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I Have Anxiety. I Am Lucky. That Doesn't Make It Any Easier.

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I am lucky.

My job allows me a sanctuary so that when things get bad for me, I can take time to gather my thoughts. My job allows me to leave on paid sick time if I’m having a bad mental health day. My job has a lot of understanding employees who are there for me when my anxiety is at its worst. I can get up and walk away as needed. I have a comfortable income. I have a truly incredible teenager. I have a husband who cares. I have friends who understand and allow me to bail on things last minute. I have parents who act as psychologists to me when I’m having a bad day.

I am lucky.

Despite the fact that I feel the need to run to urgent care right now and make sure the knot in my neck isn’t cancer. When I stand up and feel like the world tilted and forgot to tell gravity. I’ll remain silent to the rest of the world and continue to pretend that this panic attack never truly happened, because someone like me, someone with my successes in life, has nothing to ‘feel anxious about,’ has no reason to write a blog about how hard life is with mental illness, because what do I know about suffering when I get to do it in a much more comfortable position than everyone else?

I am lucky.

But, it’s still not easy to cope with anxiety and what it does to me. I still have heart palpitations and ice cold dread in the pit of my stomach. I still feel the acid churning away and little pinpricks of fear as it dances along my spine and makes my hands numb and my shoulders tense. I still look at the world through a fishbowl lens and lean backwards against walls because I’m dizzy and I don’t want to hit my head if I faint. I still have hands wrapped around my neck that make me believe I’m being asphyxiated by an invisible force. I still clench my teeth and feel the nerves along my jaw tighten and pulse in my head. I still take deep breaths and hope that I don’t hyperventilate because I get stuck in this strange vortex of deep breathing, fast breathing, slow breathing, shallow breathing.

When I’m in the middle of this panic attack I simply can’t regulate what my lungs are doing and what my heart is doing and what my vision is doing and what my muscles are doing and what my nerves are doing because it’s all so damn much to focus on and all I can do is shout my thoughts that everything “please, please, just stop, just stop for one second and let me catch my breath.”

I am lucky.

But, I don’t want high-functioning people to feel as though they’re alone, that their suffering doesn’t matter simply because they appear to be the opposite of how they feel inside. Knowing that somewhere out there someone else is nodding along and thankful there is someone who understands, that it’s not about what you appear to be to the rest of the world, but what you’re feeling and what your thoughts are shouting at you, as if they’re speakers at an amphitheater while everyone around you is screaming that you’re OK because you’re successful.

I am lucky, but high-functioning anxiety is not easier.

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Getty image via brickrena

Originally published: June 29, 2018
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