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The Anxiety That Follows

I’ve always felt alone even when I wasn’t.

It’s a strange thing for me to complain about. I hear so many people with complaints that they are alone, actually alone. People that have no friends or family to support them. I don’t want to take for granted what I have. I know I have friends and family that will always be there for me if needed. I know they care for me. At a fundamental level, these truths exist in my head.

But on a deeper level, beyond what I know to be true, I feel it as false. My heart and all of its overwhelming feelings tell me that I am utterly alone.

When It Starts

We’re gathered around the dining table. I used to love family dinners. I was always the most talkative at the table. I wanted to ask everyone about their day, wanted to know my family. I created a game when I was younger that we called “questions.” It was a simple game: we each went around the table with a question and everyone had to answer it. It started with “How was your day?” and then the next person might ask, “What show are you watching right now?” or “What do you want to do tomorrow?”. I loved this game, adored it really. I loved the feeling of each question being passed onto the next person, feeling as though each person was as intrigued with my life as I was theirs. I loved the way the conversation would splinter, talking more in-depth about that show or everyone’s day. I felt connected. 

My brother makes a joke. Everyone laughs and I push myself to join them. We go through lulls in the conversation, quiet moments I once would’ve filled and sometimes might if I’m feeling brave enough. Then we’re in the opposite, loud voices yelling over each other, laughing and shouting where it feels there is no room for me to fill anyway. I try to push myself. Say something. Oh, wouldn’t this story be great for this topic? I try to shout over the noise that pounds on my ears what I think would be a great addition to the conversation. Sometimes they acknowledge it; sometimes it's this great euphoric moment where I feel like that kid again and someone is taking an interest in me, what I like, and what I feel. Sometimes it’s swished under the current of other conversations and side stories. I breathe. That was a stupid thing to say, a waste of breath. None of them care. 

It starts before that. It starts when one day at dinner my father rolls his eyes when I bring up the question game. It starts with my brother’s groans of annoyance while I’m talking about something for a bit too long. It starts when my mother gently tells me, “Not today.”

I want to point out here that it isn’t their fault in any way. If this happened to someone else, they might shrug it off and move on. They might laugh it off and try again the next day. They might be able to rationalize that it may just have been a bad day for them and they needed some silence. I don’t ask to play the question game again.

What It Feels Like

It feels like a betrayal. It feels like I feel these moments of peace and know that this is right. I’m where I’m meant to be. I’m loved and cared for. I belong. And then that shifts from one look that could mean anything. It shifts from the way they change conversations or don’t respond with the laugh I expected. I see it and my heart shutters. I put my hands under my legs to keep them from trembling. I zone out and think about what I should’ve said or done. I’m over-analyzing their reactions, eyes darting between each person as the conversation continues without me. They’re laughing now, without me. I’m taking each signal as a reason to panic more, to feel more left out, to feel as though I don’t belong. Stop, I tell myself. You’re making something out of nothing. It’s not my voice saying it. It’s the voice of my mother/brother/father/friend/stranger that has told me time and time again. I’m spiraling. 

It feels like a needle in my shaking heart, poking each sensitive part of my emotions. It feels like fight or flight. I feel simultaneously the indecision of whether I should say something or run away from this. My lips part. What would I even say? They don’t even care enough for what I say to matter. I seal them shut. My feet itch to run; I plant them further into the ground. If I run or say something, it’ll only seem worse. You’ll hate yourself more if you make it into something more. Breathe. Sit through it. The voice is a mix between my own and others. So I do. I watch as they talk more, laugh more, enjoy themselves more all while trying not to convince myself it’s not because I stopped talking entirely. 

I feel like a puzzle piece in the wrong box or maybe a puzzle piece that was warped or misshapen in the making, doomed to never fit anywhere.

Where It Affects My Life

My relationships. With everyone. I fill myself with doubts and worries that none of them actually care. I contradict what I know to be true with what I feel to be true. I let that warp my thinking and shut myself away from the people I love.

My sleep. I stay awake at night thinking. Why did I say that? Why am I unworthy of being a part of this family? What if I stopped speaking entirely? Could I be happier that way, as an onlooker rather than pushing myself and being disappointed by the reactions of others?

My mental health. These thoughts spiral through me, developing into more than just anxiety. I get depressed. I lack a sense of worth. I stop caring for myself because of my assumption that no one else does. I find it difficult to stop these trains of thought. I find it difficult to enjoy my day to day.

Why I Feel That Way

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a mental health disorder characterized by:

  1.  persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events

  2. overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes

  3. perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t

  4. difficulty handling uncertainty

  5. indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision

  6. inability to set aside or let go of a worry

  7. inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge

  8. difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”. 

Physical symptoms include fatigue, trouble sleeping, muscle tension or muscle aches, trembling/feeling twitchy, nervousness or being easily startled, irritability, and more. 

Anxiety disorders are a result of both genetic and environmental factors. No one thing caused this feeling, but a mass of experiences and DNA swirling in my body. 

There is no proper answer to why I feel this way. Not knowing why I feel this way can cause a lot of bad feelings and a sense of loss for myself. I used to think if you didn’t know the root of the problem, you wouldn’t be able to find the solution. The root of the problem matters far less than the problem itself.

How It's Going

Better. Not every day does it get better, some days it gets worse. Some days I wonder how I can even carry myself to the next. I want to lie down and wallow in my feelings, mourn the things I believe I’ve lost from my anxiety, especially the experiences and moments of my life that could’ve been beautiful if not for my overthinking.

I can’t give you exact tips that will help with your anxiety. Different things help different people. But here’s what’s working for me:

Ask them—When a feeling of anxiety sits with me for too long, I’ve learned to dissipate that anxiety by just asking the person. Do you think what I said was stupid? You didn’t respond to my story earlier—did you feel any way towards it? Hey, you made a face when I said ____ earlier. Would you mind telling me what you were thinking/feeling when I said that? This helps most with people you trust more. Otherwise, sometimes my anxiety will take over and tell me they’re lying to appease me. Start with the people you trust most. Remind yourself that these people are being honest with their feelings, and either way, as you are giving them the opportunity to discuss their feelings, you have done your part, there is nothing more you can do.

Release some of the responsibility— There is only so much you can do. If someone is upset with what you said and wants to discuss it for the betterment of the relationship, they will discuss it with you. You cannot force everyone to be happy with every decision you make, everything you say, everything you feel. You must find a way to be happy with your choices with or without the approval of others.

Create a space for these worries and keep them there— Set a time and place to think about these worries. For me, this is after any event/gathering with my boyfriend. I tell him honestly about these anxieties. Sometimes he can dissipate them with me. Sometimes even just speaking out about these anxieties can help me realize how ridiculous it is/was to worry about it. Sometimes these times can do nothing for my anxiety but I’ve thought it out, thought of every solution and ridiculous reaction they could have. Even if the feeling of worry is still prevalent, there’s no reason to keep thinking about it because I’ve exhausted every possibility. This space could be a journal, your room while you meditate, or a therapy appointment. Find your space, and do your best to keep those anxieties there so they don’t disrupt your sleep or life.

I still don’t have all the answers to my anxiety problem, but I’m finding ways to cope. My journey is getting easier and that’s all I can ask for.

Who Deals With These Feelings

You are ultimately the one most burdened by your anxiety. It’s important to recognize anxiety as a burden rather than a choice. You did not choose your anxiety, do not therefore blame yourself for the symptoms of that anxiety. My anxiety creates rifts in my relationships. That is not my fault. My anxiety causes sleep deprivation, which is also not my fault. My anxiety makes it difficult for me to socialize and feel a part of any gathering. That is not my fault. But I can choose what to do from there.

Some of those tips I gave earlier help with this. There is not one simple step to recovering from your anxiety or recovering what anxiety has stolen from you. Give yourself patience for this long journey, and give yourself gratitude for having the strength to do so. 

Here are some words of affirmation to help you through it. Remember, words of affirmation only work if you believe in them. Repeat these sentences and tell yourself that even if it doesn’t feel true right now, they will be because you have the power to make them true.

I am loved.

I trust my own decisions.

I am worthy.

I choose peace.

I can rise above my thoughts.

I am freeing myself from all destructive doubt and fear.

I belong in this world.

There are people who care about me and my worth.

I have done my best and my best is always enough.

I choose happiness.

If your anxiety feels overwhelming and makes your life difficult, please seek therapy. It is incredibly common in today's world to let these mental health issues go unresolved. We neglect it because we think it's bearable. It’s not a big deal, we tell ourselves. But we wouldn’t walk around with an ulcer aching in our stomachs thinking, It’s not a big deal, I can bear with it. Treat your mental health as important as your physical one before it becomes a physical health issue. You deserve to feel good, to feel happy. Seek the help you require. I will continue to do so as well. 

Nevada Crisis Line: 775-784-8090 

National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI HelpLine: 1-800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741-741

Crisis Support Services national helpline: 800-273-8255

Teen Line for youth in need of support: 800-852-8336

About The Author

Sierra is a recent English graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). She enjoys writing and reading with a passion. She is especially passionate about sustainability and human rights and she hopes to use her writing to inspire others in these movements. As the Editor-in-Chief at LYF, Sierra is happy for the opportunity to contribute to these topics. When not reading or writing, she can be found playing video games or binge-watching TV. The things she loves most include strawberries, new stationery, and her bed.


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