Anxiety is different for everybody. That’s very important. As with any mental health problem, matching the symptoms on the scoresheet is one thing, but actually experiencing it is another. It’s extremely difficult for a sufferer to fully explain how things are for them and how they are feeling to someone who doesn’t have that firsthand experience, especially when each individual has it so different.
Every effort is valuable to helping increase understanding, so on that note, here is my own attempt to explain my own anxiety. This is not meant to be a pity party or a trigger of any kind; I just hope it can provide a small sum of clarification or support to those who might want it!
My anxiety is…
…never switching off from infinite mental spirals of catastrophe where every inconvenience feels like the end of the world.
…questioning the validity of your own feelings, asking yourself ‘Is this how a normal person would react?’ and feeling like a doormat for letting things go as a result.
…lying awake at night, tossing and turning, never feeling perfectly comfortable, with your feet feeling like ice, checking your phone every hour but feeling stuck at 2 AM.
…having horrible dreams, full of gory outlandish horror, falling from heights, being chased by nightmarish creatures, being crawled all over by hundreds of hairy-legged spiders and waking up in the middle of the night panicked and sweaty.
…suspecting that everyone thinks you’re some kind of special snowflake who can’t handle the real world whenever you mention the word ‘anxiety’, and wondering if maybe they’re right.
…pill guilt; feeling like a failure for taking those life-changing, prescribed meds and worrying about what all those chemicals are doing to your body.
…having your heart pound in your chest when a group of strangers in a public place laugh nearby because they must be laughing at you, assuming every slow passing car will result in assault and abduction, obsessing over every detail of your appearance so people don’t make fun of you, and then feeling extremely arrogant and selfish when you remind yourself that, actually, nobody is paying you that much attention.
…telling yourself you’re a fake because you don’t have it as bad as other people.
…asking someone else to answer the phone for you, make your order in a restaurant, or queue up for you in a shop because you’re too afraid to, because… well, you don’t even know why.
…”dying” being the recurring outcome to every choice you could make, and not necessarily worrying about it actively but always having it present in the back of your mind.
…wanting to speak but feeling the words build up somewhere behind your lips, so you don’t open your mouth because you’re certain that if you do, you’ll throw up.
…reaching the sad realisation that what has been “normal” for you your entire life is not normal; not everyone behaves this way, being plagued with tummy aches at the thought of going to school or work and fretting obsessively over tiny details, but knowing that this realisation can help make you stronger.