Since I’ve started talking about it, I’ve been realizing how difficult it can be to explain what it’s like to have anxiety. Even after I spend hours crafting a long post or filming a video that I feel like accurately portrays what I want it to, I still get comments like “Well, just stop worrying about it.” Sigh. So I’m going to keep trying different ways you can look at it to get a better idea of what this is like.
My anxiety seems to manifest itself mostly in social situations and by making me incredibly self-conscious. This post may seem almost comical because even when I look back through it I think “why would I worry about that,” but hopefully you can see just how exhausting even mild anxiety is and be more forgiving to people who deal with these thoughts every day.
A Typical Day with Anxiety
Wake up. What time is is? Did I oversleep?
Check phone. No, I’m OK. Today is going to be a long day. I have a lot to do. I hope I don’t get called on in class. What if I do get called on? Do I know the material well enough? Maybe I should study before class.
Look through social media. I feel like everyone is doing fun things and I’m not. I should do more fun things. I should get out there more. I want to join a club or something. But what if I say something stupid on the first day? Everyone will remember that for the rest of the year. Plus I wouldn’t know anyone and it’d be weird to join halfway through the semester and what if no one likes me and then I’d have to plan it around my school and work schedule…I don’t think it’s worth it.
Get out of bed. Shower. What should I wear today? It’s going to be cold in the morning but warm in the afternoon, so do I dress for the cold or for the heat? If I wear a sweater everyone’s going to stare at me when it gets hot. But if I wear a t-shirt everyone’s going to stare at me as I walk to school and wonder why I’m crazy enough to wear a t-shirt when it’s cold outside.
Get dressed. Put on a jacket. Walk to school. Why is no one else wearing a jacket? Everyone else is in short-sleeves. Am I literally the only person on campus who wore long sleeves today?Everyone is looking at me. I should stop and take off my jacket. But then everyone would think that I wasn’t smart enough to check the weather this morning. I’ll just get to class quickly.
Walk into class. Only a couple people are already sitting down. Am I in the right class? I know this is my sixth week of school, but what if I’m not in the right class? Or the professor changed rooms today and I didn’t get the memo? Do I recognize any of these people? I don’t recognize them. I’ll sit in the corner so if this is the wrong class I can leave without anyone noticing.
Other people start to arrive. I recognize her. Thank goodness. This is the right class. I hope we don’t have to get into pairs for anything. I don’t know anyone here. Who should I ask if we have to partner up? That girl looks nice. Shoot, her friend just sat next to her. Oh, please don’t make us pair up.
Professor starts teaching class. I have a thought about that. But no one else is raising their hands about it. Maybe it was a stupid thought. Besides, I never talk in class so if I talked this one time everyone would be super surprised. What if I stutter or something? That would be embarrassing. It’s probably not worth it.
Nearing end of class: I hope he doesn’t go overtime. I can’t be late to my next class. I’ll walk in and everyone will stare and watch me until I sit down. My professor might say something to me and then my face would turn red and I wouldn’t know what to say and that would be so embarrassing.
Walking to next class: Everyone is staring at me. Is my backpack unzipped? Is my fly down? Is my shirt getting pulled up? Is there something on my face? Is my hair sticking out? Are my jeans too short? Am I walking funny? Do I look angry? Just stare at the ground and keep walking.
Next class: I’m hungry. But if I eat a granola bar the wrapper will be loud and I’l annoy everyone. But if I don’t eat anything my stomach will growl and that will be annoying too. I’ll just drink a lot of water. But then I’ll have to go to the bathroom and I’m meeting someone for lunch in an hour but if I go before I might be late and I hate it when people are late so I can’t go before and risk it but I don’t know if I’ll have time afterwards.
Next class: It’s getting cold in here. I want to put on my jacket but it’s in my backpack and I’d have to unzip it what if it gets caught on my zipper or something and people notice? And what if I’m putting it on and I can’t find the other sleeve because I do that a lot and I’m this awkward person struggling to put a jacket on and people tell their friends about me after class? I’ll just wait.
Meeting a friend for lunch: Where is she? I’m here at the right time, right? And at the right place? Why hasn’t she texted me? Oh no, did I come here on the wrong day? No, it’s the right day. Well, I’ll just sit here and try to pretend like I’m doing something entertaining and I’m not a loser who doesn’t have any friends. I feel like everyone is staring at me again. They probably feel sorry for me.
Friend arrives. Eat and talk: I wonder if I eat weird. Some people look weird when they eat. Am I one of those people? Did I get my reading done for my next class. Oh crap, I forgot. I hope there isn’t a quiz. And if there is I hope it isn’t one of those where we have to grade each other’s work because the person grading mine will see that I missed all the questions and they’ll think it’s funny and think I’m a slacker or I’m stupid.
Lull in conversation: Oh no, we ran out of things to say. What do I say? Say something. I’m so boring. I bet she only joined me for lunch because she felt bad for me. She probably doesn’t want to be here. She doesn’t really want to be my friend. She probably goes back to her friends and jokes about how awkward I am. No, that’s mean. She’s too nice to do that. But she still probably doesn’t want to be here.
Next class: I have that movie thing on Friday. Why did I agree to do that? No, I like these people and I should hang out with them. I spend so much time by myself. I should get out more. But I like spending time by myself. What if there are people I don’t know? What time should I get there? What if I can’t find parking? What if I go to the wrong apartment? What should I wear?
Work: I’m only going to know a few people there I bet. I’ll just talk to them the whole time and follow them around. But what if I annoy them? I know I annoy people when I do that. I’m like a child. What will I talk about? What if the people I know leave for something? What if they aren’t there at all? What if I have the date wrong? What if I say something stupid? What if I make a joke and no one laughs? What time should I leave? How can I get out of it?
Getting home: Finally. Alone.
Falling asleep: Hey, let’s worry about that party again. *Repeats every thought of the day.Remembers how I raised my hand in class and my professor didn’t notice so I had to put it down all awkwardly even though everyone noticed. Thinks about what my interview is going to be like for a job I might apply for in two years. Relives that time I slipped on the ice and fell off the bus in the seventh grade. Thinks about how I’m never going to accomplish anything because my ideas are all stupid. Also thinks about how I’m not working hard enough at my goals so I need to step that up.* Crap, I’ve been laying here for three hours. I’m going to be tired tomorrow and I have a lot to get done. *Worries about being tired until I finally fall asleep*
Congrats if you made it this far! It’s a lot, and this isn’t even half the thoughts that go through my head on a daily basis. I know a lot of it is ridiculous and believe me, I spend a lot of time talking myself down from the anxiety highs I get. But my point is that I can’t control these thoughts, and neither can anyone else with anxiety. It’s frustrating and annoying and exhausting. So just keep in mind that you never know what someone is thinking or going through, so be nice to people. 🙂