Anxiety 101 – My Experience

It’s really easy for people to diminish other people’s pain in order to feel like they themselves have gone through a lot in life. It comes natural to some, like a knee-jerk reaction. The doctor hitting the hammer on the knee to check for your reflexes, for people who don’t get what I’m going through, is when I say to them, “I’ve got anxiety”, or “I’ve really overwhelmed”, or “I’m anxious”.

But what about me? I suffer too! You’re suffering, so am I!

Oh, I know how you feel, I got a lot of anxiety on that test one time.

Right, public speaking is the worst. 

You just have to take a few deep breaths, and you’ll be fine.

This can be annoying and exhausting to those who suffer from constant anxiety, like I do. Here’s how it works for me: Sure, I get anxious about tests. Public speaking? Totally. I get both of those things. That’s fine that you get anxious about those things, but there’s a difference between the two, as far as I think about it.

A lot of people get anxious about different sorts of stressful situations, and I’m not saying that you don’t. There’s no way for any person to not get anxious at some point or another about this thing or that thing.

But when you have anxiety like I do, there’s no on or off switch, and sometimes, there’s no actual immediate identifiable reason to feel that way.

Once every few weeks, or sometimes every few days, it’s like a game of whack-a-mole. The moles are all hidden, and you know your anxiety is constantly always there, like the moles always are.

And then your brain, your external surroundings, or sometimes both, cause a mole to pop up and say, “STRESS ABOUT YOUR GRADES.” And then another, “YOU’VE GOT TO WORRY ABOUT THAT PAPER THAT’S DUE IN TWO WEEKS.” And yet another, “IS SHE FRIENDS WITH YOU? IS SHE REALLY YOUR FRIEND? COME ON, BE ANXIOUS ABOUT IT, YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.” Sometimes, the past is brought up in the way of short flashbacks, of when you were bullied, or when you were embarrassed in front of other people to go along with these thoughts.

In the process of trying to make all of these thoughts and images go back into hibernation, hitting mole after mole after mole, you tire yourself out, and you’re exhausted mentally, and after shaking and crying, you’re exhausted physically and emotionally as well.

What I want you to understand is, being anxious, and having anxiety are two different things.

It’s fine that your heart sped up fast in stressful situations like public speaking and test-taking, really, it is. But don’t think for a second that saying to me, “There’s no reason to cry”, or “Everything will be fine”, will make everything better. The anxiousness that I feel is always there, even if I’m not shaking, or I’m not crying, or my voice isn’t cracking, or there is no obvious worry in my eyes. Just because I am not informing you of my anxiety every other minute, doesn’t mean it has gone away completely.

– Mary Wright

EDIT: 4/8/14 – Thanks to Katie Klabusich for promoting this piece! #anxietytalk

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