It is generally underestimated the impact that anxiety can have on an individual's everyday life. Anxiety can make everything from waking up in the morning to trying to restlessly get some sleep that same night extremely difficult. For me, it impacts every decision, outing, and appointment I ever make. It is a dark shadow that follows me around from morning to night. It is a hindrance and a setback I can not completely overcome. It is pressure in the back of my mind and a part of my personality. It is an overwhelming knot in my stomach, shake in my leg, ball in my throat. Anxiety affects my day to day life and battling it each day is a challenge but not impossible. Though it haunts me, it does not define me.
I wake up from my first alarm, already panicked. Did I oversleep? Did I get everything prepared for the day? Do I have enough time to get ready? Will there be traffic? Will I miss my plans, a meeting, an appointment? I still press snooze and try to get some more sleep. Three more alarms will go off (I set that many for fear that I will miss the first or second somehow, or perhaps to get a few extra minutes of anxiety avoidance). Finally I awake to face the day. I make my bed. Did I do it correctly? Should I have folded the top part of the comforter? No, I will just leave it be. On second thought, I better flip that top part--it will look better that way. Next, I proceed to feed my cats. Did I feed them enough? (I have had cats during all of my twenty-five years of existence and never have they ever gone hungry...but still I can not help but question myself). I go into the shower, thinking about everything I have to get done today. I think about what I am going to wear, if it will be appropriate for whatever I am about to do, how I should wear my hair, if I will be late to my appointment, if I have time to have breakfast, what I will have for breakfast, what shoes I will wear, what people will say to me, how my meeting/plans will go wrong, how I will be judged, what I will say wrong, etc. I get out of the shower, shuffle to get dressed and do my hair, even if I am not late, and rush downstairs to have some coffee. Did I put too much coffee? Will it be too strong or too weak? Did I put too much creamer in my coffee--will I gain weight from this? Over breakfast, I replay a hundred scenarios of what could go wrong during my day from conversations with friends to important business calls and meetings. I am often questioned why I am so quiet at times. It is because I have so many thoughts running through my head that I do not even realize I am being quiet at all. In fact, I can probably go a complete day all by myself with no other interactions and still not be bored. I am aware that my thinking is irrational. I am aware that most of my fears will not come true, and if they do they are not as serious as I am giving them credit for. But still I keep on...
I am guilty of adjusting my life slightly to fit my anxious lifestyle. I avoid driving other people if possible, only parallel park when no one else is around (even though I really do not have an issue with parking). I avoid toll roads without Ezpass for fear that I will have to deal with correct change and talking to people (I do not even have social anxiety it is just the general thought of dealing with people and the pressure associated with it). I am not a nervous driver--I learned from the best (my dad) and I am quite confident. But my anxiety tweaks this into something completely irrational and I succumb. Does the driver behind me think I am going too slow? Should I get over to the next lane since I have to take an exit in three miles? Since there is space to get over now should I do it so that I do not have to deal with the pressure of getting over to take the exit later? Do the people in the car with me think I am going to slow? Too fast?
Even meeting a friend for coffee is a challenge. I worry about what I am going to say. I wonder if there will be an awkward pause or a question that will make my face turn bright red for no reason at all. I wonder if I will order the correct drink at Starbucks, if I say it correctly, if they judge what I will order. Again, I know that no one cares enough to pay that much attention to me, but still I worry. And lunch? Forget about it. Will I mess up while ordering, did I order the right lunch, there are so many choices! Will there be something in my teeth? Will I spit when I talk? Will I have anything to talk about? Is 20% tip enough? How does my friend want to split the bill? My order was a dollar more than my friend's--should I offer more money or will that seem silly? I knew I should have ordered something that was the exact same amount as her!
My anxiety is sometimes so severe that I get nervous for other people's endeavors. If someone else has an interview or an impending situation that would make me nervous, just hearing about it affects me. Even television sitcom situations sometimes make me cringe. When I was little, I had to walk out of the room if someone was to deal with something awkward or daunting on tv. Since I have learned to disconnect a bit, but it still makes me crazy!
The problem with general anxiety is that you know exactly how irrational you are being. You learn after high school that no one truly pays as much attention to you as you think they do. But still, you can not help but worry--what if? So many things could go wrong, It is silly to think that small interactions can so severely affect my well-being and my psyche but it is something I have balanced since I was a little girl and it is a part of who I am.
I email or text rather than return people's phone calls. I avoid answering my phone at all costs. If I do not know a number, forget about it. I can not prepare for this phone call enough to answer it. If I do have to make a phone call, I plan out every possible scenario in my head so as to be completely prepared. I rehearse a script in my head. I know exactly what I am going to say when the person answers the other line of the phone and have a response for every question or statement they may say.
I do not want to work for someone else. Dealing with that type of stress and anxiety puts me over the edge. I am in the process of starting my own company one: because I like doing things a certain way and think I can carry it out more effectively and two: because I simply do not want to go on an interview, deal with a bunch of different scary scenarios on a daily basis, and I can basically adjust my days around the pressures of the world. I would rather do years of research to master something myself than learn it from someone else. I would rather write a fifty page paper than do any form of public speaking whatsoever. I attended Grad School online so that I would not have to face the classroom pressures that I faced for undergrad.
As I write this, I feel crazy. Seeing this all out in the open makes me feel as though I do not have it under control, but in actuality I really do.
I go through these thought processes every day. I overthink every decision, every plan, every situation, every conversation. I am indecisive, nervous, and my biggest critic. I am quick to judge and way too hard on myself. I think irrationally about everything from social outings to business endeavors. But I do not back down. I may change things around to make myself more comfortable. I may avoid certain situations but for the most part I push myself to do things because I know that if I do not, I will not reap the benefits associated.
So I push through, though difficult, little by little, in order to get done what needs to be done. I still have an active social life. I overthink every aspect of my friendships, outings, and gatherings, but I am present. I push myself beyond my limitations so that I can have a life. I have an amazing boyfriend who helps make my life easier and though he does not quite understand the severity of my anxiety he also does not realize the importance of his presence in my life. My anxiety is cut in half because of the support from him, and my family. They may not understand quite how difficult my everyday life is but they sure are present to help me through it and help me work past it and I could not ask for more.
Life with anxiety is hard, but not impossible. Sometimes it seems as though the world is crashing down. Sometimes it seems as if there is no way out, as if an impending situation will be the worst experience of my lifetime. But I always get through it. I push myself through every situation I come across and with those accomplishments I prosper.