Funny how anxiety can sneak up on you.
Funny how you can wake up every day feeling a deep sense of unexplainable dread. Today’s the day you die. Tomorrow the world will end. Everyone will die. If you make even one mistake, it’s all over.
Funny how you feel that every mistake is a disaster, no matter how small. Funny how you’ll lose hours of sleep worrying about mistakes you might make or ones you’ve already made.
Funny how, even when things are going well, you worry that everyone secretly despises you and is just too polite to say it to your face. You know everything that’s wrong with you. What must they see?
Funny how, bit by bit, life gets stolen away from you. You find yourself turning things down and hiding in your safe place instead of going out and experiencing the world.
Funny how you feel awful all the time for no reason. Funny how any situation, no matter how insignificant, can make your heart pound. How small things become huge mountains and simple tasks become impossible.
Funny how much you beat yourself up for all the things you aren’t doing, or should be doing. But everything is so much harder with this several ton boulder you have to push around with you everywhere you go.
That’s what anxiety’s like. And because I live with it, I don’t think I realized how much of it was the feeling and not the fact. I’ve been living with the constant belief that I am going to die violently if I make even one mistake, that I’ll lose my job and crash the car and destroy all my relationships because I can’t trust myself and neither can anyone else. I’ve just been taking these thoughts for granted. I’m one step away from a violent end because I can’t get my shit together, because I can’t manage, because I’m not in control.
I am this close to death!
It wasn’t until I saw a comic from The Latest Kate that I really understood myself. Sure, I’ve had a diagnosis of OCD/anxiety since college (though it’s been around my whole life), and sure, I’ve had a slew of (unsuccessful) therapy attempts to affirm that I have anxiety, not Impending Doom Syndrome. It’s not that I don’t know what anxiety is or what it does. But whoa has my anxiety gotten away with me.
I’ve believed everything my anxiety has told me about the world. That it isn’t a safe place. That I have to hide until I am competent, until I know I can be safe. That I am not capable of living in this type of world. That the world demands too much and I can’t handle it. That the only way to be safe is to do nothing at all. Then you can’t mess it up.
You know what keeps mental illness sufferers from moving forward? The fear that what we tell ourselves is right, that we really are worthless or incapable or not managing. Because we believe it is right, we think there is something wrong with our ability to be a proper human being and we hide how much we are struggling. It’s even worse when we get confirmation from friends and family about our inability to manage things. What’s wrong with us? Why can’t we handle this? Look, everyone else is doing great; why aren’t we doing what they’re doing?
There have been times when I’ve thought (or worried) that anxiety is a bullshit disorder that I use as an excuse to not live life. And that’s when I remember that I actually want to live life and feel so exhausted and terrified all the time that I find it exceedingly difficult.
The first hurdle that we have to face is to acknowledge that it’s okay to struggle. We’re not making it up, we’re not weak. We’re not bad people because we’re struggling. And we’re not struggling because there’s something wrong with us and not everyone else. We gotta quit comparing, anyway.
After that, we can start to dismantle the lies that we tell ourselves. When we see them for what they are, they no longer feel like truth. We don’t have to listen to that narrative anymore.
And maybe its not a bad idea to come out and talk about our experiences with mental illness, either. That’s what I’ll try to do.