I don't think anxiety is the same for every person. And I believe there is this huge misconception that one can simply turn it off like a light switch.
Sometimes my anxiety makes me feel like everyone hates me. I mean... everyone. Honestly if you've been in my life the past ten years, I have felt this way about you at some point. Maybe you took too long to answer a text. Maybe you were busy and didn't answer at all. The littlest things can trigger these thoughts. And it's nothing anyone did wrong. Life happens. Rational normal thinking me gets that.. I do. But anxiety me doesn't.
Sometimes at night I stay up until six am thinking about an awkward moment I had with a friend a week ago. Maybe a year ago - or ten? The time and space between an incident really doesn't matter. I am still going to think about it. I am going to worry about it. Despite knowing the person it involved probably doesn't even remember what happened. I still care.
I take everything personally. Even if I don't outwardly show it. I often think that I am being annoying, or that I am talking too much. And I rarely text first because of my overwhelming fears of rejection.
Even though I know all these thoughts are not rational, simply telling me "don't think that way" doesn't work. It does more harm than good because it's just frustrating.
Anxiety becomes so overwhelming for me at times that I feel like I can not breathe. Like a hugs pile of cinderblocks have fallen on to my chest and then someone sat down on them.
Some days everything feels so overwhelming that I can't even get out of bed. I feel physical pain. My body hurts. I feel sick to my stomach. Sometimes I even throw up. I get headaches that bring me to tears.
People with anxiety aren't pretending to have an illness for attention. Most of us don't even talk about it because it's embarrassing and we are misunderstood. It makes us feel out of control with our own lives. With our friends, our spouses, our family, our children.... We don't want this life....
And just because we have irrational fears at times doesn't mean we aren't logical and critical thinkers. As I said above, I know the thoughts or feelings aren't usually true. But that doesn't stop my mind (and body) from going through the motions.
Everyone's levels of anxiety are different. So are our ways of dealing with the stress. A lot of my friends don't even understand the depth of mine because they don't think they have ever seen me in a panic. But at parties, out to lunch or shoots I feel it. It's happened with every person I know at some point or another..I will toon out mid conversation. I sort of stare into space thinking about different things to ground me in that moment.
Lastly, despite all this.... I acknowledge that I have it easy compared to other people. I have found ways to live with my anxiety. Although I still have some really bad days... most are manageable. Not everyone with anxiety is this lucky.
I wish we as a society could look at mental illness differently. I am not asking anyone to treat me with the kid gloves... but to acknowledge that it's real illness like anything physical. And just how you need self care for the flu or a cold... we need self care for the mind.
*** Disclaimer I am not a medical professional and am purely speaking from my own experiences and from things people in my peer support groups have shared. I am not self diagnosed. I am under the care of a medical professional / therapist. Treatment varies for different people. What works for me is talk therapy, kind and understanding friends and family, meditation, grounding exercises, aromatherapy, music, and physical activity like walking or dancing. I am not anti medication. I am not on meds, but believe everyone has to do what is right for them.