You Are Not Alone: This Is What It’s Like Living With Chronic Anxiety

Let me first disclose a few things before we get in to this piece.

Number one, I am not a medical professional. Please take this article with a pinch of salt, and please, always, seek out professional, medical advice when it comes to mental health. Or anything to do with your health for that matter. If something doesn’t feel right, please don’t self-diagnose on Google. Your health is a fucking priority. Take the greatest care.

Number two, my intention here is to simply share my thoughts, observations and experiences about my chronic anxiety. I’m just sending my story out in to the great cosmos, not expecting an answer back from the void, but because I want to keep the dialogue open about mental health. Everyone’s story matters. A lot of us may think sometimes we lead small, unassuming lives – but they’re still fucking valuable. Our stories are important. Our stories matter. In the United States, anxiety affects 40 million adults – that’s 18% of the population.

So we’re not alone. You’re not alone.

Number three, in keeping that dialogue open, we are also sharing with our loved ones who don’t understand what’s going on inside – because if you don’t tell them, they don’t know. That doesn’t mean you have to share every single private thought with everyone you meet or even the people you’re closest with. Some things are private. I call my private place the Holiest of Holiest Places. This place, deep inside my soul, is full of thoughts that belong to me, and me alone. I myself am an intensely private person. Even in writing this article I am carefully curating a piece of writing of only the thoughts I am currently willing to share on a public platform. So this is quite a confronting exercise for me, but I also acknowledge how important communication and connection is. When we all extend a little bit of understanding and grace to each other, in any context, great and positive things can happen. Because I think it’s fair enough to say everyone on this planet is grappling with an internal struggle, so just be kind.

Number four, the reason I am writing this anonymously is because, ironically, of my anxiety. I’ll be honest. I’m currently employed full-time and I’m sensitive to the fact that if the HR department from my current employer finds out that I wrote this, it could be used against me. I really wish I could attach my name to this – because I am not ashamed about my mental condition. Unfortunately, some people can be real assholes and may judge me ‘unstable’ or ‘unfit’ for work.

In writing this article, I spoke to a few people and I heard some pretty shitty stories of people losing their jobs, or being attacked on social media. Even though I want to talk about this openly, I am still very sensitive to the fact that others are very sensitive to mental health conditions, and a lack of understanding could cause me grief because someone has decided to be judgmental fuck face. I do say that with a lot of love, I really do. Because we can all be fuck faces from time to time. No one is perfect. I’m just protecting myself, and I hope you can understand that.

So, the thing about anxiety.

I was recently diagnosed with generalized chronic anxiety. What that means is that my anxious feelings don’t go away in a situation where I feel under stress or pressure. With that said, I am a highly functioning anxiety sufferer – I hide it very well and still go about life, but inside there’s some crazy shit going on.

Along with the diagnosis, I was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and use medication to manage it.

I won’t tell you what I’m on – that’s a decision that needs to be made between a patient and their doctor – and I don’t want to influence anyone who may have a mental condition who may be reading this, but my medication is ‘re-wiring’ my brain.

What does that mean?

Here’s a bit of background.

I work in a very intense industry. I’m a team leader. I direct a team. I guide and manage clients. I need to keep my team happy. I need to keep my clients happy. I need to keep everyone fucking happy. I run on adrenalin and I love it. I thrive on that shit and I’m very good at it. That’s my damn ego getting in the way there, which doesn’t help. But it became a problem because I’d been running like that for over a decade and it all caught up with me all of a sudden. It wasn’t just my career, but also other stuff.

I was sexually harassed for years when I was in my late teens and early twenties. That really fucked me up. I’ve been mentally and emotionally abused by egotistical, controlling bosses and peers that would not only kick me when I was down, but keep kicking me when I was down. Despite the fact I did nothing to deserve it. Like I said, people can be fuck faces. But I still picked myself up and smiled and treated them with kindness, because I believe that is the right thing to do. Like I said earlier, everyone is struggling. But I refuse to be a person that doesn’t extend that understand and grace I keep on going on about. Hate breeds hate. I don’t want to be bitter, I want to be better.

Anyway, along with juggling a career with friendships, relationships and family, it all gave me anxiety. Then there’s meeting society’s expectations! Why aren’t you married yet? Why aren’t you engaged to that person you’ve been seeing for years? Why haven’t you had kids yet? Why don’t you have a mortgage yet?

Then comes the questions about the medications. Does it affect your ‘authentic self’? Are you, you, if you’re on medication? That’s a personal question that only someone who suffers from a mental condition can answer – and no one else’s business to judge. Again, how ironic. My anti-anxiety medication gives me anxiety. Ha!

So why do all these things give me anxiety?

I am wired that way. I’m a people pleaser. I hold myself to high standards and expectations. It all stems from childhood. I’m the eldest of several siblings. I’m way too hard on myself. Everything that has happened to me in my life wired my brain in to a hyperactive power house of crazy thoughts and feelings.

I would lay in my bed at night and think about all sorts of shit.

Here’s a crazy example of my thought process while I lie in bed:

Did I lock my car? Because it’s on the street. But I did park it underneath a street light, so if anyone tries to break in to it, someone will see that person’s face. But wait. That street light provides light to see in to my car. What happens if they look in and see something they want? Did I leave anything valuable in there? No, I don’t think so. I mean, there is a few CDs in the glove box, but who buys CDs anymore? Who still has CD stacker in their car? I do. Why do I still have a car with a CD stacker? I should buy a new car. I mean fuck, I still drive the first car I ever purchased. I have been driving it around for thirteen years. But there’s nothing wrong with my car. It still gets me to A to B. But it is pretty old. But she just keeps on going. How lucky have I been with this car? Thank you God. I fucking love my car. A lot of shit has gone down in that car. She’s a good car. But she is a beat up old thing. What happens if my client sees my beat up old car? Would they judge me? Would I care? Should I be driving something more glamorous? Does anyone care? Why should what I drive define me? Why do people care if they drive a Mercedes? Is Mercedes a good brand? Am I good at my job? I do love my job. And it only spirals more from there.

This is the shit I would think about and sometimes still do.

And sometimes, it might snowball, and I’ll get myself in to a panic and break down.

It happens.

But guess what, IT’S OKAY.

My intention here is not to throw myself a pity party and go on and on about the injustices that happened in my life. The fact is, despite it all, I persevered through it all, but sometimes you need some help. I am who I am. You are who you are. Our experiences in life affect us every day. The people in our lives affect us every day. They influence us, they challenge us – we evolve us.

My anxiety has made me a very discerning person. Since I am so hyper-aware of everything happening around me, I’m very good at listening and watching. It’s made me wiser. My anxiety is not evil. It’s something I’ve had for many years, and is still very much a part of me that’s evolving. Just like my life experiences shaped me in to the person I am today, my meds are helping reshape my brain to embrace the good with the bad and not freak out about it.

It’s kind of like when you were a kid, and you fell from the playground swing, and scraped your knee, and you had a cry, but you quickly got over it because you have to go down the slide now because that’s fun, and oh look! There’s a tree, I’m going to climb it!

When you become an adult, you sometimes forget how to do that.

Now, it’s like, okay, that person is behaving like an asshole, but that’s not my burden to carry. So I’m just going to go over there and enjoy my day and I might go and buy a donut, and Jesus Christ, how fucking good are donuts?

The thing is, there are so many layers to the human psyche, I don’t think you can ever truly say you know yourself all that well.

So you spend your life getting to know yourself better.

Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s fun, sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry, sometimes you just fall and just sit there on the ground for a little bit before you pick yourself back up. Sometimes you take some meds.

And no one knows how to do life. No one. There is no fucking manual.

But if there’s one thing I do know, if we were all a bit more gracious towards each other, a little bit understanding, empathetic, I think some really great things can happen.

Like being able to post this story with my name next to it.