate on many “what if” questions, and I grow anxious from being afraid and worried. My fears and worries take many forms, and they are often not a rational reflection of reality.

The trigger can be an uncomfortable situation, the tone of voice someone used to say something, or just the multitude of “what ifs” that flood my mind, just like when I thought my girlfriend was harmed when the phone call dropped. I fear what others think of me. I fear I am doing something wrong. I fear come off as a mean or an antisocial person. I fear I am not good enough. I fear I am a burden to people. I fear others think I am weird. I fear my girlfriend doesn’t love me. I fear maybe she’s too good for me. I fear my friends don’t care and so on. These thoughts wear me down, and sometimes I give in.

Consequently, my life is often in a state of tempestuous turmoil, and some days I just want to sit and cry. Most often, I am irritable as a result of bottling everything up and turning inward. I do not share my experience because I fear no one will understand, I will be judged or pushed away. Some days are better than others, but often I am drained from the constant state of stress and fear my body is in.

The worst part is my battle is silent. It is hidden. And because of this, it can be difficult for others to understand I walk around fighting an invisible battle. No one can see it, not even me. I can only feel it. I can’t just point it out like a cut on my knee and say, “Here. Look. This is what’s wrong, and here is how I can fix it.” This frustrates me and increases my anxiety because I cannot immediately explain to everyone I meet I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), whilst laying out my entire personality and explaining my battle in a way they would understand.

I do have good days, and a large part of that comes from having someone who fights alongside me. My support has been my girlfriend. She tells me she’s there for me, that she loves me and the anxiety does not make up who I am. She gives me the support and love I need to form a base that can fight against the anxious thoughts. When they do arrive, I have ammunition for the battle.

On good days, I get to do what most people do: play my instrument, read, exercise, write, tell jokes, pick on my younger sister, go on dates with my girlfriend, go to theme parks, cook and hold two steady jobs, while performing academically well at my university. My experience does not always seem fair, but the grace, love and patience I have received from others around me have been monumental in helping me get through each day. I think everyone can benefit from a little grace, love and patience. To all those out there struggling with the same battle, or any battle for that matter, you are not alone. You can win.

Originally published: July 23, 2016
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