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When a Friend Said 'Everyone Nowadays Has Anxiety'

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My mind kept telling me, “Turn around, just go home.”

As I was on my way to my local pharmacy, I began to experience severe anxiety. Why? I have done this drive so many times with no issues. I wanted so desperately to just go back home and let the anxiety win, but I couldn’t; I needed to make sure I had my medications (for my anxiety and depression) so I wouldn’t slip into a slump and make everything worse.

It may seem to make no sense why I was being consumed by anxiety — but sometimes it creeps in from nowhere. Then I began thinking of a conversation I had with friends a few days ago. During the conversation, we were on the topic of my depression and anxiety when one friend began to talk about her theory that all the hormones that are in meat are affecting us in many negative ways. I am sure this has some truth to it, I don’t disagree. But then she followed up with “Everyone nowadays has anxiety.”

That statement frustrated me, but above everything — it hurt. It felt as though my anxiety disorder was being diminished or invalidated. I explained while many people can deal with feelings of nervousness or being anxious in some situations or life in general, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have anxiety. Just as bouts of feeling depressed do not necessarily mean you have depression.

I am not diminishing anyone’s struggles. Rather, I want others to understand this disorder affects my life every day, making it almost impossible to do day-to-day tasks. Anxiety affects everyone differently and can vary in severity.

I battle generalized anxiety disorder as well as social anxiety. What do these look like, or how do they differ from feeling anxious or being shy? Again, it is different for everyone, but for many, they can be crippling disorders that often confine you in your house because you feel like anything and everything bad that could happen will happen.

It can be avoiding groups of people, fearing they are judging and criticizing every single thing you do or say.

It can be putting off an important phone call because you’re not sure what to say.

It can be rehearsing what you will say a million times over, fearing you will sound silly.

It can be staying in bed because you are so exhausted from worrying — then having more anxiety because there is so much you need to get up and do.

It can be going through the self-checkout at the grocery store so you don’t have to talk to the cashier.

It can be a constant battle of “what ifs” in every situation.

It can be constant racing thoughts.

It can be dissociating as a coping method because everything becomes too much for you.

It can be hospitalizations, suicidal ideations and possibly attempts.

It can be physical pain, tightness in your chest, your airways constricted, fidgeting and shaking, and feeling nauseated.

And so much more.

Perhaps this will help some to understand that anxiety is not a passing feeling in uncomfortable situations, but that it is a disorder that can affect every aspect of our lives and often does so every single day.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: November 17, 2016
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