It's disguised in nervous ticks seen as common enough. But underneath the chewed fingernails, the twitching leg, the grip upon arms wrapping around your body, your nerves and brain are going haywire with the flight response. You just need to get out now, whether it’d be at a party, a situation you aren’t familiar with, or just being uncomfortable in your own skin.

“Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer--both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams.” ― Bram Stoker, Dracula 

This week, I thought I would post about something more serious than I normally would, because not only do I know friends with anxiety, but anxiety also affects me and can be hard to understand.

For me, anxiety manifest in the shortness of my fingernails, the persistent negativity that bounces around in my head, and a major drop in self-confidence. It affects how I function and feel. I will be despondent, not showing much emotion, and quiet. Good luck getting me to smile or say something funny, because, when under anxiety, there’s hardly anything to be enthusiastic over. Wherever you are becomes uncomfortable, a hostile environment, one that you have to escape, but you know you cannot.

Everyone has experienced anxiety at one point in his or her life. There are too many life events (going to a new school, starting a new school year, meeting new people, interviewing, first days of new jobs) that require anxiety and the departure from one’s comfort zone to not having experienced it.

That anxiety is normal. More often than not, the most debilitating anxiety— the kind that makes you want to go to sleep for a decade, rip your skin off your body, and run as fast as you can to anywhere— occurs in such a way that no one even realizes it. That is, no one realizes it until you’re sitting on your bed, tears trickling down your face, as you hiccup to your mother on the phone how you feel the like a failure and are just so unhappy that you wish (not for the first time) that you were somewhere else, someone else.

“The past could always be annihilated. Regret, denial, or forgetfulness could do that. But the future was inevitable.” ― Oscar Wilde

I used to get nervous over soccer games, wanting to do well and not make any mistakes. I still get nervous over interviews and meeting new people, like when I started my new part-time job this summer and how I will be meeting new people when I start school this fall. But the newest stress that I have is over the future, which is so close but still far away. There’s so much to be done, to accomplish, to consider. It can all become too much, and if you’re not happy on where you are currently in life (career, body, etc.), then anxiety turns to depression and despair.

I think that’s what people don’t understand about anxiety. It’s not just one thing that upsets you, but a combination of things— a bad day at work + feeling crappy about body image + worrying over the cost of college tuition + not knowing what you want to do with your life = anxiety. And, the combination creates the mindset that you can’t get out of easily without making some changes.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on all types of anxiety. I know there are many. And I know there is not one way to combat it. All I’m asking for is a little compassion and understanding in the face of combatting it. So if you know someone who suffers from anxiety, be patient. Don’t get frustrated, because that will be yet another thing that those with anxiety will be upset over. Send positive vibes instead!

Published by Anne Long