Anxiety is hard to explain. It’s hard to put into words, and to truly know what it is, you must first experience it. But I’m going to try.
Anxiety is my blood pumping so fast and so hard that I can hear it. It’s my heart beat not sounding like a rhythm, but instead like an unsteady drum beat banging in my ears. It’s sitting in the cold bathroom after the water has already drained from the tub. Everything is moving so fast, and everything is so loud. I can hear ever car passing by. Every foot step and every voice and every conversation all at once.
It’s like there’s a swarm of bees buzzing around my head. I avoid eye contact, not because I’m not listening, but because I don’t think I can meet your eyes without breaking down. I try to comprehend your words but I also try to focus on my own. Everything is blurred into one giant thing.
It’s like I’m trying to find the answer to a problem that doesn’t exist. To something so meaningless. There’s an answer that’s right in front of me, a plausible one. But I want to find another. And another. I want every answer. Every option. And then I need to find out which one is correct. Which one works for me and for everyone else too.
Anxiety is running and falling at the same time. It’s moving while standing still. It’s sweaty palms and the constant tapping of your fingers. It avoiding people and losing friends, not because you want to but because you’re too high maintenance and you don’t know what to do. It’s because you want to solve all your friend’s problems, and your own.
Having anxiety is being alone in a box that’s getting smaller and smaller. The box is shaking everywhere, and so violently. You lose your balance. You fly into walls. You get dizzy and you blank out. Anxiety is pulling at your hair and needing to scream, but not being able to make a sound. Having anxiety is putting a fish in a school of sharks. Having anxiety is trying your hardest to act like you’re okay because you know nobody wants to talk about the complicated stuff. And because they can’t see it, they don’t think it’s real, and they don’t know how it is. It’s wanting so bad to tell someone but having nobody there to listen.
Having anxiety is being dropped in the middle of the ocean, and only knowing the doggy paddle. It’s trying to play a video game using the controls and instructions for another. It’s panic, and fear. It’s cold and hot at the same time, and it’s shaky. Like being in a mine shaft that’s so hot and steamy. That’s so unstable, and could fall on you at any moment. And you’ll either crawl out when it does or you won’t at all, and you’ll break under the pressure.
It’s rushing to finish your homework as soon as you get it because if you don’t you’ll forget because of how busy you are worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow. Because you’re still upset about something that happened last week, and because you don’t know what you want to do with your future even though you aren’t even there yet. It’s seeing everything, not just what’s placed in front of you. You’re swimming against the current, and it keeps getting stronger and stronger but you have to keep fighting because that’s all you know how to do.
It’s fire, and it burns. Some days are better than others, and some are worse. But they’re all just days and they blur together into one insufferable mass of worry and doubt. It’s having to get out of bed to make sure you turned the light in the bathroom off when you were done, and then it’s getting back up again to make sure you really did and you didn’t imagine it. It’s checking things twice, and breaking down when you can’t find what you’re looking for. It’s having to get up and pet your dog because if you don’t it might start hating you, or it won’t love you anymore.
Having anxiety is having to write down that yes, you did feed your fish. It’s having to set alarms on your phone, and then having to turn them off because you decided that they make too much noise and must be annoying someone in the house. And what if one malfunctions and goes off in the middle of the night. It’s checking them three times to make sure you got the time right. It’s asking your mom over and over again for the date and time of your next dental appointment.
It’s making sure your few friends still care about you. It’s asking if you’re being annoying, and then thinking that you totally are anyway. It’s screen shotting everything relevant and keeping the pictures for months until you’re 105% sure you don’t need it anymore. It’s keeping all your schoolwork until the end of the year. And then you throw some away, but you’re too nervous to throw away key notes that you know you’ll never use again, so you keep them too.
It’s keeping every paper because who knows, you might need it one day. It’s exploding three times in a row, and then getting sucked back together all at once. It’s being covered in honey in feathers in front of a crowd. It’s having neon blue hair in a classroom full of people who don’t. It’s wearing jeans because what if your legs don’t look good enough, or you didn’t shave well enough?
Anxiety is being in a prison that you can’t get out of. And you can’t see any other guards are inmates, so you think you’re alone. You think you’re going to starve, and you think you won’t have water.
Anxiety is being deaf all your life, and then suddenly getting a blast of deafening noise.
Anxiety is everyone staring at you because you’re wearing shorts today, and not jeans.
Anxiety is balancing a plate on your head while you figure skate for the first time.
Anxiety is presenting not in front of a class, but in front of a room full of government officials, and the president too.
Anxiety is having eight guns pointed at you, but only one is loaded. And you can’t tell which one.
Anxiety is falling into a pool of sludge that’s thick enough to keep you from sinking, but too thick to keep you from getting out.
Anxiety is being desperate for something that you’re not sure exists.
Anxiety is a thief. It steals your courage. Your thoughts. Your sleep.
It can steal your entire life if you let it.
And that, that is what anxiety is.