Dear Humanity and My Loved Ones,
In all aspects of my life, I have always tried to be the best that I can possibly be, and anything less feels like a failure. See how extreme that last sentence was? That’s kind of how I am as a person – I’m always at one extreme, or the other. For this reason, and others, I’ve decided to write an open letter about anxiety, for you, for my loved ones. Here’s what I want you to know about my Anxiety, and anxiety in general.
We are all different, similar, and confusing.
As I’ve mentioned before on Metiza, I am a perfectionist through and through. What a lot of people don’t know about me is that underneath all that perfectionism, is anxiety. My thought process works in extremes, which if you want to put a textbook definition to it, is known as catastrophic thinking. For example, if I get a C on an exam, my mind starts working in a hundred different directions. My first thought is, “I’m going to fail this class. I’m not a good student. I should probably just give up now.” While managing those thoughts in terms of schoolwork is a little easier, managing those kinds of thoughts in my relationships is a little bit harder.
Humans are complex, interesting, wonderful, and strange creatures.
We are all different, similar, and confusing. So trying to understand how another person thinks, feels, or reacts is not the same as the next person. Trying to connect, communicate, or understand one person could mean something entirely different for another.This makes life for someone with anxiety terrifying – and at times, exhausting. If I get into an argument with a friend, my anxiety tends to fuel my decisions. My brain tends to make the assumption that if I’m arguing with a friend, this means that the friendship is over. I’ve messed up too badly to be forgiven, I’m a bad friend, and I don’t deserve to have friends ever again.
Reading that sounds crazy to someone without anxiety – because that isn’t how most people function. A more typical response to that situation would be to be present in the argument, work out the problem, and move forward, rather than dwelling and worrying about it afterward or freezing in the moment and avoiding the situation altogether. So what do I really want my loved ones to know about my anxiety?
Most importantly, it isn’t personal.
It isn’t, and it never will be personal. If I’m acting weird, or saying things that don’t quite make sense, usually, I’m anxious. If it’s hard for me to eat, or I feel uncomfortable in a room/social situation, my anxiety is usually at work. It’s not because I don’t want to be there, or I don’t enjoy eating, it’s because I’m paralyzed. What most people don’t know about anxiety is that more than anything, it’s paralyzing. It’s just as exhausting and confusing for me as it is for you to try and understand. It doesn’t always make sense, and at times, it can just seem downright strange. It also isn’t a choice, and while I’ve been coping with my anxiety for years, I still have times where I am so lost in my anxiety that it even feels difficult to breathe.
It becomes natural to fixate on something unnecessary, or irrelevant.
When you have anxiety, it isn’t just your own voice in your head anymore, telling you right from wrong. It’s like wearing those drunk goggles and trying to navigate your own life. A tiny situation is a big one to you, and when someone is angry at you, you feel they actually hate you. There’s no grey area for someone with anxiety, there’s just black or white. Your thoughts become distorted and blurry, and they stick with you.
Hearing that I am loved regardless of this struggle? Means absolutely everything.
I can’t speak for everyone who has anxiety, whether it be on a severe level or a smaller scale, but what I want most from my world and my loved ones is to see me and recognize me. To know that there are a lot of people out there like me, who are unsure and afraid and get stuck in their thoughts because it’s so easy to do.
While it’s no one’s job to provide reassurance or relief from those negative, taxing thoughts, (that’s work I have to do on my own) hearing that I am loved regardless of this struggle? Means absolutely everything.
I want the people I love, and the world I exist in, to know that I’m still the same Dani they’ve always known. I still love to write, to go on walks, to drink tea, to laugh, to read and to garden. In spite of my anxiety, I still have a lot to offer.
So why an open letter about anxiety? It’s more common than you think.
I want the world to understand that living with anxiety and managing it is possible – and it’s not weird or wrong or unusual to have anxiety. Though I want a lot of things to change in this world, I especially want people to have a better understanding of what anxiety is, and how it presents itself in our world.
If you know someone who has anxiety? Give them a hug, if they’re cool with it. Because sometimes we just need to be pulled out of our thoughts, and to be told how much we are loved.
Disclaimer: You’re Not Alone. Please seek the help of a mental or behavioral health professional if you are unable to cope with your emotional pain. If you ever have any thoughts to harm yourself or others or to end your life, please reach out for help. National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1.800.273.8255. Crisis Text Line.