Lets just cut to the chase, anxiety makes everything in life hard. There are dozens of totally normal things that make me anxious, and they are stumbling blocks in everyday life. If I leave one minute later than I should have, I get anxiety about the traffic I might hit that might make me late to class. If I don’t do my homework, the anxiety of telling my teacher prevents me from going to class the next day. Chipped nail polish makes me anxious. Parties make me anxious. So let me just tell all of you who are non-anxious people what the thought process is behind a person’s anxieties.
For example: Social anxiety. Social anxiety is something that a lot of introverts struggle with. I consider myself an extrovert, yet the way I feel when I am out in public makes me feel like an introvert, because I feel trapped when I am in a social situation. When I meet with groups of friends, they drain my energy and I leave thinking over everything I said or did, analyzing peoples reactions, and wondering who is mad at me and why. I try to avoid people who make me feel uncomfortable, and I have to force myself to make conversation with people, for the sake of being cordial and friendly.
1. I get a panic attack when strangers get close to physical contact with me.
When I am walking through a large crowd, be it at Disneyland or a concert or wherever, I am terrified of running into someone. I don’t mean running into someone I know, which is usually a pleasant surprise. I am talking about bumping a strangers shoulder, or them bumping mine, or any other way to physically “run into” someone. Besides the very small possibility that they might get angry or violent for me stumbling into them, the most scary thing is that they will notice me and look at me. If I trip or look back and bump someone’s shoulder, a prompt scowl will probably be thrown in my direction then I have to apologize and deal with the awkwardness of the situation. It seems very dramatic, but someone with social anxiety is dreading the inevitable contact with strangers that happens when they leave their house. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a friendly person. I will talk to people and introduce myself and make new friends all the time. But when I am not in control of who I meet and who I talk to, I am stressed out and feeling like I am under a microscope.
2. Small talk.
When I see someone as I walk into work, my immediate instinct is to say, “Good morning, how are you?” I should stop that, because often times it is just out of courtesy and I really do not want to hear you lie and say “Good, how are you?” Which I will respond to (every single time) by saying “Good, thank you!”, regardless of if I’m feeling well or ill. Occasionally, I get trapped into a conversation when it is time to clock in, or I will feel like there is no escape from people because everywhere I turn there’s another person asking me how I’m doing. Honestly, even writing this blog is giving me anxiety, because it is bringing up past instances of me being anxious, which is stressful.
The second kind of anxiety that I struggle with is just anxiousness over small things that either involve people or don’t, but are not necessarily “social” situations. I call it general anxiety. (Notice how above I listed two examples instead of the standard three? That makes me anxious. Is two enough? Would three get my point across more clearly? Would three examples be too many? Am i being too repetitive? <– some thoughts I have while writing, making lists, doing office type work.)
1. Wearing sandals. I hate, hate, hate showing my feet. People have told me I have big feet before, and my second toe is longer than my first toe, so I rarely wear sandals. Since becoming an adult and finding more confidence in myself, it has been easier to do so because I no longer find value in other people’s opinions. When I wear sandals, it is either out of laziness or they just look better with whatever outfit I’m wearing. But even being a dancer, I would never ever show my feet unless I was on a dance floor. I get anxiety sometimes just looking at my feet, because feet in general are so gross, they are smelly and ugly and are always touching the floor. My feet give me anxiety, but other’s people feet give me more anxiety. And if someone were to purposefully touch me with their feet, I think I would have a heart attack and just die. Sometimes I think this makes me a germaphobe, but that’s not true. I believe in the 5-second rule. I will drink milk after it’s left out for a few hours and cheese is only bad if it smells bad or if it’s moldy. So germs are not the problem, but there is something in my mind that just ticks when I see feet, and boom! Anxiety attack.
2. Being in transitional life phases.
This one might be a bit more common. Right now, I feel like I am at a point in my life where nothing is set in stone, nothing is properly planned, and my finances are chaos. When I think about the FAFSA and paying for college loans, I get anxiety. When I remember that the power box only has 2$ on it and I don’t get paid for a week, I get anxiety. When I am only working 8 hours a week because I have a part time position and to pay rent I need to work twenty hours a week, that causes anxiety. Again, don’t get me wrong. The Lord has provided for me through all the craziness of this year, including quitting a few jobs and being laid off by one. My parents are wonderful supporters of me and help me with things I can’t afford. But sitting in my room wondering how I am going to pay the rent next month when I only have enough for half now is really difficult. It makes me think of my future. If I can barely pay rent on an apartment, how will I pay for a mortgage on a house? How can I ever raise kids when I can hardly take care of myself? These anxieties plague my thoughts and discourage me. Being a full time college student who lives on her own, at 18 years old, with bills and meetings and deadlines and just adult business, I feel like I am in a huge transitional phase during which I will be broke and eating ramen, whilst drinking tap water and putting the fan right next to my face because the Arizona heat is creeping into my apartment. I feel like I am just a leech, always asking for people’s help, which gives me anxiety.
3. Making plans.
As I list these anxiety-inducing things for the general public (and more importantly, my close friends and family) to read, I feel like I am missing some important points. And nothing makes me more anxious than unfinished business. But anywho, making plans is very stressful for me. First of all, to reach out and ask a friend to hang out with me is a long shot. I am comfortable spending most of my time with just one or two people, and the rest of my time alone or with God. Texting a friend to hang out means I have to depend on them to respond, which means if they do respond they might say no to hanging out, or they might say yes, in which case I will have to make it part of my schedule, which means that it will probably involve spending money, which I can not afford, and…. you get the point. I feel obligated to go out with friends rather than stay in and cook, because I do not want to prevent them from having fun or waste their time with my mundane activities. And if a friend says no to hanging out, I automatically will assume they are upset with me or are avoiding me. I immediately wonder what I did wrong and will try and ask why they can’t hang out. Nevertheless, making plans one on one with people stresses me out. Planning things for a group? Well that is like 1,000 times more stressful than finding one friend to hang out with.
Lately, I have been pondering over these things that cause me anxiety, as well as many other things that probably are hard for other anxious people to deal with. Getting them down on paper (the web!) is helpful because it keeps them out of my thoughts, and it gives me an opportunity to relate with people.
Another thing I am pondering as I write, is the reasons for anxiety to be likely in a person in the first place. I want people who have anxiety or panic attacks that its not your fault. Your DNA probably has a little gene that says “you are going to overthink every little thing in life” or “social situations = nervous sweating”. (Okay, not really, but that’s what I feel like my genes say). Your family history probably includes some kind of mental illness, such as schizophrenia (my grandmother) or drug problems. I am no scientist, but I truly believe that my anxiety has alot to do with something I can not control. On the other hand, there is a wonderful Father God in heaven who can relieve you of those anxieties, and if you pray to him and believe it will be done, it will be finished!
“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” ~ Mark 11:23
Throw those anxieties into the sea, friends.