This Is What A Day In The Life Of Someone With Anxiety Looks Like
Although there's no such thing as a "normal" person who lives out their day-to-day life "normally," people with anxiety often feel like their version of a standard day is nothing like what everyone else experiences. Things that are wildly easy for others, like going to the post office to mail out a package to a family member, make us visibly perspire and relentlessly gnaw at our fingernails. This is because the very nature of anxiety disorders lies in the fact that we "experience excessive anxiety and worry, often expecting the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern," according to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America.
Before you write those of us who suffer from anxiety off as a few sweaty weirdos who get nervous for no reason, though, know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., even more common than clinical depression and PTSD. 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety, which makes up about 18 percent of our population. There are all kinds of anxiety disorders, from social anxiety disorders to phobic disorders to general anxiety disorder (GAD), and sometimes they overlap with one another. GAD is the most prevalent anxiety driven illness, but each one of them are debilitating in their own ways.
Anxiety has been my most constant companion since my high school years, when the act of signing each other's yearbooks had me panicking in the handicap stall of the bathrooms during lunch period. Since then, worry has been my middle name. I realized a long time ago that the things my friends accomplished with no care in the world felt like a burden to me. Even now, when it seems like my anxiety and I are on the best terms we ever will be, I feel like my everyday life plays out a bit differently than others'.
Here is what a typical day in the life of someone with anxiety looks like.
3 A.M.: Wake Up Suddenly For No Reason
You don't need to have a nightmare to wake up abruptly and stare at the ceiling, wondering what's going to happen if the dishwasher breaks and floods your whole apartment and you don't have the cash to pay for the renovations. When you've got an anxiety disorder, there doesn't have to be anything of note happening in your life for you to worry at the wee hours of the morning. Generally, when you wake up so suddenly, it becomes very difficult to go back to sleep afterwards. Sometimes I'm able to nod off for a few minutes before my alarm goes off, but usually I'm just stuck there in limbo, knowing it's way too early to get up and actually do anything productive.
7 A.M.: Get Out Of Bed, Tired And Cranky
Imagine how exhausted you would feel on just a few hours of interrupted sleep. You wouldn't be your nicest self, trust me. You drag your tired ass out from under the covers, but you don't have time to mill about. There are multiple things on your agenda to fret about! Onwards! You're too jittery and nervous to eat a full breakfast, so you half-heartedly munch on a leftover granola bar and throw back a particularly strong coffee, all the while wondering if your boss has decided to fire you overnight.
8:30 A.M.: Leave The House In A Frenzy
You're forgetting something. You know you're forgetting something. You run around your living room for a few minutes, chewing on the skin around your thumb, racking your brain for the one thing you forgot to stick in your handbag that will save your life later. For the life of you, though, you can't think of what it is so you rush out of the front door and attempt to compensate by grabbing another coffee on the way to the office. Your heart is racing by now. Wait — did you leave on the stove? Is there shampoo in your ear?!
9 A.M.: Arrive At Work And Endure Small Talk
Questions that are customary to most people — "What did you do this weekend?" and "Did you watch The Voice last night?!" — make my knees weak because I'm always afraid I'm going to give an awkward answer that will ruin the group conversation for everyone. Or that I'll completely miss a cue and say something extremely out of place or borderline offensive. Should that happen, everyone in the vicinity will hate me and then probably go convince my boss to actually fire me this time.
12 P.M.: Lunch Time With People Who Make You Nervous
It's not that you like people any less when you have an anxiety disorder. It's just that face-to-face time with any human beings you have respect for has the potential to make you uneasy. You go out to a restaurant your coworker picks, a place you've never been to before. On your way there, you brood over what the setup of the restaurant will be. Will you have to order from a busy counter? Where people can overhear your order and silently judge you for it? Will it be table service where you'll have to speak up loudly enough for your server to hear you, but not loud enough to where your friends think you're shouting? You merely pick at your food for fear that people at the table will think you're a gross eater.
3 P.M.: End Of Day Rush
The workday is about to come to a close, so the pressure is on to finish everything on your to-do list. You're starting to fear that this is impossible, though. Anybody else would just call it a stressful time, but you start to doubt your own abilities. You're not sure if you're smart enough or if you ate enough protein today to withstand the pressure. This is also about the time of day when you start avoiding people at all costs. You don't want them to know you're falling behind on this thing we call life.
6 P.M.: Gym Time?
You've heard time and time again: exercise does wonders for your anxiety. You know that, but it's not that easy to just get your butt to the gym. First of all, this is the only time of day you can go and it happens to be the busiest time of day at any gym in America. You stare at your fully packed gym bag and think about how sweaty and fit everyone will be when you get there, how awkward you look on the treadmill when you run in front of others, and how dumb you'll look waiting for the abs bench to be free. No thanks, you think to yourself. You decide on a dated workout video instead.
7:30 P.M.: Dinner Is Served (Sort Of)
You're tired after your long day, but being tired doesn't necessarily mean you slow down. You text your friend for a while and flip through the local news, which reassures you that the world is coming to an end. Then you call your mom, who has been trying to reach you for weeks, and you end up talking to her for an hour, listening to all the family drama and wishing you had moved overseas after you graduated college. To cope with the anxiety she's causing you, you snack. You munch on anything that's crunchy and remotely comforting, and you snack until you've got no energy or room left in your stomach to cook or eat a proper meal.
10 P.M.: Not-So-Light Reading
This is the time when you know you should be in bed, so naturally you stay hunched up in a ball on the couch browsing through friends' Facebook pages and looking at their seemingly perfect lives.Then you spend a little bit of time researching conspiracy theories and reading about the Illuminati, a secret group that most definitely exists. Although it's a good idea to put down the electronics and read a real book, instead you pick up your phone and start deleting unwanted texts and pictures. Because what if your phone self-combusts from all the memory being taken up?!
11:45 P.M.: Still Awake
Maybe you're in bed by now but your mind is running. You start to remember that one time in college when everyone laughed at you in your dorm because of, well, you can't remember what it was, but it embarrassed you all the same. You can't help but run through all the worst-case scenarios that might happen tomorrow as well. Did you turn the stove off?! This goes on for an indeterminate amount of time until the anti-anxiety pixies finally rescue you and whisk you off into very unfulfilling sleep.
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