I know it’s just an exam.
I know my life will not end if I don’t land a six-figure job by the end of this year. I know dating is complicated; it's never perfect. I know I could be more productive if I just stopped worrying so much and got some sleep.
The problem is, I simply can't; I have anxiety.
I have tried to refrain from unleashing my temper at people who are unaware that anxiety is a mental condition. After all, it makes sense to me that they can't understand because they have never actually experienced an anxiety attack themselves.
At times, it would be so easy -- and so tempting -- to angrily inject understanding and empathy into friends and family.
I’m glad I have restrained myself, though, because constant preaching will not effectively rid others of their ignorance. They cannot be culpable for their misconceptions of what true anxiety is.
We live in a society that is largely unaware of the term as a medical issue, rather than a common understatement meaning “stress” or “worry."
Most people say things every day like,“The fight I had with her gives me anxiety,” or “OMG, you gave me an anxiety attack when you didn't respond to my text.” Unfortunately, anxiety is also a true mental condition that is far more severe than most people know.
Now that I’m in a much calmer state, I will try my best to paint a picture of the world from an anxiety victim's point of view.
My intent is not to shame people who lay in oblivion or beg for pity. Rather, it is to spread awareness about the issue, and allow people to be a little more understanding on the subject.
Having anxiety can be summed up in two words: uncontrollable and unpredictable.
It is a physical reaction to a mental state that often has no cause and no warning. An anxiety attack is like having a nightmare while you’re awake. Your body becomes an earthquake -- complete with lava spewing at the center and screams of help bursting from all corners of your soul.
Then, your body suddenly becomes cold, because regardless of whether global warming exists, it certainly is real to your body. An anxiety attack feels like your entire world is ending, yet you can’t do a damn thing -- not even cry -- to mitigate the awful, heart-crushing sensation.
There will be times when you are sprawled across the couch, wondering if dying feels akin to this feeling. It’s a feeling of wanting to scream, bawl until your eyes are dry and rip out every organ until you feel better or until you feel nothing at all.
Some people struggle to get out of bed in the morning because of a lack of motivation and exhaustion. For people with anxiety, the exhaustion factor remains constant, but there is instead a mental to-do list that never ceases to whisper in your ear; it's a perpetual tug in the back of your brain that cruelly knifes you from the inside.
It is a feeling that the entire world will crash down on you if you don’t get up immediately to put a check mark next to something on that list; yet still, you are unable to move and are forced to remain in your perpetual state of fear.
So, please don’t simplify my problem by telling me to “stop stressing out so much.” Believe me, I’ve already tried to reason like that:
“It’s just an exam; a B+ will not cease your existence." "It’s just an argument; your family cannot hate you forever." "A lost cell phone will not initiate the apocalypse; it's time for a new one anyway."
Anxiety is far more complex than “nerves”; it's something a “chill pill” can fix. I mentally acknowledge that I’m worrying an irrational amount about something that’s not as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be.
The difference is, though, that I physically and emotionally cannot make that distinction. My body and emotions are simply not up to speed with my brain, and I can't change that.
All we want, as people who struggle with anxiety, is to be taken seriously and not be brushed aside as too big of a worrier, a maniac who can’t control stress, labeled as OCD, depressed or worst of all, too uptight. Please try to understand.
Photo via We Heart It