For Anyone Living With An Anxiety Disorder
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Health and Wellness

For Anyone Living With An Anxiety Disorder

Walk a mile in my shoes.

For Anyone Living With An Anxiety Disorder

As a college student, you probably are no stranger to your old friend anxiety, anxiety is quiet but always lurking around the corner and she usually makes an appearance shortly following a good time with your friend procrastination. As humans, we all will experience anxiety from time to time. Looking for a job, cramming for a final, when it comes to crunch time we can crack under the pressure of not knowing what will happen next. For the average person, anxiety isn’t a problem, although I hear plenty of people without anxiety disorders saying things like “I’m going to have a panic attack.” For those who use the term loosely, it makes others think that anxiety disorders are no big deal. I’d like to explain what anxiety is like coming from someone “me” with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Picture this. Have you ever been pulled over by a cop? If the answer is yes, can you remember how you felt? Clammy palms, red face, you begin to break a sweat. As the officer approaches your window you start to have difficulty breathing and your muscles turn to stone. This is a relatively normal response. This feeling is no stranger to me. I actually am feeling this as you read these very words.

Ever hear the phrase “walk a mile in my shoes?" If people could really walk in someone else’s shoes there would be a lot more empathy. Since you can’t actually walk in my shoes, I will help walk you through what it's like living with anxiety.

I’m anxious 24/7 even with medication.

I’m NOT KIDDING, panic attacks aren’t the only time I have anxiety, the panic attacks are just when the anxiety starts to suffocate me. Anxiety is feeling like you're drowning all the time, and the panic attack is when your lungs start to fill up with water, as your body starts to shut down.

Most of the time you won't even know I’m anxious.

You can’t always tell, I keep my composure really well most of the time, believe It or not. I seem happy a lot the time. I'm still anxious I'm just good at hiding it.

Sometimes when I feel the anxiety, I have no idea why I’m feeling it.

Just driving to work I could all of a sudden start freaking out. Sometimes I could be ten minutes early for work but I’m still ready to slam on the gas because of the “what if’s” I am constantly thinking about.

Even when things are wonderful, I’m always waiting for something bad to happen.

It doesn't matter how well things are going in my life, in the back of my mind, there’s always a fear. I can never truly enjoy happiness.

I analyze things constantly because of anxiety.

I can’t go a minute without wondering “were they laughing at me?” “Is my skirt riding up?” “He probably thinks I’m so stupid for saying that.” There is always something for me to overanalyze, to assume the worst, and the worst part is I can’t stop it.

I can’t just calm down; there’s no light switch - the bulb is burning 24/7.

I can’t just shut off my anxiety. Sure, medication helps but it's like the bulb burning was dimmed a little. I’m still anxious its just not as intense and I tend to have fewer panic attacks. Anxiety is treatable like all other mental illness, ADHD, bipolar, depression, etc. These are all treatable illnesses, but there is no magic pill I can take that will cure me of my anxiety forever.

I’m extremely insecure.

I hate when people compliment me. I don’t want attention because, when I receive it I don’t know how to respond. I don’t think I’m pretty or smart, or talented because my anxiety is constantly screaming at me saying everything that’s wrong with me.

I’m very outgoing, most people wouldn’t notice I have anxiety off a first impression.

I can talk to people pretty easily usually, this many times is a result of being anxious just having a simple conversation can sometimes distract me from what I’m anxious about, or the conversation can cause me anxiety as well.

I don’t approach or reach out to people I’m not already on a deep level with.

I always think I am annoying someone when I text them or fear that they don’t like me, or think I’m too different and they probably think I’m weird. I don’t feel comfortable going out with people I’m not very comfortable with, and when placed in a new social situation alone I am very quiet and observant at first, afraid that I will say or do the wrong thing.

I have major trust issues.

I have a very hard time trusting people. If you lie to me or betray me I can 99% guarantee I will cut you out of my life completely. If I trust you enough to open up to you, it’s a big deal and betraying or lying to me will cause me to become a recluse.

I don’t express romantic interest or feelings well. I come off very cold and callous.

Even when someone shows interest in me I’m so afraid to actually reciprocate. I push guys away constantly or ignore them because I’m afraid of getting close, or I just refuse to give them a chance. If you play hard to get you can forget about me because I really will think you don't like me. I appear very intimidating, but usually, it's because I’m actually the one who’s intimidated by you.

Don’t give up on me.

I’m not impossible, you just really need to work hard for me to be comfortable with you. I don’t trust just anyone overnight, it takes time.

Anxiety has caused me to not be able to leave the house.

Last semester is a good example. I went through months of really intense anxiety, it got to the point where I would have a panic attack every few hours, anytime I left the house, or tried to do my homework I would completely break down in absolute panic. It's caused me to not leave my house for a few days, I missed class, and fell behind all because I was fearful I would have another panic attack in public.

I need you to reach out to me even when I’m so anxious I’ve stopped leaving the house.

When I get to that point I need someone. Just showing me that you care enough to ask if I'm doing okay means the world to me. When this happened last semester no one reached out to me no one said a word, I got really negative reactions from people, from my sorority sisters my family. It's like drowning as people are just watching you from the shore. I can scream all I want and no one can hear me, I just keep sinking deeper and deeper.

Anxiety is not an attitude!

This is a common misconception, yes I freak out and cry and hyperventilate and may snap at you, but is not directed at you! I’m just frustrated and scared because at that moment. My tone of voice is usually a cry for help, not an attitude.

Telling me to calm down is the worst thing you can ever say to me.

Do not ever tell anyone with GAD to calm down! trust me! We literally can't.

Sometimes I need to scream and punch the wall or throw my book across the room.

This really helps sometimes, it gives me a sense of relief and control when I feel like I can’t control anything else.

Do not try to calm me down if I am having a panic attack.

The average person has no idea what it feels like to have a panic attack. It's best to wait until the episode has passed to try and talk to me or reach out to me.

The irrational things I’m thinking or saying are not irrational to me, they are very real and very scary.

I used to freak out all the time in high school before I even knew I had anxiety. I could get one D on my math exam and have a complete meltdown and start saying things like “I’m stupid, and I’m never going to get into college”. I’m not doing this so you compliment me on how smart I am; this is really what I think.

Anxiety doesn’t have a look; I don’t have to be trembling or hyperventilating to be anxious.

Just because you can’t see tears rolling down my face or my chest heaving doesn’t mean I’m not anxious, if you were to randomly ask me if I was anxious, 9 out of 10 times it’s a hard yes.

Having someone I love and trust just reminding me to breathe is sometimes the most rehabilitating thing.

This is the best way to approach me if I’m having anxiety, just tell me to focus on my breathing.

Sometimes I just need to be alone, it's not personal.

I can be very introverted at times due to my anxiety. Being around people for toolong, or being with too many people with once can be overwhelming.

Panic attacks are the scariest thing in the world for me.

They are my biggest fear, they are the worst feeling in the world and you don’t get used to them.

I am NOT throwing a temper tantrum. This is NOT for attention.

I have had friends tell me that I throw temper tantrums, that I’m just doing this for attention, I'd control my anxiety completely If I could. But the reality is I can’t control my anxiety, hence the name panic “attack.” An attack is an incursion on you, it's unexpected, something you are completely unprepared for.

I am actually afraid of having a panic attack in public.

I have hidden in bathroom stalls until they pass, I have left parties, skipped out on plans, wore sunglasses to hide my eyes until I made it home. I don’t like anyone seeing me like that, even my closest friends.

It's not just mental, panic attacks drain you physically.

After a panic attack, my eyes burn and are swollen, my chest and neck hurts, my muscles feel like I ran twelve miles, my jaw is sore from clenching it so hard. It takes a toll on more than just your mind.

I break out in hives and red splotches sometimes.

This happens frequently, and it actually causes me anxiety because they are deep red hot itchy splotches. My face gets extremely hot and I get anxious about my physical appearance.

I get anxiety about having anxiety.

Yeah, I actually worry about getting anxious. I have a fear of having a panic attack.

It can cause me to become very depressed.

Anxiety and depression are very common, along with ADHD. When you have anxiety things can feel hopeless, and it can make very depressed at times.

It has made me suicidal.

I’m not clinically depressed, but my anxiety has gotten so bad that I was suicidal. I actually refused hospitalization because I knew after coming back from a well-needed break I would be 2x's as anxious over the amount of work I missed.

People take advantage of me not being able to say "no."

Because of my anxiety, I find it very hard to say no to people, I don’t want to upset someone, or make them mad at me so my anxiety makes it easy to crack when I'm put on the spot.

It has caused me to hurt myself.

Hitting things breaking things, punching walls, cutting are all things that can feel relieving when you’re in a panic.

Sometimes I black out in a panic attack; I can’t remember the episode.

Because the experience can be so emotionally distressing. It's like your brain went to sleep and woke up after the storm subsided.

It has caused eating problems.

People with anxiety often displace their frustration and become over controlling and obsessive in one area of their life they can control. Many people who suffer from eating disorders aren’t doing it necessarily because they think they are fat, but because they desperately need to feel in control of some aspect of their life.

I have difficulty sleeping. I’m a very light sleeper.

It gets hard to function from the lack of sleep, and it gets annoying to have to rely on medicine to try and help.

It’s the same a physical illness.

Anxiety is just as restricting as a physical illness, except everyone feels bad for the person with cancer, but the person with mental illness is told that they need to calm down, that they're out of control.

I can’t just suck it up and get over myself.

It’s a legitimate mental illness just like someone who has cancer can't just get over it.

I am not weak! I am not out of control! I am not crazy!

In fact, I am ten times mentally stronger than the average person. I deal with a lot more, I have to put up with and live with my anxiety every day. I have to carry on even when my anxiety is so bad I can’t even think or function.

Getting where I am in my life today is ten fold the difficulty.

I would like to see anyone who doesn’t suffer from mental illness walk a day in my shoes. I would give anyone about twenty minutes before they couldn’t handle it.

I’m still me! I’m not my anxiety!

Yes. My anxiety can sometimes make me unrecognizable like something has possessed me and taken control of my body. But I’m still Hayley. Under all of that panic, I’m there, and I need you to look past the anxiety and see that it's still me, I'm just scared and in need of someone to understand.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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