I read an article today about the thoughts people have who battle anxiety daily, and I came to the conclusion that I want to know what it’s like for people who don’t battle anxiety or depression to have friends who do.
My friends joke with me that I am a crazy cat lady, and that’s true. What they don’t know is how many nights I cry myself to sleep with one of them snuggling up next to me.
It is a rather serious issue when someone faces the extreme amount of anxiety like I do. Often I ask myself if I am really worth it, if my friends are actually my friends, if there is a reason for facing this like I do and so many more thoughts that are painfully brutal most wouldn’t even think to consider when dealing with a person who has anxiety.
I can’t get up every morning. Countless times I have heard “get over it,” “get yourself together,” “act normal.” The one that I can’t shake is “stop being selfish.” I apologize for any reason I may have come across selfish. I didn’t choose to live with the torment that happens daily. As early as third grade, I have been dealing with this. I remember the first time I watched my language teacher walk up to me and I could feel my chest pounding, my hands clammy and my mouth shut. She wouldn’t understand. Tears flow like nobody’s business. Who would understand that an eight year old dealt with such a thing?
Imagine yourself in English class (the class you love) praying you don’t get asked a question because you will immediately not know the answer and have a panic attack in front of twenty-two other students and the teacher. It’s that feeling of when walking down the stairs turns into hurling down the stairs into this giant garbage can of “you’re not good enough.”
I wanted the answer to this question, so I asked a friend if I could come visit for a while. I had every intention of asking her what it was like to not deal with anxiety and have friends who do, but I completely shut down when I got there. In my mind the thought of “it’s a stupid question, don’t ask her that, what is she going to say, this is pointless” raced in circles until I couldn’t control my clammy hands and the nausea. I left the question alone, and never said anything about it. I felt guilty. I went to her house to have a conversation about something I find serious, and I faced anxiety just getting the words to come out. When the question, “what’s going on?” came out of her mouth, my immediate response was “work.” Like really? Did I just say that?
As a server, I learned to act. Even though my anxiety can be disrupting in life, I manage to work through it. If I allowed my guests to see what I face when I walk up to a table, they would be terrified. The words flowing around my mind, the turning of the stomach, and don’t forget the clammy hands – they would be disgusted. Sometimes acting stronger than you feel only drags you down even more. I hid in the corner stall of the restroom for twenty minutes tonight because I couldn’t “get a grip” as most would call it. I can’t just “get a grip.” I sat there with my eyes closed for as long as possible. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When my coworkers can’t find me, and then ask why I have been in the restroom so long, they don’t understand the challenge of anxiety. To them it isn’t a serious issue because it doesn’t affect them and their life. They live completely opposite.
In random moments, I can find courage. Tonight, the question I longed to have an answer for finally was asked. I still faced the thoughts, but I asked anyway. In the most loving way possible the response was that there is a God able to heal. That is true and I believe there is. Anxiety and depression have beaten me blue these past couple of weeks. My faith, hope, and trust have disappeared because it has become so bad that I could not care about anything anymore. If this friend didn’t care, she wouldn’t have responded. Having close friends is a very difficult thing for me to do, but I can only imagine why it would be hard to be close with me considering the thoughts I have and how I respond to situations.
There are times when I am quiet and keep to myself because I do feel like I bother people. There are periods of time where people won’t hear from me for a while. Other times they hear from me everyday. Anxiety is unpredictable, and that is absolutely okay.
In the perspective of someone who fights daily to be “normal,” I hope this allows better insight to being friends with someone who is trapped in their own mind and can’t get out.