“But you look fine! You should just be more positive.”
People have this idea of what anxiety looks like. They have a preconceived notion of what somebody who suffers with anxiety should be doing or saying. Even doctors have a list of “things” that they expect somebody with anxiety to be doing. It’s part of the stigma attached to mental health problems, because for a lot of people anxiety doesn’t look how you think it ‘should’. I’m one of those people.
You think anxiety is sitting in a ball rocking, when in reality it’s not being able to speak because you feel so anxious that you feel like you could almost stop breathing. Just stop existing. Anxiety is not being able to put what’s wrong into coherent words, but wanting desperately to talk about it. Anxiety is chewing off your nails for the 400th time until there is basically nothing left. Yet you’re still trying to chew, just to have something to do with your hands.
Anxiety is not necessarily recognising your symptoms right away. It’s the pounding heartbeat and the tears over basically nothing. It’s the constant voice inside your head that says you’re trying to do your best, but you’re still not good enough. It’s the constant fear that you are letting people down. It’s obsessing over things that make absolutely no difference at all to anything and taking small things very personally. It’s saying something that might have been a bit stupid and then stewing over it for the next twelve hours, because you fear judgement from a person who probably doesn’t even remember the conversation. It’s worrying that everybody is talking about you behind your back, that people just tolerate you.
It’s feeling out of control. Like you don’t know what you’re doing. Inside your head you’re screaming, but on the outside you answer “how are you?” with “good, thanks”. It’s waking up in the middle of the night shouting about some total rubbish and not being able to sleep for more than two hours at a time, even though sleep is what you desperately want and need. It’s your house being an utter shit tip and you not being able to pull together the strength to get on with sorting it, instead sitting on the sofa and worrying about it whilst watching it pile up around you.
Anxiety isn’t always panic attacks. It’s not screaming into a pillow or not being able to breathe. It’s not shouting “help me”. It’s not running away. Not for me it isn’t. It’s trying to do more. Trying to apply myself in different ways. Trying to fix everything. Trying to control everything around you, because you can’t control your brain. Trying to prove that I’m ok and I’ve got this, when really I’m just going through the motions. Anxiety is putting my feet flat on the floor and counting to ten what seems like a hundred times a day just to ground my whirring mind.
That’s my anxiety. That’s how it looks and feels to me.
Still think I should just be positive?