What Does Anxiety Look Like?

What does anxiety look like? Sound like? Feel like?

Anxiety looks like a smile, sounds like yawning through the day and a million voices at night, and feels like… nothing, but everything.

For me, anxiety is…
-Rewriting an entire list when I’ve messed up one word.
-Staring at my phone in bed trying to distract myself when I should be sleeping.
-Feeling like no one wants me around.
-Wanting someone to text me, but when my phone does go off, trying to avoid it for fear of what it might say.
-Trying hard in everything I do despite feeling that I’ll ultimately fail.
-Avoiding eye contact during conversations afraid someone will see through my mask of confidence and self-love.
-Feeling like I can’t breathe.
-Feeling unaccepted.
-Thinking that everyone is talking about me.
-Unanswered texts.
-Canceled plans.
-Excuses.
-Typing a blog with tears running down my face at 1am when I should be in bed because I have to be up early in the morning. Typing a blog that I want no one to see but at the same time, I want everyone to see… to notice.

I have struggled with anxiety since I was pretty young. I remember lying in bed one night when I was around twelve-years-old and I was thinking about things I needed to do, and those thoughts became voices. It sounded like 20 people were yelling at me, reminding me of the list of things that was running through my head. It was my first time experiencing something like this so I had no idea what was going on. I asked my brother if he heard the yelling also. He hadn’t.

I tried so hard as a kid to make someone proud. I tried hard for someone to be impressed with something I had done, but in my family “good job” or “I’m proud of you” weren’t handed out very freely. “You did it wrong” or nothing being said at all were more common.

My anxiety only got worse as I got into high school. I had several friends that I saw during school hours, but I couldn’t ask them to hang out outside of school. What if they said no? I knew they would say no. No one wanted to spend time with me. I longed for those high school friendships and experiences that you always read about and see on TV, but I was terrified of putting myself out there. Who would want to be seen with me anyway? If only my anxiety had stayed at the school once I graduated. Wishful thinking, huh?

For me, anxiety is feeling like I failed after I sit down after singing in church. It’s feeling like I have no purpose in my life. Do you ever wonder if everyone is just pretending to be your friend just to be nice? I do.  Ever feel like your family would trade you off if they were given the chance? All the time. What about trying to dress nicely to try and make yourself feel more accepted and to “fit it” only to stress about getting your outfit right? Everyday.

You can tell me that it’s all in my head; that I’m overreacting… I already know that. You can tell me that I’m being ridiculous. Trust me, no one knows that better than myself. Should I just “calm down”? If only it were that easy.

No, this isn’t self-pity. I’m not looking for sympathy. I know better than anyone else that my anxiety is ridiculous; that the thoughts that enter my mind are absurd… but that doesn’t stop them from coming. You can tell me that you love me and that I matter and I will believe you, but maybe only for a day. Anxiety is an ugly thing that torments beautiful people.

Now, this post isn’t all bad. I can honestly say that my struggle with anxiety has gotten easier. I still have my bad days (like today) and that can make me feel like I’ve not made any progress, but even on my bad days, it’s hard for me to deny my small victories. I used to have bad anxiety days at least 3 days a week, now I get them approximately once every two weeks. This is not because of anything I have done exactly, but what my friends and ultimately God has done. I’m so glad that my friends, family, and God are patient with me. I often tell my friends that I don’t understand why they put up with me because I don’t even like putting up with myself,  but I’m glad they do. We are all blessed in so many ways, even if anxiety doesn’t always let us see it. Praise God in the middle of the storm. Claim victory over healing. Trust and believe that God can deliver you from your anxiety that is crippling you. Most imporantly, don’t give up. You have purpose and meaning. God knows what He is doing.

Do you suffer from anxiety? Here is a list of some things you can try to help:
1. Let your friends and family know what’s going on. They can’t help you if they don’t know what you’re going through.
2. Pray for and believe in God’s healing. Your anxiety is not bigger than God.
3. Make a list of Bible verses that offer you encouragement and hope and keep in with you either on your phone or in your wallet or purse.
4. Find that person that you can text or call when you’re having a rough day.
5. Once you have found a method that works for you, write it down and turn to it when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
6. Start your day off with prayer, asking God to calm your thoughts and to let His word become your thoughts.
7. Exercise.

Do you know someone who suffers from anxiety? Do you want to help? Below is a list of some things you can do/know to help:
1. Don’t think that you have to understand what’s going on, just know that it’s very real to those suffering with it.
2. Please avoid comments such as “just calm down” or “you’re overreacting.” These comments are not helpful, they only make those suffering feel more broken.
3. Pray for them! Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.
4. Just be there to listen. You don’t always have to have an answer. It means a lot just to have someone to talk to.
5. Educate yourself on anxiety.
6. Reaffirm your love for the suffering person. Sometimes it helps just to be reminded that you are loved and important.
7. Text them first or give them a phone call.

Do you suffer from anxiety or love someone who does? Check out the links below for more on the topic.

http://www.desiringgod.org/topics/fear-anxiety

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional-health/anxiety-disorders-frequently-asked-questions

https://relevantmagazine.com/article/5-things-christians-should-know-about-depression-and-anxiety/

https://themighty.com/mental-illness/

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