The way I like to describe anxiety is that it is much like falling down the stairs. When you miss a step and your stomach drops for a second. That’s how anxiety feels: the only difference is it is constant, always there, tapping away at each part of me. It is sweaty palms, shaky fingertips and chronic headaches. It is the inability to breathe properly and stay calm. It is thinking "I shouldn't have said that" and "they are laughing at me".
Anxiety is not being able to hang out with friends as often as I should and feeling trapped in a crowded room. Anxiety is not making eye contact, not speaking up in class even though you know the answer. It is staying quiet in conversation because I don't want to feel judged. Anxiety is stumbling over your words and rehearsing everything I say before I say it. It is not wanting to be the first in line for something because everyone is behind you and can't keep them waiting. It is staying at home all day and missing out on fun things.
Anxiety is worrying about what I am missing when I’m too anxious to go out. It is having constant panic attacks and sensory overloads. That what anxiety is. Having a panic attack is a prolonged stream of this stress and worry. It is not a feeling of nervousness like you would get before a test or a big football game. It is a continuous loop of replaying situations in your head and working yourself up about them.
I often hear a lot of negative comments thrown around within certain places such as school, the workplace and the mass media. Things such as 'just get over it' or 'you don't look sick'. It is comments like this that can make those suffering from anxiety feel even worse. The same goes for any mental illness in fact.
Having anxiety makes you overthink everything. For most people, making a choice is easy. 'What am I going to wear today?', 'Shall I go to that party?'. Because of my anxiety, making a choice is a huge struggle. The worry sets in immediately, and I can't do anything about it. What's worse is that most of the time, I’m completely aware that my thoughts are irrational and that nothing bad is actually going to happen, but I can't do anything to stop it.
The anxiety is always there: it won't just go away because I want it to. When I had my first panic attack, I was told to 'go and walk it off'. If someone came to you with a broken leg, you most likely wouldn't tell them to do the same, so why is it any different? Having a mental illness is just as serious as having a physical one, and in some cases it can be a lot worse.
Anxiety is one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with and it is with me every minute of every day, but I’m not going to let it win. Instead of adding to the stigma surrounding mental health, we should educate people about what it is really like to have a mental illness. Stay fighting.