All growing up, from the time I was a few months old, my mom could always tell something was different. I would always worry, always freak out about the most ridiculous things, over think everything and ask an insane amount of questions.
When I was about 12, she took me to be diagnosed with OCD after realizing my obsession and concerns with germs in school. This came with going on medication and counseling. Although I knew I had OCD and was being treated for it, it still wasn’t fixing everything. I was still “abnormal” yet it seemed normal to me in my head. I felt it was normal to be missing my parents when they left on trips and I felt it was normal to feel alone in my own little world and wondering about everything.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year in High-School after having conversation with my peer that I realized I had anxiety. After looking more into what anxiety was and what happened in the brain, I felt like I had finally discovered myself or in a sense what was “wrong” with me.
I soon found out that my cousin had been recently down the same path and had figured a lot out. It was nice to have someone who I could talk to and not feel so alone and start to understand what was going on.
Let me get this straight: ANXIETY IS A REAL THING. It truly is. Some people believe that us humans who happen to have this mental illness or depression, ADD, ADHD, or OCD (etc.) are making crap up to get attention… nope. It’s all a chemical in-balance in the brain. Most of the time, it involves a chemical called Serotonin. It’s not something that’s just made up. Our brains don’t have the capabilities to produce enough of the chemicals we need to “properly” function. This doesn’t mean we’re crazy, it doesn’t mean we are super smart or super dumb, in fact even people with these mental illnesses have functioning, unique brains.
I’m going to try my best to explain what it’s like living with anxiety. I’ll take you through some pretty general situations that happen all the time and how my brain would react to them, what I had to do to try and control it, and what I wish those around me could understand about it.
The easiest way for me to explain it is a web. You know those spider web thinking maps you would do in school to figure out your subject and then what other facts your information you could use on an essay? That’s my brain by the second.
I’ll start with a pretty basic situation.
- Going to the bathroom during class.
Yes, I know this sounds silly, but I face this situation on a daily occurrence. Now, normally people realize the stream is running and the dam is about to break so they raise their hand, ask to go, leave and call it a good run. For me on the other hand, it would take a whole mental process of walking myself through every possible situation. Referring to this spider web the subject would be “Boy, I have got to pee” but then all of the sudden it explodes into this giant disastrous web of what would seem to be nonsense that I just shouldn’t worry about because peeing is a normal thing, everyone has to do it… WRONG! Instead I start to think about okay, how high should I raise my hand so only a certain amount of people realize I’m even trying to get the teacher’s attention…. But oh boy can I wait until class is over so no one knows and I’m not being rude even though we’re reading on our own… but wait Charlotte just went so is the teacher just going to assume that I’m trying to create a trend or be annoyed with the fact that I just happen to have to go at the same time… which way will I walk to get out of the door so I don’t draw attention to myself and the least amount of people with notice… but what if Steve starts looking at me… is my outfit okay?… okay maybe I’ll just try to fix my hair and hope that no one notices so that when I get up I look half decent…
SEE… IT NEVER ENDS. ALL I HAVE TO DO IS RAISE MY HAND, ASK TO GO TO THE BATHROOM, AND HECK JUST GO PEE BEFORE I PEE MY FREAKING PANTS…
But it’s not that easy. It’s always a constant battle. Almost like those two angels that are constantly arguing or talking to one another in my brain… even when I’m trying to sleep. It’s on going.
People don’t get this. It shouldn’t be that hard and I shouldn’t be so worried about every fine detail that happens in what seems like a goofy situation. But it happens. I began to play games with myself. I give myself a little pep talk, telling myself that it’s goofy that I’m so worried, and that I just need to do it. What happens, happens and I have to just accept that. It’s hard. SO HARD. But here I go, 3…2…1…
This doesn’t work for everyone. Everyone has their own way that they cope with their anxiety. It takes practice and it takes a lot of patience with yourself. Getting mad at my brain isn’t fair to me. I had to figure out how I could overcome each obstacle on my own and it just sometimes happens to be little games and goals.
Why I ask so many questions:
When I start to think about a topic, my brain keeps wanting to get to the bottom of it. It wants to know every fine detail just so that it can be okay and understand it. It’s almost like digging a hole. We start off with clearing the weeds and rocks. If we are trying to dig to the middle of the Earth, obviously that’s just the first step. Next comes digging a few inches, taking a break, digging a few more inches and so on until we need a machine. Then we drill, dig, break and over and over again until we reach our final destination. That’s how our brains are but instead of knowing the final destination, we dig and dig until we either come to a place where we feel like we have a good understanding or until those around us of sick and tired of us asking questions or we get fed up and give up on ourselves.
Anxiety causes us to question everything. Such as in my bathroom situation in “False Accusations”, I questions what Charlotte, the teacher, and my peers are going to think of me. We tend to do the same thing out loud, looking and depending on those around us to help us think through a situation or topic until we feel satisfied and like we can breathe and be comfortable and relaxed about it.
I will use an example based off of a general question as a child: Mom, why is the sky blue?
Everyone has always wondered this question, the answer being: molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light.
There’s your random fact for the day:)
But for me that answer isn’t enough. Okay but how did the colors get there in the first place? Why does blue show more than the other colors? How does the sun show the blue? How does the sun shine? Why is light always hot?
You see where I’m going with this? Now this can happen with pretty much anything. People who have anxiety are generally wanderers. We want to understand who, what, when, where, and why with pretty much everything. Some things we can tend to let go while others we can wonder about for an extended period of time. When someone with anxiety begins to ask questions, don’t get upset. Don’t get annoyed and say “ just because”. Take it as a learning opportunity. It took us the guts to open up a conversation and we are looking to you for help. We are allowing you in our minds to help us figure out a situation or a question. We want to learn and understand. We aren’t trying to be annoying. We ask “Why” because we truly want to know. Our brains don’t let us go that easily…
Having someone get mad at me because they were done with me talking or they didn’t care tore me into pieces. I didn’t understand why asking questions would make them so upset. I felt like it was a normal thing to ask crazy questions and always wonder. Being shut down or being told “that’s enough” didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to know. I wanted to understand, sometimes just so that my brain would leave me alone.
I’m an extroverted introvert:
I’ve always had a hard time making friends. I often think that something’s wrong with me or that I’m just not meant to socialize a whole lot. After a discussion with a fellow struggler I realized this.
Friendship is a skill. Friendships are relationships that take work, practice, patience, and love.
This isn’t a skill that we are born with, rather it is something that we learn. It takes work and dedication. That was hard for me to accept. I felt that everyone was put here for a reason so why can’t I just get along with everyone’s. I shouldn’t always feel like I have to be the one to plan something, text first, or get a group together. The fact is that that’s not actually how it is. We all have our levels of where we feel comfortable and that we have “enough” friends. Even then, I still struggled finding that balance. I enjoy getting out and going on adventures but generally in small groups or one on one. I enjoy when a bigger group gets together to do something fun or practice my beliefs but I tend to close down, get social anxiety, and don’t know how to act or what to say. Most people you would talk to about me would generally probably say that I’m a decently outgoing person. Depending on the situation and who I’m with, can be true but once again it comes with the mental battle. I have to make goals for myself, how many people I talk to, how much I’m going to listen and how many words I’m going to say.
Although I enjoy getting out, I also like “me time”. Sometimes I feel like I just need to take time for myself whether it’s watching a movie, journaling, sleeping, or even just sitting their thinking. Sometimes I have to say no to something I’ve planned or something someone else has planned because I need that time. Even though I want friends and I want to socialize, I have to be mentally prepared and ready to do so. I have to work my brain into that position where it is prepared to be social. Sometimes, I’m just not feeling it. Sometimes if it’s spur of the moments, I’ll think “screw it, why not” or “nope, not right now”. It takes work and patience to be okay with this. It’s hard because I constantly want to makes friends and make that effort but sometimes I always need my privacy or even feel lonely. Finding that balance is hard and something that I can’t beat myself up for. It’s a challenge that I have to find the inner strength to overcome.
I wish those around me would understand that. I don’t say I can’t hang out because I don’t want to, I’m just not in the mental state to be social. This doesn’t mean don’t ever ask me to do anything ever again, keep asking me and inviting me. Every time you offer, it gives me an opportunity to take the risk and find that power. That is a lot to ask for and it takes special people to not give up on you.