What your friends with anxiety want you to know

I've suffered from anxiety for about 15 years. I can still remember my first anxiety attack - I had no idea it would be something I'd have to deal with for the rest of my life. I also had no idea how it would affect the people around me. It's a hard thing to explain what you're experiencing to someone who has never had to deal with an anxiety disorder before.

I can't speak for everyone, but here are 8 things I want my friends to know about my anxiety.

I'm not doing it for attention // This is probably the biggest thing. In no way am I acting this way because I want attention. The anxiety I feel is real. It's as real as any other type of condition or illness. I'm not trying to make an excuse for my behavior by just saying "I have anxiety". I've actually been told by a doctor that I have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety and worrying are not the same thing // I've had a lot of people close to me ask "What do you have to worry about?" They say this out of love and concern, but they're not understanding what's going on in my mind. Worrying generally happens for a specific reason, where my anxiety happens out of the blue. I still worry about things, like whether or not I'll be successful in my career or make enough money...but those aren't the things I have anxiety about. I have anxiety about being in big groups of people or my drive home from work. This occurs for no specific reason. It has physical side effects as well as mental, where worrying does not.

It's totally possible to have social anxiety and be an extrovert // I am a total extrovert. I feel my best when I'm socializing with other people. However, being in social situations with people I'm not close with can freak me out. When I meet someone new they typically see me as quiet, but for those who have known me for a long time know that I'm not quiet at all. I'm a goofy, quirky, spunky, girl. it's just hard for me to act that way if I'm not feeling comfortable. It starts to feel pretty lonely when you get your energy from being around others, but engaging in conversation feels impossible at times.

Please don't stop inviting me to do things, even though I will cancel ... a lot // I still love spending time with my friends. I love catching up for coffee, grabbing lunch, going to the park with their kids - I really do. My friends mean a lot to me, and spending quality time together is how I show my appreciation/affection to someone, but sometimes it just seems impossible to leave the house or be around others. I may accept an invitation for a get together a week in advance and then wake up the day of and the thought of being in public makes my palms sweaty. I promise you I'm not being a flake.

Just because I look fine doesn't mean I am // People can look completely normal on the outside but can feel like a ball of anxiety on the inside. I've gotten really good at knowing what normal looks like. Have you heard that phrase "fake it until you make it"? If I'm having a day where my anxiety is out of control I'll put on a smile and try and socialize as normally as I can, because it makes everything easier. This doesn't mean I'm faking it all the time - nine times out of ten I'm genuinely happy and in a good mood. So, if I'm acting normal and like everything is okay, but then I do something that seems rude or stand-offish, it's probably because I'm really not having a good day at all.

I can't just "get over it" // I would love nothing more than to just tell myself that I don't need to feel anxious and have my mind listen. It's not that simple. I've spent a lot of time feeling guilty for feeling like this and having it impact my life the way it has, so please understand when I tell you that I can't just "get over it". There's no magic pill I can take that will cure me forever. I will have to deal with this the rest of my life, in some form or another.

I don't totally understand it either // Even after 15 years I don't always know what will trigger my anxiety. I don't understand why I'll feel anxiety free for months and then have a breakdown in a grocery store parking lot. It's so unpredictable. There's also no rhyme or reason as to why I have it. I had a great childhood, friends, and family. My anxiety is not a symptom of me not liking brussel sprouts. It just chose me and I've accepted it for what it is, instead of trying to fight it.

I'll be okay // I wanted to end with this because even though living with an anxiety disorder can be difficult at times - I'm going to be just fine. I'm still going to live my life to the fullest, it just might look different than someone's who doesn't have anxiety.

Do you know someone that suffers from anxiety? What would you want THEM to know?

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