Anxiety is hard to understand. High-functioning anxiety is even more so. We stress, we plan, we panic. We achieve. We tell people we’re fine. We say this so much we may start to believe it ourselves.
On the inside, though, we are drowning.
It might leak out from time to time in little ways. We bite our nails. We grind our teeth. We move on with our day.
Maybe the leaks become more significant. We start pulling out strands of our hair. We cancel plans at the last minute. We begin skipping meals and counting calories to feel more firmly in control.
These behaviors may not look like high-functioning anxiety, but this disease rarely stays put neatly in a box. Not like the rest of our lives.
We may have panic attacks that literally take our breath away. These can come with chest pains that feel like a heart attack, or sweaty hands and full-body chills. We may have no symptoms at all but a sense that the world is closing in around us. We smile through them, and we carry on.
We continue to achieve dramatically. We act as if accolades are the cure for that thing which feels so very wrong with us. We become team captain. We chase a promotion at work. We maintain stellar grades. We hold the report card, the winning shot, the good review. We press them close to our chest, like armor. These things prove that we are okay. These things prove that we are good enough.
Still, in the face of our greatest achievements, the anxiety makes its way into our lives.
It seems as though each victory only brings more pressure. Will I say the wrong thing? Will I botch an assignment? What if I don’t make that deadline? Will that be what does it? Or will it be something else? When will it come?
What will be the thing I do that causes the mask to slip? How long do I have until everyone learns I’m not good enough?
What if they already know? Do they see me flailing?
We find the evidence wherever it is, and even where it isn’t. A warm smile is mistaken for a condescending smirk. A compliment is examined for backhanded angles. An unanswered text becomes suspect, rather than routine.
We may withdraw from our friendships. We might push through as a part of our effort to seem “okay.” The people close to us notice something is wrong, but they aren’t sure what. After all, we’re keeping up with work. We’re getting good grades. They might label us as busy or stressed, or something similarly innocuous. They don’t realize that we only keep moving forward because we’re too afraid to stop.
They don’t realize that we’re not truly living a life. We do too good a job at faking it. We smile. We laugh. We dance. We tell ourselves that we’re okay, and the world believes us.
We deserve more. You deserve more than this, whether you know it or not.
Asking for help is a tremendously difficult and courageous thing to do.
We owe it to ourselves to live whole and happy lives. Start on your path to wellness, and don’t stop trying until you feel like your best self. There’s medication, talk therapy, and group support. There’s acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments. Many people use essential oils, verbal affirmations, journaling, or art therapy. We live in a world full of answers. Use them to become whole again. Blend your favorites. Make your wellness a priority.