Welcome to the D A N G E R zone that I know to be anxiety, one of my mental illnesses. One thing that I continue to struggle with most is trying to explain how my brain functions each day to someone without anxiety. I think when someone has any mental illness, there is a certain level of understanding that could not be reached by someone without a mental illness. There is an understanding of how impactful mental illness is on your every day life and how inescapable it feels. I have received positive feedback on my post Let Me In. The transparency allowed so many people to relate to it and experience with me one of my anxiety attacks. I decided for this post I would take notes of my anxious thoughts over the course of a week and share them with you.
Situation: Add a post to my mental health blog.
Anxiety: No one even reads these. Sure, let’s announce on all your social media that a new mental health post is up – not like anyone will roll their eyes, un-friend you, un-follow you, block you. Just kidding – everyone will and you already know that. You think you’re raising awareness, making a “difference,” but they all just see it as a public diary begging for attention and it’s annoying.
Situation: Make a mistake at work.
Anxiety: You are an idiot. How could you do this? You’re making us look bad. See those whispers? They’re all talking about you, and not in a good way. Anyone would be a better employee than you. When you think they’ve forgotten about this “mistake” of yours, they’ll replace you and you’ll finally get what you deserve.
Situation: I am quiet.
Anxiety: Say something! Why are you so boring. Bet they are wondering why they’re even wasting their time with you right about now. *Five minutes later when I want to speak* LOL you really think you should say something now?! You’ve already had your chance, leave them alone.
Situation: I speak.
Anxiety: Shut up. You are talking too much. You are so annoying. You’re doing that thing again when you think you’re having a good conversation but they don’t even understand why you are talking to them.
Situation: Share my feelings.
Anxiety: You’re so dramatic. Everyone goes through this, but you, you just have to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Why can’t you just be normal? Get over yourself. Change the subject by asking about them.
Situation: Share my opinion.
Anxiety: You’re wrong. So wrong. You don’t even make sense, why do you even bother? If you offend them or embarrass me, I’ll make your life hell.
Situation: Open a present.
Anxiety: Watch yourself. Be excited, but not too excited. Be honest, but don’t be cruel. Are you even listening to me? You don’t even seem like you like it. Might as well chuck it in the garbage right in front of them. Take the next thirty minutes to sit and think about how they interpreted your response and whether it was “good enough.”
Situation: Give a present.
Anxiety: They hate it. You don’t know them at all. They’re smiling to fool you. They are always disappointed in you. You spent too much, or too little, you can never get it right.
Situation: Say no.
Anxiety: What’s your problem?! They will never ask you to hangout, for help, to chat, etc. ever again. You better make this up to them, we can’t afford to lose another friend. In the meantime, never say no again. Me time? Sleep? Hobbies? Yeah right. You don’t schedule around those, you schedule those around your commitments.
Situation: The person I’m with checks their phone.
Anxiety: You’re boring them. They are planning an escape route. They are checking the time to see how much longer they have to sit here before it’s “acceptable” to leave. They are asking someone to call and fake an emergency. They are hoping that some exciting text is there, that they earned more lives to play their favorite phone game, that the social media feed has something, anything to spice up this dull conversation.
Situation: Eat unhealthy.
Anxiety: Wow. Un-freaking-believable. Do you not see yourself?! Let’s go take a peek in the mirror. No one likes you. I don’t even like you. You need to learn that there are consequences for your actions, do not eat until I tell you that you deserve to.
Situation: Send a text or e-mail.
Anxiety: You always say the wrong thing. Why do you even bother responding or reaching out? You texted back too quickly. You didn’t text back in time. You shouldn’t have said that. Why would they even care about that? They are ignoring you. This is your fault.
Situation: Go on a date.
Anxiety: You are unattractive. You are unworthy. You do not deserve their time. You are annoying. You aren’t sexy enough. You do not deserve affection. He’s going to break your heart. You care too much. You aren’t good enough.
Situation: Someone looks at me.
Anxiety: You have a booger, right? You must have something on your face. You look fat in your clothes. Your hair is so dry. You’re too dolled up or too casual, never just right.
Situation: Say no to a friend.
Anxiety: Might as well just tell them goodbye while you’re at it because you just failed them as a friend. They deserve someone that’s reliable. They’re ignoring you. They’re so upset with you. You are a terrible friend.
Situation: Late to work.
Anxiety: Remind me again… you don’t have any children, you don’t live with a spouse, and you own a clock – yeah, okay. You have no one to blame but yourself. You’re a low-life. You have no reason not to wake up on time. Oh, depression? That’s B.S. and everyone knows it.
Situation: Around my partner.
Anxiety: You don’t deserve him. You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re a complete waste of space. He’s too good for you. You’re ruining his life. He would rather be anywhere else. He’s going to leave you.
Situation: Someone makes a mistake.
Anxiety: You had something to do with this. If you would have just did one thing differently, it wouldn’t have happened. This is all your fault. Save them the trouble and isolate. You don’t deserve anyone’s time.
Situation: Take alone time.
Anxiety: You’re so selfish. That is what everyone is thinking. You’re wasting your time.
Situation: Have anxiety.
Anxiety: Don’t tell anyone. Don’t taint them with your worries. Let them be happy. You’re just a broken record of negativity. You’re just plain broken, really.
In all honesty, these weren’t recorded over a week of time and I don’t want to admit how short the timeline actually was. Imagine having these worries, insecurities, and instability in your life without any control over it. Imagine that this is how your brain has always worked. Imagine the outlook you would develop of yourself. Imagine the complete misery you would feel chasing the unrealistic desire to feel “normal.” Please know that mental illness rarely comes to an individual in one form, it is usually coupled with others. Be mindful when people with mental illness express their feelings or emotions because they overcame a tough obstacle in order to do so and they live in a vulnerable place when they let you in. Please understand why saying “It’s okay” does not erase 25 years of anxious thoughts that have over time converted into my own beliefs. To save you the time, I will respond “I know,” but inside, I know it is not okay.