What I Mean When I Tell You 'I Have Anxiety'

This is something everyone should know.

When I tell most people I talk to that I have an anxiety disorder, they nod their head and tell me it’ll be OK. When I tell them, “I’m sorry, I’m having a bad anxiety day, can we reschedule?”, they smile and tell me there’s nothing to worry about and if I just get out of bed, I’ll see that everything is fine. When I don’t want to go bar-hopping because I know that alcohol only increases my anxious tendencies I hear, “You’re fine. It’ll be fun. Let off some steam!”

Meanwhile, my heart is pounding so fast that I’m afraid it may be visibly beating out of my chest.

But it isn’t. My head isn’t actually spinning in circles. My eyes are not crossed like my blurred vision indicates. My knees aren’t wobbling along with the trembling muscles fighting the urge to collapse. My face isn’t pale and my eyes aren’t bloodshot. No, on the outside, I look like I do every day. My hair is clean. My clothes match. I am awake, alive, and breathing fine. So nothing is wrong, right? Wrong.

That’s the thing about anxiety disorders. We look fine. Of course we look fine. Our legs aren’t broken. Our tongues haven’t been cut out. We aren’t bruised. Because anxiety is not a physical disability. That however, does not make it any less debilitating. Anxiety is a complex disorder and it is nothing to simply smile and nod away. You telling us everything is OK not only doesn’t help us, but it hurts us more because nobody seems to take it seriously.

So here are some things I would like you to know about the struggle with anxiety.

1. It is not constant.

There are days when we can make it through without having to stop and breathe or pop a Xanax if we are lucky enough to have a prescription. We can smile and laugh. We can be productive and go to work, go out to dinner, go see a movie with our friends. And trust me, I know how difficult it is to understand how we can be fine one day and the next unable to get out of bed. That’s just how it is.

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