I am writing this to talk about something that is always hard for people to explain. Hopefully, I can get my thoughts out while I turn to one of my ways of coping, but even while writing this I am struggling with the idea of posting it because no matter what I type, it’s not going to be right. I am going to try anyway.
Hello, my name Anna, I am 24 years old and I have social anxiety and depression. A lot of people in my life do not know the inner demons I have, and how much of a struggle my daily life is. How much I wish I don’t wake up, and how much I wish my brain would just be “fixed”. They don’t know how I have to convince myself to get out of bed in the morning and go to work, not because I hate my job, not because I am lazy, but because I am struggling with the fact that I woke up another morning. I have to face another day knowing I have to put in so much effort to hide what I am feeling from other people.
When people meet me they see a shy woman, they see someone that doesn’t talk much, that avoids eye contact, folds her arms, bites her lip, or plays with her hair. They see someone that is cracking her knuckles, fidgeting with her rings, chewing on her necklace. They see someone that seems very uptight and proud and wants to be left alone.
What they don’t see is the inner war she is having. They don’t see the panic, the shaking, the tears getting held back, or the struggle to breathe. They don’t see her eyes moving around as she notices every little thing happening around her. They don’t see her fidgeting with her rings, or twiddling her fingers. They don’t see her tapping her foot and doing everything she can just to remind herself that she is okay, and that she is still on a solid surface even though her legs are wobbling so much she can barely stand. It feels like she is on a fishing boat in the middle of a hurricane.
Not only does she hear someone talking to her but, she also hears every single sound around her. She hears the random people walking, conversations in the distance, the cars driving, and she can even hear the wind blowing. She hears dogs barking in the distance, and she hears bird chirping. She hears every word that someone is saying to her and she hears the responses in her head, but she can’t get them out because her mouth forgot how to form the words.
She hears all of her thoughts coming into her head at the same time, “What should I do? How should I be standing? Do they think I am weird? Do they hear how loud it is in here? Do they think I am crazy because I can hardly hear what they are saying over how loud it is? Am I going crazy? Shit, I am going crazy! What was that noise? Where did all these people come from? Is it always this crowded here? Do they see me panicking? Do they know how much this is killing me? Do I want them to know? Are they going to want to help?What? How? When? Why? What if- SHUT UP!!!”
The thoughts never stop. They just keep going and going. Then she hears all the noise again. She is able to break away from the conversation before anyone else can start talking. She finds a corner to hide in, a bathroom, or an empty room; anything away from the crowds so no one can see that she is struggling for a single breath. She hides so no one can see the tears as they roll down her face. Not because she is sad or scared, she knows she is safe, she knows there is nothing actually wrong, but the panic is there and she isn’t capable of stopping it.
After her brain calms down, she leaves the crowds as quickly as possible as she avoids everyone. She walks with her head down and headphones in because she knows it makes people more hesitant to speak to her. The entire time she is trying to get home she is worried that someone will talk to her, or even look at her.
She is home, she is safe, she is relaxed. She listens to music to quiet her brain, she reads a book so she can leave her reality for just a short time. Her phone rings. Her heart starts racing, she can’t breathe, she is shaking, “Who is this? Why are they calling me? What’s wrong? Who died? Oh god, who in my family is hurt? No one even has my number. Why am I getting a call?” She lets the phone ring because she was too anxious to answer and she was too scared to decline the call, so she looks at her phone nervously to see if someone left a message and to find out what was wrong.
She orders food because the stress of the day was too much and she no longer has the energy or motivation to cook. In the instructions she puts, “Anxiety – please leave food at door and walk away.” She knows she can’t open the door without going into a panic. The entire time she is waiting for the food she is panicking, wondering if they will actually leave it at the door, or if they are gonna stand and wait.
At the end of the day she gets ready for bed and, as she lays down the first thought that comes to mind is, “God I hope I don’t wake up. I don’t think I can do this again. It’s too much and I am not worth all the effort I put into each day.” Second thought. “Why do I do this every day? Why do I keep going? No one would miss me, no one would notice, and it would be so much easier if I wasn’t here.” Third thought. “Come on, Anna. You know that isn’t true, you know how many people you would hurt, and you know that you help many. You will be okay, tomorrow is another day and you will be okay.” Fourth thought. “God I hope I don’t wake up…”
Every day of my life, this is what my brain goes through. It’s a struggle that I try fighting and succeed at fighting every day. I am always at a 3/10. A good day is when I make it to 4/10. Some people may not see my daily life as “winning” but to me I am winning because I am still here.
I am not okay, and I have bad days. I wake up and go to bed with nightly thoughts of not wanting to wake up, or being upset that I did wake up. But, I know that I am loved and in the long term I know that I am okay, even if my brain tells me otherwise. This is a battle I am going to continue to fight. I know there is no “fixing” me, there is only coping and living the best ways I know how. I take the fights and turn them into something that makes me a stronger person and into something that might help others that may be going through the same struggles.
My name is Anna, and I am fighting another day for the chance of helping someone else.