Anxiety is considered a hidden illness. Over 80% of people with a hidden illness downplay their true feelings to make others feel more at ease. I am one of these people.
There is a movement afoot to bring hidden illnesses to light; to help others understand what may be going on behind the mask.
If you think someone with a hidden illness is simply broken, there is no need for you to read further. But for those who would like to understand what can happen to a person who suffers from anxiety, feel free to continue on.
Imagine being unable to tell the person you love how much. Imagine being unable to tell a friend what they mean to you. Imagine not being able to make a simple decision. For many people (even most people) these are things that are easy to do and something people do on a daily basis. Me, not so much.
A Simple Decision Can Be Overwhelming
Many years ago (before flat screens is how many years ago) my TV died and needed to be replaced. I did my research (like I always do) and went down to the store (Circuit City – yup, that many years ago). It’s a pretty straight-forward transaction. Pick the TV you want; pay the money; boom – new TV.
I was a full-time college student, with a full time job, with another job on the side, trying to make ends meet. And, I suffer from anxiety. Trying to choose between two nearly identical TVs, at roughly the same price ($10 difference), with the same recommendation caused my anxiety to spike. When this happens, my brain goes into uncontrolled overdrive, like I am running downhill like a wild stallion loosened from any restraints. I pace incessantly or randomly walk around. From a decision making standpoint I am paralyzed. Much like your computer being frozen.
This may make absolutely no sense, but I need to do something entirely unrelated to get my brain to stop. My reset button (to tap back into the computer metaphor) is to do something disparate or un-linked to the moment at hand.
I walked out with a CD player.
I did not need a CD player. Sure, it was an upgrade, but a college student on a budget (no student loans thank you very much) doesn’t get to splurge.
This is how I operate with anxiety. The more anxiety I have, the more clear cut a decision needs to be, or I cannot make it.
A Day Without a Phone is a Really Good Day
It is not that I do not want to call (or text) the one I love, good friends or family. It is because I cannot. My anxiety tells me that I will interrupt their day or a call or text will be bothersome or worse, they could care less whether I contact them or not.
“I am thinking about you” or “I miss you” is a simple text to type and send to the person you love. Calling or texting a friend to see how they are doing should be easy. But for me, contacting another person is like overcoming an obstacle – like a giant boulder in the road. If you have received an unsolicited text from me, I probably deliberated for an hour or more and likely typed and deleted that text more than a few times, because in any given week I will type many more texts than I send.
You Mean More to Me Than You Think
I have not been in a lot of relationships and friendships are below the mean. The problem is me; or really my anxiety. My anxiety prevents me from knowing (feeling, understanding) where I stand with someone. So oftentimes I do not say what I truly feel and I do not do what I want in order to show I love and care about people.
Because of my anxiety, the easiest thing to do (or say) is nothing, but unfortunately nothing is not the best thing to do. However, this is my world.
In my world it took over three months to write and post this. But because I finally clicked on the publish button, I get to say this:
There have been people that have come and gone and there are people in the here and now. Please know there have been many smiles on the inside that were maybe not so apparent on the outside. I appreciate the times (whether they be few or many) and the interactions.
If I was in a relationship with you, I loved you more than you could probably imagine. I apologize for often seeming so closed off and for not telling you how much you meant to me.
Jana (Tater) – you are one of the coolest and most fantastic people I have met and I am privileged to have been your friend for so many years (decades even).
Danielle and Bernadette – you guys are far too young to be hanging out with an old guy like me, but I appreciate that you often make me laugh and smile.
Colleen – Best bartender ever!
Jeff – we are more than just co-workers and it is awesome we can talk about pretty much anything.
Kristin and Bob and John and Kris – You are my people. There is never enough time, but the moments are always worth the time.
Jon and Lynette – Running (and likely craft beer) has been the thread of our friendship over the years. I sincerely hope the running and the beer continues.
Coby and Fran – How can I not smile when you guys are around.
Casey, Kadi, Holly, Jett – I am not your dad, but you are the closest thing I have to a real family of my own and you guys mean the world to me.
LMSD – You are the best sister a brother could have. You are my buddy and you are my friend.