Explaining Anxiety

The ending of a recent relationship-ish thing of sorts threw me into the subversive depths of over-thinking and some mild self-loathing as you do when you get "dumped". While doing my unhealthy levels of overthinking, it came to my attention that just because I share that I live with anxiety and depression to someone, it doesn't mean they understand what that means for me or how to properly deal with me when my head takes over and I start spewing nonsense. Being honest with someone about your mental illness when starting up a  close relationship (be it romantic, or a good friendship) is half of the battle, don't get me wrong. It takes a lot of courage to speak up those words. But we are doing ourselves and our partners a disservice if we don't further explain what that means and how it effects your day-to-day life. Anxiety and depression (and mental illnesses in general) are so incredibly difficult to explain at times because they have such a profound effect on so many facets of your life and well-being. 

Often times people perceive anxiety to be 'panic attacks' which are a part of living with anxiety, but it is so much more than that. Anxiety and depression can mask themselves, so much so that some days you forget you even have it, and others will too. They'll tuck themselves away, offering you some reprieve, but soon before long they're there to nag you again. Anxiety is the voice in the back of your head that sounds exactly like your own voice, just infinitely more skeptical and cynical. When things are going well for you, that voice is going to badger you, telling you that you don't deserve this happiness and that it will only be a matter of time before the other shoe drops and the chaos is back in your life. You constantly need to remind yourself that you do deserve to be happy and that you have to enjoy those moments, not preoccupy yourself worrying what may come next. Anxiety will also tell you that you're less than, you're a failure, everything you do and say is somehow wrong; and you'll stay up for three hours when you've long since been tired and ready for bed, thinking about everything you may have done or said wrong throughout the day and it'll worry you about the things you weren't able to accomplish too. It'll tell you that you're a burden to those you hold close to you, making it hard to open up and explain why you're acting so odd lately. Anxiety will take all of the terrible things that people have done to you in the past and make you obsessively worry over those things happening to you again but with someone else you have found yourself able to trust. Anxiety is the stutter in my words when I'm nervous or when my thoughts are racing too fast for my mouth to catch up. It's the absolute panic that getting "we need to talk" or "can I ask you a question?" texts can send you into. It's locking my car door five times because I constantly am doubting and second guessing myself. It's the general feeling of constant unease for no perceivable reason. It's your head conjuring up 3,000 possible outcomes (90% being outlandish and unlikely) for a situation and the thought of those potential outcomes keeps you from doing anything about the situation at all. It's panic attacks that can come out of the blue, leaving you struggling to catch your breath, fighting off nausea, and wanting to rip the clothes off of your body because it feels as though someone put a rock weighing a tonne on your chest. All of these things add up making day-to-day living just a little more difficult, constantly having to talk yourself down or out of these moments where the lines of reality and what's in your head is blurred. 

This all means that yes, I worry A LOT. More than anyone even knows because 97% of my worries have already been filtered out by myself and the remaining 3% are the worries I bring to the surface to discuss. Believe me, not a damn soul out there wants to worry as much as someone with anxiety does. It's exhausting to constantly have your mind racing and to frequently filter and censor your own thoughts. It means I need reassurance often, and I know that can be incredibly annoying, but when I can no longer fight off my own thoughts sometimes I need the help of someone else to reassure me that what I'm feeling is valid, and if my mind is playing tricks on me, I need you to gently reassure me that it's my anxiety and not my reality. You're not there to be a crutch, at the end of the day this anxiety is mine and mine only to deal with, but I'm going to need some help and support at times. So what do those of us battling anxiety need from our close friends, family, and partners? We need patience, understanding, love, and open, honest conversation. It's not easy to live with anxiety by any means, but putting forth the effort to ensure those you hold close to you understand what you go through and how to best help you will only make your bond that much stronger and more stable.