Sam Kenney

@sammkenn | contributor
I have dealt with anxiety since I was very young, but I didn’t truly understand what it was until a few years ago. I want to help others who are struggling to know that they are not alone.
Sam Kenney

I Trust You, But My Anxiety Doesn't

Tonight, you left. Tonight, I could barely choke out the words, “I love you,” even though all I could think about was how much I would regret not saying it if I never saw you again. Tonight, I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, putting all of my strength into not letting the tears fall. For you, it’s a simple night out with your buddies…talking, drinking, laughing. It’s nothing. For me, it hours upon hours of agonizing over every possible thing that could happen. Thinking of a worst-case scenario, only to have my mind one-up itself and come up with something even more horrendous. In the 10 seconds it takes to hug and kiss you goodbye, hundreds of terrifying scenes flash through my mind. Each more awful than the first. I want to tell you to stay. That I’m scared. That I can’t handle this. But I don’t want to ruin your night. I don’t want to be “that girl.” So I clench my jaw until my head starts to throb. I tense every muscle in my body. I say, “I love you,” so quietly I’m not even sure you hear it, and then I close the door and quickly run to the bathroom just incase you come back in; just incase you forgot your keys or your phone. The bathroom is safe. I can pretend everything is fine. I can hide the tears and say goodbye a little louder this time. Maybe if I don’t have to watch you leave, it’ll be easier. I wait to hear the door close again and then allow myself to sob…knowing I did the right thing. Knowing that, if I had asked you to stay or allowed you to see the pain I was in, I would regret it. But still hearing that nagging voice telling me that I just let you walk out and you may never come back. Transporting me to a future where I am alone, sobbing, remembering that our last words were through a bathroom door. I can feel the guilt. I knew something was going to go wrong. I should have stopped you. I want you to have fun. I want you to hang out with your friends without having to worry about me. So I text you, “Have fun babe :)” trying to seem completely unfazed. Hoping you’ll forget the image of me at the door, barely holding myself together. It seems like an innocent message, but I’m counting the seconds until you reply. With each one that passes, the scenarios in my mind get worse and worse. I want you to know that I trust you. Completely. With every fiber of my being. But I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help you understand how deceiving anxiety can be. And, unfortunately, my anxiety does not trust you. It tells me that you’re tired of me. That I’m too much. That I’m not enough. That you’re just with me until you can find better, prettier, smarter. And because that’s not enough, it also tells me that you didn’t even make it to your destination. It shows me a scene I’ve seen too many times before. Two cars, mangled together; so destroyed you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. You survived the crash, but you’re alone, clinging to life. By the time anyone gets there to help, it will be too late. And it will be my fault. My phone vibrates beside me and I jump, grabbing it as quickly as I can when I see your name. I read, “Thanks babe,” and my heart both leaps and drops. I’m so thankful to know that you’re safe, but a small part of me was hoping to see that you changed your plans and were going to come back home to me. Once I know you made it safely, I should be able to breathe a little easier. But anxiety doesn’t let me go that easily. This time, it takes me to the club you’re at. I see you with your friends, laughing, carefree. And then I hear the gunshot. It’s so loud in here no one can really tell what it was. And then it happens again. This time, everyone hears it. There’s panic and in a split-second everything changes. There are screams, glasses shattering on the floor, people running for the exit. I want to leave, to wake up from this nightmare. But anxiety is a sadist. It enjoys my pain. So it keeps me there, just long enough to see the love of my life shot right before my eyes. And then, just as quickly, I’m back in our living room. I don’t know when I started crying, but I quickly wipe the tears away, telling myself how silly I’m being. I’m not writing this because I want you to stay home. I’m not trying to manipulate you or make you pity me. I just need you to know that next time you’re leaving and you can’t hear the “I love you” that I whisper before quickly disappearing, it’s not because I’m mad or upset that you’re going. I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. But I’m hoping you may understand a little better now the battle that I’m fighting while you’re gone. I need you to know that it’s not about you. It’s not about fidelity. It’s not even about trust. The “what ifs” that anxiety whispers, or sometime screams, into my ear are in no way caused or affected by you. There’s nothing you can do “better.” There’s nothing you can change. And as much as I know it hurts you to hear, there’s nothing you can do to help. Whether you go out or not, anxiety will find a way to torture me. Because that’s what it does. It’s a monster. It’s persistent and it always finds a way. I am fighting a war in my mind every single day. The real me trusts you completely. But the voice in my mind doesn’t. It tells me that you’re with someone else. That you never really loved me. That you’re going to drink and drive or allow your friends to. It doesn’t trust me either. Every time I get behind the wheel, it tells me that I’m going to crash or kill someone. It tells me that I can’t do anything right. That I’m going to hurt one of my clients, give them the wrong medication, or lock up the building with one of them still inside. If I could block it out, I would. If I could reason with it, I would. Hell, if I could even just lower the volume, I would. But anxiety can’t be controlled by mere wishful thinking. So, while I try to get a handle on it the only ways I know how, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you don’t understand, and I would never expect you to. But I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you try. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Sam Kenney

I Trust You, But My Anxiety Doesn't

Tonight, you left. Tonight, I could barely choke out the words, “I love you,” even though all I could think about was how much I would regret not saying it if I never saw you again. Tonight, I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, putting all of my strength into not letting the tears fall. For you, it’s a simple night out with your buddies…talking, drinking, laughing. It’s nothing. For me, it hours upon hours of agonizing over every possible thing that could happen. Thinking of a worst-case scenario, only to have my mind one-up itself and come up with something even more horrendous. In the 10 seconds it takes to hug and kiss you goodbye, hundreds of terrifying scenes flash through my mind. Each more awful than the first. I want to tell you to stay. That I’m scared. That I can’t handle this. But I don’t want to ruin your night. I don’t want to be “that girl.” So I clench my jaw until my head starts to throb. I tense every muscle in my body. I say, “I love you,” so quietly I’m not even sure you hear it, and then I close the door and quickly run to the bathroom just incase you come back in; just incase you forgot your keys or your phone. The bathroom is safe. I can pretend everything is fine. I can hide the tears and say goodbye a little louder this time. Maybe if I don’t have to watch you leave, it’ll be easier. I wait to hear the door close again and then allow myself to sob…knowing I did the right thing. Knowing that, if I had asked you to stay or allowed you to see the pain I was in, I would regret it. But still hearing that nagging voice telling me that I just let you walk out and you may never come back. Transporting me to a future where I am alone, sobbing, remembering that our last words were through a bathroom door. I can feel the guilt. I knew something was going to go wrong. I should have stopped you. I want you to have fun. I want you to hang out with your friends without having to worry about me. So I text you, “Have fun babe :)” trying to seem completely unfazed. Hoping you’ll forget the image of me at the door, barely holding myself together. It seems like an innocent message, but I’m counting the seconds until you reply. With each one that passes, the scenarios in my mind get worse and worse. I want you to know that I trust you. Completely. With every fiber of my being. But I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help you understand how deceiving anxiety can be. And, unfortunately, my anxiety does not trust you. It tells me that you’re tired of me. That I’m too much. That I’m not enough. That you’re just with me until you can find better, prettier, smarter. And because that’s not enough, it also tells me that you didn’t even make it to your destination. It shows me a scene I’ve seen too many times before. Two cars, mangled together; so destroyed you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. You survived the crash, but you’re alone, clinging to life. By the time anyone gets there to help, it will be too late. And it will be my fault. My phone vibrates beside me and I jump, grabbing it as quickly as I can when I see your name. I read, “Thanks babe,” and my heart both leaps and drops. I’m so thankful to know that you’re safe, but a small part of me was hoping to see that you changed your plans and were going to come back home to me. Once I know you made it safely, I should be able to breathe a little easier. But anxiety doesn’t let me go that easily. This time, it takes me to the club you’re at. I see you with your friends, laughing, carefree. And then I hear the gunshot. It’s so loud in here no one can really tell what it was. And then it happens again. This time, everyone hears it. There’s panic and in a split-second everything changes. There are screams, glasses shattering on the floor, people running for the exit. I want to leave, to wake up from this nightmare. But anxiety is a sadist. It enjoys my pain. So it keeps me there, just long enough to see the love of my life shot right before my eyes. And then, just as quickly, I’m back in our living room. I don’t know when I started crying, but I quickly wipe the tears away, telling myself how silly I’m being. I’m not writing this because I want you to stay home. I’m not trying to manipulate you or make you pity me. I just need you to know that next time you’re leaving and you can’t hear the “I love you” that I whisper before quickly disappearing, it’s not because I’m mad or upset that you’re going. I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. But I’m hoping you may understand a little better now the battle that I’m fighting while you’re gone. I need you to know that it’s not about you. It’s not about fidelity. It’s not even about trust. The “what ifs” that anxiety whispers, or sometime screams, into my ear are in no way caused or affected by you. There’s nothing you can do “better.” There’s nothing you can change. And as much as I know it hurts you to hear, there’s nothing you can do to help. Whether you go out or not, anxiety will find a way to torture me. Because that’s what it does. It’s a monster. It’s persistent and it always finds a way. I am fighting a war in my mind every single day. The real me trusts you completely. But the voice in my mind doesn’t. It tells me that you’re with someone else. That you never really loved me. That you’re going to drink and drive or allow your friends to. It doesn’t trust me either. Every time I get behind the wheel, it tells me that I’m going to crash or kill someone. It tells me that I can’t do anything right. That I’m going to hurt one of my clients, give them the wrong medication, or lock up the building with one of them still inside. If I could block it out, I would. If I could reason with it, I would. Hell, if I could even just lower the volume, I would. But anxiety can’t be controlled by mere wishful thinking. So, while I try to get a handle on it the only ways I know how, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you don’t understand, and I would never expect you to. But I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you try. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Sam Kenney

I Trust You, But My Anxiety Doesn't

Tonight, you left. Tonight, I could barely choke out the words, “I love you,” even though all I could think about was how much I would regret not saying it if I never saw you again. Tonight, I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, putting all of my strength into not letting the tears fall. For you, it’s a simple night out with your buddies…talking, drinking, laughing. It’s nothing. For me, it hours upon hours of agonizing over every possible thing that could happen. Thinking of a worst-case scenario, only to have my mind one-up itself and come up with something even more horrendous. In the 10 seconds it takes to hug and kiss you goodbye, hundreds of terrifying scenes flash through my mind. Each more awful than the first. I want to tell you to stay. That I’m scared. That I can’t handle this. But I don’t want to ruin your night. I don’t want to be “that girl.” So I clench my jaw until my head starts to throb. I tense every muscle in my body. I say, “I love you,” so quietly I’m not even sure you hear it, and then I close the door and quickly run to the bathroom just incase you come back in; just incase you forgot your keys or your phone. The bathroom is safe. I can pretend everything is fine. I can hide the tears and say goodbye a little louder this time. Maybe if I don’t have to watch you leave, it’ll be easier. I wait to hear the door close again and then allow myself to sob…knowing I did the right thing. Knowing that, if I had asked you to stay or allowed you to see the pain I was in, I would regret it. But still hearing that nagging voice telling me that I just let you walk out and you may never come back. Transporting me to a future where I am alone, sobbing, remembering that our last words were through a bathroom door. I can feel the guilt. I knew something was going to go wrong. I should have stopped you. I want you to have fun. I want you to hang out with your friends without having to worry about me. So I text you, “Have fun babe :)” trying to seem completely unfazed. Hoping you’ll forget the image of me at the door, barely holding myself together. It seems like an innocent message, but I’m counting the seconds until you reply. With each one that passes, the scenarios in my mind get worse and worse. I want you to know that I trust you. Completely. With every fiber of my being. But I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help you understand how deceiving anxiety can be. And, unfortunately, my anxiety does not trust you. It tells me that you’re tired of me. That I’m too much. That I’m not enough. That you’re just with me until you can find better, prettier, smarter. And because that’s not enough, it also tells me that you didn’t even make it to your destination. It shows me a scene I’ve seen too many times before. Two cars, mangled together; so destroyed you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. You survived the crash, but you’re alone, clinging to life. By the time anyone gets there to help, it will be too late. And it will be my fault. My phone vibrates beside me and I jump, grabbing it as quickly as I can when I see your name. I read, “Thanks babe,” and my heart both leaps and drops. I’m so thankful to know that you’re safe, but a small part of me was hoping to see that you changed your plans and were going to come back home to me. Once I know you made it safely, I should be able to breathe a little easier. But anxiety doesn’t let me go that easily. This time, it takes me to the club you’re at. I see you with your friends, laughing, carefree. And then I hear the gunshot. It’s so loud in here no one can really tell what it was. And then it happens again. This time, everyone hears it. There’s panic and in a split-second everything changes. There are screams, glasses shattering on the floor, people running for the exit. I want to leave, to wake up from this nightmare. But anxiety is a sadist. It enjoys my pain. So it keeps me there, just long enough to see the love of my life shot right before my eyes. And then, just as quickly, I’m back in our living room. I don’t know when I started crying, but I quickly wipe the tears away, telling myself how silly I’m being. I’m not writing this because I want you to stay home. I’m not trying to manipulate you or make you pity me. I just need you to know that next time you’re leaving and you can’t hear the “I love you” that I whisper before quickly disappearing, it’s not because I’m mad or upset that you’re going. I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. But I’m hoping you may understand a little better now the battle that I’m fighting while you’re gone. I need you to know that it’s not about you. It’s not about fidelity. It’s not even about trust. The “what ifs” that anxiety whispers, or sometime screams, into my ear are in no way caused or affected by you. There’s nothing you can do “better.” There’s nothing you can change. And as much as I know it hurts you to hear, there’s nothing you can do to help. Whether you go out or not, anxiety will find a way to torture me. Because that’s what it does. It’s a monster. It’s persistent and it always finds a way. I am fighting a war in my mind every single day. The real me trusts you completely. But the voice in my mind doesn’t. It tells me that you’re with someone else. That you never really loved me. That you’re going to drink and drive or allow your friends to. It doesn’t trust me either. Every time I get behind the wheel, it tells me that I’m going to crash or kill someone. It tells me that I can’t do anything right. That I’m going to hurt one of my clients, give them the wrong medication, or lock up the building with one of them still inside. If I could block it out, I would. If I could reason with it, I would. Hell, if I could even just lower the volume, I would. But anxiety can’t be controlled by mere wishful thinking. So, while I try to get a handle on it the only ways I know how, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you don’t understand, and I would never expect you to. But I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you try. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Sam Kenney

I Trust You, But My Anxiety Doesn't

Tonight, you left. Tonight, I could barely choke out the words, “I love you,” even though all I could think about was how much I would regret not saying it if I never saw you again. Tonight, I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, putting all of my strength into not letting the tears fall. For you, it’s a simple night out with your buddies…talking, drinking, laughing. It’s nothing. For me, it hours upon hours of agonizing over every possible thing that could happen. Thinking of a worst-case scenario, only to have my mind one-up itself and come up with something even more horrendous. In the 10 seconds it takes to hug and kiss you goodbye, hundreds of terrifying scenes flash through my mind. Each more awful than the first. I want to tell you to stay. That I’m scared. That I can’t handle this. But I don’t want to ruin your night. I don’t want to be “that girl.” So I clench my jaw until my head starts to throb. I tense every muscle in my body. I say, “I love you,” so quietly I’m not even sure you hear it, and then I close the door and quickly run to the bathroom just incase you come back in; just incase you forgot your keys or your phone. The bathroom is safe. I can pretend everything is fine. I can hide the tears and say goodbye a little louder this time. Maybe if I don’t have to watch you leave, it’ll be easier. I wait to hear the door close again and then allow myself to sob…knowing I did the right thing. Knowing that, if I had asked you to stay or allowed you to see the pain I was in, I would regret it. But still hearing that nagging voice telling me that I just let you walk out and you may never come back. Transporting me to a future where I am alone, sobbing, remembering that our last words were through a bathroom door. I can feel the guilt. I knew something was going to go wrong. I should have stopped you. I want you to have fun. I want you to hang out with your friends without having to worry about me. So I text you, “Have fun babe :)” trying to seem completely unfazed. Hoping you’ll forget the image of me at the door, barely holding myself together. It seems like an innocent message, but I’m counting the seconds until you reply. With each one that passes, the scenarios in my mind get worse and worse. I want you to know that I trust you. Completely. With every fiber of my being. But I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help you understand how deceiving anxiety can be. And, unfortunately, my anxiety does not trust you. It tells me that you’re tired of me. That I’m too much. That I’m not enough. That you’re just with me until you can find better, prettier, smarter. And because that’s not enough, it also tells me that you didn’t even make it to your destination. It shows me a scene I’ve seen too many times before. Two cars, mangled together; so destroyed you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. You survived the crash, but you’re alone, clinging to life. By the time anyone gets there to help, it will be too late. And it will be my fault. My phone vibrates beside me and I jump, grabbing it as quickly as I can when I see your name. I read, “Thanks babe,” and my heart both leaps and drops. I’m so thankful to know that you’re safe, but a small part of me was hoping to see that you changed your plans and were going to come back home to me. Once I know you made it safely, I should be able to breathe a little easier. But anxiety doesn’t let me go that easily. This time, it takes me to the club you’re at. I see you with your friends, laughing, carefree. And then I hear the gunshot. It’s so loud in here no one can really tell what it was. And then it happens again. This time, everyone hears it. There’s panic and in a split-second everything changes. There are screams, glasses shattering on the floor, people running for the exit. I want to leave, to wake up from this nightmare. But anxiety is a sadist. It enjoys my pain. So it keeps me there, just long enough to see the love of my life shot right before my eyes. And then, just as quickly, I’m back in our living room. I don’t know when I started crying, but I quickly wipe the tears away, telling myself how silly I’m being. I’m not writing this because I want you to stay home. I’m not trying to manipulate you or make you pity me. I just need you to know that next time you’re leaving and you can’t hear the “I love you” that I whisper before quickly disappearing, it’s not because I’m mad or upset that you’re going. I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. But I’m hoping you may understand a little better now the battle that I’m fighting while you’re gone. I need you to know that it’s not about you. It’s not about fidelity. It’s not even about trust. The “what ifs” that anxiety whispers, or sometime screams, into my ear are in no way caused or affected by you. There’s nothing you can do “better.” There’s nothing you can change. And as much as I know it hurts you to hear, there’s nothing you can do to help. Whether you go out or not, anxiety will find a way to torture me. Because that’s what it does. It’s a monster. It’s persistent and it always finds a way. I am fighting a war in my mind every single day. The real me trusts you completely. But the voice in my mind doesn’t. It tells me that you’re with someone else. That you never really loved me. That you’re going to drink and drive or allow your friends to. It doesn’t trust me either. Every time I get behind the wheel, it tells me that I’m going to crash or kill someone. It tells me that I can’t do anything right. That I’m going to hurt one of my clients, give them the wrong medication, or lock up the building with one of them still inside. If I could block it out, I would. If I could reason with it, I would. Hell, if I could even just lower the volume, I would. But anxiety can’t be controlled by mere wishful thinking. So, while I try to get a handle on it the only ways I know how, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you don’t understand, and I would never expect you to. But I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you try. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Sam Kenney

I Trust You, But My Anxiety Doesn't

Tonight, you left. Tonight, I could barely choke out the words, “I love you,” even though all I could think about was how much I would regret not saying it if I never saw you again. Tonight, I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, putting all of my strength into not letting the tears fall. For you, it’s a simple night out with your buddies…talking, drinking, laughing. It’s nothing. For me, it hours upon hours of agonizing over every possible thing that could happen. Thinking of a worst-case scenario, only to have my mind one-up itself and come up with something even more horrendous. In the 10 seconds it takes to hug and kiss you goodbye, hundreds of terrifying scenes flash through my mind. Each more awful than the first. I want to tell you to stay. That I’m scared. That I can’t handle this. But I don’t want to ruin your night. I don’t want to be “that girl.” So I clench my jaw until my head starts to throb. I tense every muscle in my body. I say, “I love you,” so quietly I’m not even sure you hear it, and then I close the door and quickly run to the bathroom just incase you come back in; just incase you forgot your keys or your phone. The bathroom is safe. I can pretend everything is fine. I can hide the tears and say goodbye a little louder this time. Maybe if I don’t have to watch you leave, it’ll be easier. I wait to hear the door close again and then allow myself to sob…knowing I did the right thing. Knowing that, if I had asked you to stay or allowed you to see the pain I was in, I would regret it. But still hearing that nagging voice telling me that I just let you walk out and you may never come back. Transporting me to a future where I am alone, sobbing, remembering that our last words were through a bathroom door. I can feel the guilt. I knew something was going to go wrong. I should have stopped you. I want you to have fun. I want you to hang out with your friends without having to worry about me. So I text you, “Have fun babe :)” trying to seem completely unfazed. Hoping you’ll forget the image of me at the door, barely holding myself together. It seems like an innocent message, but I’m counting the seconds until you reply. With each one that passes, the scenarios in my mind get worse and worse. I want you to know that I trust you. Completely. With every fiber of my being. But I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help you understand how deceiving anxiety can be. And, unfortunately, my anxiety does not trust you. It tells me that you’re tired of me. That I’m too much. That I’m not enough. That you’re just with me until you can find better, prettier, smarter. And because that’s not enough, it also tells me that you didn’t even make it to your destination. It shows me a scene I’ve seen too many times before. Two cars, mangled together; so destroyed you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. You survived the crash, but you’re alone, clinging to life. By the time anyone gets there to help, it will be too late. And it will be my fault. My phone vibrates beside me and I jump, grabbing it as quickly as I can when I see your name. I read, “Thanks babe,” and my heart both leaps and drops. I’m so thankful to know that you’re safe, but a small part of me was hoping to see that you changed your plans and were going to come back home to me. Once I know you made it safely, I should be able to breathe a little easier. But anxiety doesn’t let me go that easily. This time, it takes me to the club you’re at. I see you with your friends, laughing, carefree. And then I hear the gunshot. It’s so loud in here no one can really tell what it was. And then it happens again. This time, everyone hears it. There’s panic and in a split-second everything changes. There are screams, glasses shattering on the floor, people running for the exit. I want to leave, to wake up from this nightmare. But anxiety is a sadist. It enjoys my pain. So it keeps me there, just long enough to see the love of my life shot right before my eyes. And then, just as quickly, I’m back in our living room. I don’t know when I started crying, but I quickly wipe the tears away, telling myself how silly I’m being. I’m not writing this because I want you to stay home. I’m not trying to manipulate you or make you pity me. I just need you to know that next time you’re leaving and you can’t hear the “I love you” that I whisper before quickly disappearing, it’s not because I’m mad or upset that you’re going. I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. But I’m hoping you may understand a little better now the battle that I’m fighting while you’re gone. I need you to know that it’s not about you. It’s not about fidelity. It’s not even about trust. The “what ifs” that anxiety whispers, or sometime screams, into my ear are in no way caused or affected by you. There’s nothing you can do “better.” There’s nothing you can change. And as much as I know it hurts you to hear, there’s nothing you can do to help. Whether you go out or not, anxiety will find a way to torture me. Because that’s what it does. It’s a monster. It’s persistent and it always finds a way. I am fighting a war in my mind every single day. The real me trusts you completely. But the voice in my mind doesn’t. It tells me that you’re with someone else. That you never really loved me. That you’re going to drink and drive or allow your friends to. It doesn’t trust me either. Every time I get behind the wheel, it tells me that I’m going to crash or kill someone. It tells me that I can’t do anything right. That I’m going to hurt one of my clients, give them the wrong medication, or lock up the building with one of them still inside. If I could block it out, I would. If I could reason with it, I would. Hell, if I could even just lower the volume, I would. But anxiety can’t be controlled by mere wishful thinking. So, while I try to get a handle on it the only ways I know how, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you don’t understand, and I would never expect you to. But I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you try. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Sam Kenney

I Trust You, But My Anxiety Doesn't

Tonight, you left. Tonight, I could barely choke out the words, “I love you,” even though all I could think about was how much I would regret not saying it if I never saw you again. Tonight, I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, putting all of my strength into not letting the tears fall. For you, it’s a simple night out with your buddies…talking, drinking, laughing. It’s nothing. For me, it hours upon hours of agonizing over every possible thing that could happen. Thinking of a worst-case scenario, only to have my mind one-up itself and come up with something even more horrendous. In the 10 seconds it takes to hug and kiss you goodbye, hundreds of terrifying scenes flash through my mind. Each more awful than the first. I want to tell you to stay. That I’m scared. That I can’t handle this. But I don’t want to ruin your night. I don’t want to be “that girl.” So I clench my jaw until my head starts to throb. I tense every muscle in my body. I say, “I love you,” so quietly I’m not even sure you hear it, and then I close the door and quickly run to the bathroom just incase you come back in; just incase you forgot your keys or your phone. The bathroom is safe. I can pretend everything is fine. I can hide the tears and say goodbye a little louder this time. Maybe if I don’t have to watch you leave, it’ll be easier. I wait to hear the door close again and then allow myself to sob…knowing I did the right thing. Knowing that, if I had asked you to stay or allowed you to see the pain I was in, I would regret it. But still hearing that nagging voice telling me that I just let you walk out and you may never come back. Transporting me to a future where I am alone, sobbing, remembering that our last words were through a bathroom door. I can feel the guilt. I knew something was going to go wrong. I should have stopped you. I want you to have fun. I want you to hang out with your friends without having to worry about me. So I text you, “Have fun babe :)” trying to seem completely unfazed. Hoping you’ll forget the image of me at the door, barely holding myself together. It seems like an innocent message, but I’m counting the seconds until you reply. With each one that passes, the scenarios in my mind get worse and worse. I want you to know that I trust you. Completely. With every fiber of my being. But I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help you understand how deceiving anxiety can be. And, unfortunately, my anxiety does not trust you. It tells me that you’re tired of me. That I’m too much. That I’m not enough. That you’re just with me until you can find better, prettier, smarter. And because that’s not enough, it also tells me that you didn’t even make it to your destination. It shows me a scene I’ve seen too many times before. Two cars, mangled together; so destroyed you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. You survived the crash, but you’re alone, clinging to life. By the time anyone gets there to help, it will be too late. And it will be my fault. My phone vibrates beside me and I jump, grabbing it as quickly as I can when I see your name. I read, “Thanks babe,” and my heart both leaps and drops. I’m so thankful to know that you’re safe, but a small part of me was hoping to see that you changed your plans and were going to come back home to me. Once I know you made it safely, I should be able to breathe a little easier. But anxiety doesn’t let me go that easily. This time, it takes me to the club you’re at. I see you with your friends, laughing, carefree. And then I hear the gunshot. It’s so loud in here no one can really tell what it was. And then it happens again. This time, everyone hears it. There’s panic and in a split-second everything changes. There are screams, glasses shattering on the floor, people running for the exit. I want to leave, to wake up from this nightmare. But anxiety is a sadist. It enjoys my pain. So it keeps me there, just long enough to see the love of my life shot right before my eyes. And then, just as quickly, I’m back in our living room. I don’t know when I started crying, but I quickly wipe the tears away, telling myself how silly I’m being. I’m not writing this because I want you to stay home. I’m not trying to manipulate you or make you pity me. I just need you to know that next time you’re leaving and you can’t hear the “I love you” that I whisper before quickly disappearing, it’s not because I’m mad or upset that you’re going. I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. But I’m hoping you may understand a little better now the battle that I’m fighting while you’re gone. I need you to know that it’s not about you. It’s not about fidelity. It’s not even about trust. The “what ifs” that anxiety whispers, or sometime screams, into my ear are in no way caused or affected by you. There’s nothing you can do “better.” There’s nothing you can change. And as much as I know it hurts you to hear, there’s nothing you can do to help. Whether you go out or not, anxiety will find a way to torture me. Because that’s what it does. It’s a monster. It’s persistent and it always finds a way. I am fighting a war in my mind every single day. The real me trusts you completely. But the voice in my mind doesn’t. It tells me that you’re with someone else. That you never really loved me. That you’re going to drink and drive or allow your friends to. It doesn’t trust me either. Every time I get behind the wheel, it tells me that I’m going to crash or kill someone. It tells me that I can’t do anything right. That I’m going to hurt one of my clients, give them the wrong medication, or lock up the building with one of them still inside. If I could block it out, I would. If I could reason with it, I would. Hell, if I could even just lower the volume, I would. But anxiety can’t be controlled by mere wishful thinking. So, while I try to get a handle on it the only ways I know how, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you don’t understand, and I would never expect you to. But I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you try. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Sam Kenney

I Trust You, But My Anxiety Doesn't

Tonight, you left. Tonight, I could barely choke out the words, “I love you,” even though all I could think about was how much I would regret not saying it if I never saw you again. Tonight, I clenched my jaw and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, putting all of my strength into not letting the tears fall. For you, it’s a simple night out with your buddies…talking, drinking, laughing. It’s nothing. For me, it hours upon hours of agonizing over every possible thing that could happen. Thinking of a worst-case scenario, only to have my mind one-up itself and come up with something even more horrendous. In the 10 seconds it takes to hug and kiss you goodbye, hundreds of terrifying scenes flash through my mind. Each more awful than the first. I want to tell you to stay. That I’m scared. That I can’t handle this. But I don’t want to ruin your night. I don’t want to be “that girl.” So I clench my jaw until my head starts to throb. I tense every muscle in my body. I say, “I love you,” so quietly I’m not even sure you hear it, and then I close the door and quickly run to the bathroom just incase you come back in; just incase you forgot your keys or your phone. The bathroom is safe. I can pretend everything is fine. I can hide the tears and say goodbye a little louder this time. Maybe if I don’t have to watch you leave, it’ll be easier. I wait to hear the door close again and then allow myself to sob…knowing I did the right thing. Knowing that, if I had asked you to stay or allowed you to see the pain I was in, I would regret it. But still hearing that nagging voice telling me that I just let you walk out and you may never come back. Transporting me to a future where I am alone, sobbing, remembering that our last words were through a bathroom door. I can feel the guilt. I knew something was going to go wrong. I should have stopped you. I want you to have fun. I want you to hang out with your friends without having to worry about me. So I text you, “Have fun babe :)” trying to seem completely unfazed. Hoping you’ll forget the image of me at the door, barely holding myself together. It seems like an innocent message, but I’m counting the seconds until you reply. With each one that passes, the scenarios in my mind get worse and worse. I want you to know that I trust you. Completely. With every fiber of my being. But I’m writing this in the hopes that I can help you understand how deceiving anxiety can be. And, unfortunately, my anxiety does not trust you. It tells me that you’re tired of me. That I’m too much. That I’m not enough. That you’re just with me until you can find better, prettier, smarter. And because that’s not enough, it also tells me that you didn’t even make it to your destination. It shows me a scene I’ve seen too many times before. Two cars, mangled together; so destroyed you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. You survived the crash, but you’re alone, clinging to life. By the time anyone gets there to help, it will be too late. And it will be my fault. My phone vibrates beside me and I jump, grabbing it as quickly as I can when I see your name. I read, “Thanks babe,” and my heart both leaps and drops. I’m so thankful to know that you’re safe, but a small part of me was hoping to see that you changed your plans and were going to come back home to me. Once I know you made it safely, I should be able to breathe a little easier. But anxiety doesn’t let me go that easily. This time, it takes me to the club you’re at. I see you with your friends, laughing, carefree. And then I hear the gunshot. It’s so loud in here no one can really tell what it was. And then it happens again. This time, everyone hears it. There’s panic and in a split-second everything changes. There are screams, glasses shattering on the floor, people running for the exit. I want to leave, to wake up from this nightmare. But anxiety is a sadist. It enjoys my pain. So it keeps me there, just long enough to see the love of my life shot right before my eyes. And then, just as quickly, I’m back in our living room. I don’t know when I started crying, but I quickly wipe the tears away, telling myself how silly I’m being. I’m not writing this because I want you to stay home. I’m not trying to manipulate you or make you pity me. I just need you to know that next time you’re leaving and you can’t hear the “I love you” that I whisper before quickly disappearing, it’s not because I’m mad or upset that you’re going. I genuinely want you to enjoy yourself. But I’m hoping you may understand a little better now the battle that I’m fighting while you’re gone. I need you to know that it’s not about you. It’s not about fidelity. It’s not even about trust. The “what ifs” that anxiety whispers, or sometime screams, into my ear are in no way caused or affected by you. There’s nothing you can do “better.” There’s nothing you can change. And as much as I know it hurts you to hear, there’s nothing you can do to help. Whether you go out or not, anxiety will find a way to torture me. Because that’s what it does. It’s a monster. It’s persistent and it always finds a way. I am fighting a war in my mind every single day. The real me trusts you completely. But the voice in my mind doesn’t. It tells me that you’re with someone else. That you never really loved me. That you’re going to drink and drive or allow your friends to. It doesn’t trust me either. Every time I get behind the wheel, it tells me that I’m going to crash or kill someone. It tells me that I can’t do anything right. That I’m going to hurt one of my clients, give them the wrong medication, or lock up the building with one of them still inside. If I could block it out, I would. If I could reason with it, I would. Hell, if I could even just lower the volume, I would. But anxiety can’t be controlled by mere wishful thinking. So, while I try to get a handle on it the only ways I know how, I want to thank you for your patience. I know you don’t understand, and I would never expect you to. But I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you try. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Sam Kenney

How Stephen King's 'IT' Helps Me Explain My Anxiety

By now, I’m sure almost everyone has seen or read Stephen King’s “IT.” As someone with anxiety, I try to avoid horror movies. Although the demons on the screen can’t come close to comparing with those who live in my head, they can definitely encourage them and give them new ideas for haunting me. “IT,” however, has become a useful tool for explaining anxiety to those who have never experienced it. For those who don’t know, “IT” is about an evil creature that takes the form of a clown, Pennywise, to lure kids into the sewers where it lives. This creature, however, is also capable of shapeshifting into the thing these kids fear the most — making it harder for them to get away. After watching this movie, it’s only natural to wonder: what shape would Pennywise take for me? What would he be for you? I want you to do something for me: close your eyes and think of your worst fear. I don’t mean spiders or heights or public speaking. I mean your real worst fear. The one that physically hurts to think about. The one you’ve never told anyone and maybe never truly admitted to yourself. The fears you shake off and don’t allow yourself to think about for more than a second, because if you do, you’ll make yourself crazy. Those are the ones I want you to focus on. Do you have yours? Good. Now, let it play out in your mind, as real and graphic as you can make it. How do you feel? Scared? Sick? Hopeless? Welcome to anxiety. For me, anxiety is like living with Pennywise in my head. He shows me my worst fears over and over and I can’t escape him. Those horrible, sickening thoughts you shake off and refuse to think about play on repeat in my mind. He can ruin any situation with one small question… “What if?” That’s how he always starts. What if you didn’t lock the door? What if you left the stove on? What if  they were too tired to drive? After that, my mind is his playground. He’ll choose the worst possible answer to those questions and run with it. I’ll admit, sometimes I feel hopeless against him. How can you defeat a monster that lives in your thoughts and feeds on your fears? Unlike Pennywise, anxiety can’t be defeated by facing your fears and working as a team. It can be defeated though. I have to believe that it can. If someone you know struggles with anxiety, I want you to imagine your Pennywise before offering them advice. Remember what it feels like to watch your worst fear come alive in your mind and remind yourself that, unlike you, they can’t turn theirs off. When it gets too real, too scary or simply unbearable, you may have the ability to stop thinking about it. Anxiety robs people struggling with it of that ability and forces them to watch every last second as if they were really living it. Be there for them. Love them. Listen to them, knowing that you can’t “fix” it. And most importantly, remind them they are safe. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Screenshot via “IT” Facebook video

Juliette V.

27 Tattoos Inspired by Living With Anxiety

Article updated on February 24, 2020 If you live with an “invisible” condition like an anxiety disorder, (a condition characterized by persistent feelings of fear, as well as physical symptoms like panic attacks and heart palpitations), it’s easy to feel invalidated when your symptoms aren’t outwardly present for people to see. What appears to be “high-functioning” to others may feel like debilitating panic attacks, racing thoughts and struggling to get through the day. For many people who live with mental illness, having a tattoo can be a visible reminder of not only their struggle, but of the hope they have from all they have overcome. We wanted to know what tattoos people have that are inspired by living with anxiety, so we asked our mental health community to share photos of their own tattoos that represent their anxiety journeys. Here’s what they shared with us: 1. “ This is my tattoo… it’s lyrics from a song called, ‘Everything That Means Nothing,’ and basically it’s to remind me that insecurities are normal but they’re evil and to try not to listen to any of my insecurities. Also the lace design is partly for decoration, but also it reminds me there’s beautiful things out there, and beauty can come out of something bad.” — Cloud S. 2. “My dad died suddenly in February of 2014 when I was overseas in Japan with the Navy. I was able to to fly home for the funeral, but had to go back to Japan 10 days later. I have always had anxiety, but it has gotten 10 times worse after his death, and the three deaths in the following two years after his. This is my little reminder to ground myself and remember what my dad would always tell me: be strong.” 3. “I got this tattoo just a few weeks after Carrie Fisher passed away. As an avid Star Wars fan and lover of her advocacy for depression and anxiety, I wanted to have a tribute of her inked into my skin. Every time I turn around I see this tattoo, it makes me feel safe and happy and it makes me think of Carrie. I think everyone deserves to have their own hero (whether or not they’re a hero in the traditional sense). She helped to show the world that depression and anxiety does not define who you are. Such a strong female influence in my life that proves to me that no matter how I’m feeling inside, I can do anything.” — Charlotte H. 4. “ I have depression and anxiety. ‘Be here now’ is a reminder to slow down when I start to spiral and worry. The flower head is to remind me that I’m constantly growing.” — Rachel L. 5 . “ I got this tattoo two weeks ago to help remind me to breathe when I’m having a panic attack.” — Jeannie B. 6. “The dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability and self-realization. The change that is often referred to has its source in mental and emotional maturity and understanding the deeper meaning of life. Life is good.” — Jasmin C. 7. “ So this is the eating disorder symbol colored teal for my anxiety. Every day I live with my anxiety about food, being social and just about everything around me. I got the semicolon in the middle of it to remind myself my story will never be over. There have been times I’ve almost given up on life but I calmed myself down and took the necessary steps to get the help I needed.” — Nicole Z. 8. “It’s still new but it was about having a mind that likes to ‘take me other places.’” — Alicia B. 9. “ When my best friend from junior high suddenly died, it was like my grip on life snapped. I had panic attacks all the time, I had awful nightmares that woke me up in panic, I struggled with thoughts of suicide because I wasn’t sure if it even mattered anymore. I got a goose, because it is the nickname my parents had for me since I was a child, and it was also the nickname her parents had for her. We were both ‘Goose.’ I needed to remind myself that I’m OK, it’s OK to feel what I’m feeling, it will pass and things are going to be OK even if in that moment it feels like my world died with her.” — Erin W. 10. “ Just got this lion skull after a traumatic incident to remind me I’m stronger than my anxiety and depression. They won’t have their way with me.” — Katrina N. 11. “I got this because my anxiety often causes me to worry too much about the future and the ‘what-ifs.’ This is a reminder to keep myself in the present moment and stay grounded. After all, you can only control what’s happening in the now.” — Izzy C. 12. “My husband and I got matching tattoos: cross and semi colon. This was after I was hospitalized for depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations. It’s a reminder to me to keep my faith and to remember my story isn’t over. I’m also reminded I don’t fight alone.” — Jennifer S. 13. “Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of giving birth to my fourth child. I had an Amniotic Fluid Embolism, a very rare and almost deadly maternal condition. After organ failure, hemorrhaging and a stroke, my medical team was able to revive me, since then, my life hasn’t been the same. I struggle with depression, anxiety and PTSD along with a myriad of other health conditions as a result to this event, including short-term memory loss. I was jokingly given the nickname ‘Dory’ while in the hospital and it just stuck with me. Every time things would get bleak, my kids would say, ‘Dory would keep swimming, Mom!’ So a few weeks ago I got my Dory tattoo with two semi-colons to represent the two darkest periods where I thought very seriously about ending my life. This means the world to me.” — Sara S. 14. “ I have a really hard time shutting my anxiety off and enjoying new places. This tattoo reminds me to let go and enjoy the adventure.” — Katie R. 15. “It says: ‘I got you’ and [has] a semicolon. My husband (boyfriend at the time I got the tattoo) tells me this all the time when I am having a ‘moment’ as we like to put it. It reminds me I’m not alone in my struggle, even when he’s not physically with me.” — Laura N. 16. “The queen protea flower that represents transformation and a reminder to do things I’m terrified of doing in an attempt to lessen my fears and anxiety about certain things.” — Ashlee H. 17. “‘Worthy’ in my mom’s handwriting. On the days when anxiety overwhelms me, I have a reminder from the person who gave me life that everything will be OK.” — Mae L. 18. “ I survived a very serious suicide attempt in December of 2016. This reminds me of everything I need to know. I also have the words ‘I am’ on my inner right forearm, to easily turn over to ‘Awake,’ with ‘Alive’ being on the opposite arm.” — Josh D. 19. “My best friend inspired me to get my Stitch tattoo (he’s obsessed with Stitch). He’s always been here for me, helping me and listening to me when I have an anxiety attack. I got this tattoo to remind me that I have at least one person here for me. One person who cares.” — Ashleigh T. 20. “This is my very first tattoo. I got it a few months ago when I realized I was (and still am) on a consistent uphill climb with my treatment. Disney is very near and dear to my heart, so the ‘Hakuna Matata’ reminds me not only to refrain from worrying about things I can’t change, but also of the joy that Disney never fails to bring me. The chemical compounds for Serotonin and Dopamine remind me that my depression and anxiety are not my fault.” — Amanda K. 21. “I got one of the simplest and yet still most meaningful tattoos on the day I turned 18 as a reminder to keep smiling and when things seem to be too much. [When] I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, I look it and remind myself to smile because it’ll be OK in the end. It’s a constant reminder to push through, to keep going, that my story is not over.” — Joseph O. 22. “I got, ‘This too shall pass’ right over my scars. There is still a daily struggle, but it has really worked miracles. It’s like having a voice whisper to you that it’s going to be OK, only the voice is there on [my] skin. Keep fighting the good fight everybody, it does get better.” — Nancy M. 23. “ I wanted to get a semicolon, but I wanted something unique to me, so I designed my own with peonies on the inside. I got it after I took a big step forward in my life, and to remind myself, ‘In my wounds are seeds waiting to grow beautiful flowers.’” — Karina W. 24. “I got this because every day was an uphill climb. It was when I dropped out of college for having so many mental health issues.” — Abigail M. 25. “ I got this tattoo last year. It’s from ‘A Clash of Kings’ the second book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Arya says it and after I read that line, it stuck with me and made me realize that no matter how bad my anxiety/depression gets, I am stronger than it will ever be. ‘I am a wolf and will not be afraid.’” — Tiana E. 26. “42 is ‘the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything’ according to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’ In my struggles with anxiety it reminds me no one knows any more than I do and we’re all kinda in the same boat when it comes to the big questions.” — Erica S. 27. “ I keep one right on my collar bone. ‘Still I Rise’ because no matter how depressed, overwhelmed, unsuccessful or defeated I feel, I know I can rise and overcome what life throws at me. I kept it in a visible place because I can look in the mirror daily and be reminded of what I have already overcome.” — Brittany R. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 o r text “HOME” to 741-741 . Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Sam Kenney

Explaining Anxiety and Worrying About 'What Ifs'

I’m 16 years old. My parents are going on a trip for their anniversary and I’m going to be home alone. I see their bags at the door. They’re putting on their shoes and talking to me, making jokes about throwing parties while they’re gone and reminding me where they left the emergency money. I’m smiling and trying to concentrate on how happy I am for them and how nice it will be to have the house to myself for a week. I am putting on a show. I am trying like hell to hold back the tears and push aside the “what ifs.” But as hard as I try, those thoughts force their way to the front of my mind. They always do. I start wonder why I even try fighting them as they take over my mind, grabbing control of every thought. I’m lost in them. It always starts with a, “what if…?” What if my parents never even make it to the airport? A terrible thought in and of itself, but it’s not enough for anxiety. It’s not satisfied with one sickening thought. It is just the seed it uses to sprout terror. It is just the beginning. Before I know it, a scene is playing out in my mind. My own personal horror movie. I watch as my parents, my role models and my friends, slam their car into another one. I can see them, air bags deployed and windows smashed, bleeding and unconscious. My dad, laying his head on the steering wheel and my mom, slumped against her seat belt. I can see the flames. They feel so real I swear I can smell the smoke. My dad wakes up. He knows he has to get out. He has to save my mom. He’s shaking her arm, yelling her name, trying to reach her seat belt to set her free. She doesn’t move. The flames are getting closer, getting hotter, but he can’t leave her. My dad, big and strong, begins to cry. He can’t live without her. So he grabs her hand, closes his eyes and waits. I’m trapped in this moment. I’m watching, but I can’t help. I can’t cry, I can’t run, I can’t even move. I’m back in the house, standing by the door waiting to say goodbye. It feels like I was stuck in my head for hours, but anxiety is surprisingly good at time management. It can put me through hours of hell in mere seconds. It’s so quick, no one else would ever suspect the terror my mind just put me through. But the smell of smoke lingers and the feeling of heartbreak will last for hours. I can’t fight it anymore and a few tears start to roll down my cheeks as I’m hugging my parents goodbye. Somewhere deep inside, I know this won’t be the last time. I know they will be OK and they will be home next Saturday. But those thoughts are too far right now. They’re too quiet to release the hold my anxiety has. So I say goodbye and try to keep the tears to a minimum, hoping my parents will not see, but knowing they can. They’ll never understand. They’ll think I’m paranoid or selfish and just don’t want them to go. I wish that were true. Someone who has never experienced anxiety, who has never been attacked by their own mind, may not be able to understand how real it is. They can’t understand the power these thoughts have. They don’t see how they infiltrate your mind and affect your body. To them, they’re just thoughts. It’s not their fault they can’t understand. No matter how much we explain, they never truly will. And to be honest, I am so glad they can’t. Dealing with this alone is extremely hard, but it would be so much harder watching someone I love go through the same thing. To those of you who don’t understand what anxiety feels like, know it’s OK. If there’s someone in your life who is struggling with it, remember you can be there for them without fully grasping what they are feeling. Understand these thoughts are extremely real to them. Remind them they’re safe without belittling their fears. Stay close, even if they don’t want to be touched. And most importantly, know they are grateful for you, even if they can’t express it. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Thinkstock