Many people experience anxiety, like right before an exam, but what happens when that test anxiety turns into a constant feeling of anxiousness? This is the evolution of my anxiety over the course of about 4 years from general anxiety to constant anxiety. I want to share how anxiety makes me feel so I can encourage people to talk about their problems and to help others understand what it's like to live with anxiety.

When I tell you that I have anxiety, it means that I live with a constant sense of impending doom. Like something terrible is always just about to happen. But it didn't start out that way. It started with the feeling of butterflies in my stomach, but then that feeling grew stronger. This feeling is like when your foot goes numb and you try to walk, but instead of your foot, it's the pit of your stomach. When that feeling became too overwhelming, I would start to shake. This combination sometimes triggers an anxiety attack, which leads to dissociation from reality. It leaves my mind racing but my body stays numb, and I don't know whether to run, cry, or scream but I don't because I'm frozen. I stay calm and still because I have to, or else everyone's eyes will be on me. Either way, when I begin to have an anxiety attack it feels like everyone's eyes are on me.

I started losing sleep and then my appetite decreased, which lead to late nights lying in bed and early mornings sick in the bathroom before I went to school. Having anxiety is being so tired but never being able to sleep, not texting back or talking to new people because you're too afraid, and just not having the energy to do so. It's not being able to sleep because the feeling in your stomach won't let you lie down, then not wanting to sleep because the same feeling will wake you up only a few hours later. It's not knowing whether to get up and do something or lie down and do nothing. It's not knowing whether to scream or cry, but I know that I won't do either. I breathe and I stay attached to reality by any means necessary because I have to. I can't let anxiety be the thing that holds me back so I try to stay calm and act as if nothing is bothering me.

So when I say that I have anxiety, I mean that I have a crippling, energy-draining mental illness that is difficult to live with. Hopefully, my experience can aid in understanding what anxiety feels like. Don't be afraid to speak out about your mental health because it's better than dealing with it alone.