My Mind is a Scary Place
Republished with permission from issuesiface.com/anxiety
I’m a worrywart. I spend hours on Google self-diagnosing anything that feels abnormal. I like to organize and schedule things to compensate for my fear of the future. I overthink everything, so for me, all decisions (big or small) take time. Anxiety is part of my everyday life. This is my story.
I have a very, very anxious dog. Every morning he paces back and forth as I get ready for work. He knows the inevitable is coming: I’m leaving for work and he’s going to be all alone. He nervously follows me around everywhere. Every time I leave him at home, he cries, he whimpers, he barks as he cowers — he is debilitated and powerless. His anxiety completely overcomes him.
The funny/sad/scary thing is… I think my pooch got his anxiety from me. I’ve had my share of debilitating moments. I’ve felt sharp pangs in my chest, weird tingling sensations that lead me to convince myself that either my heart has literally erupted, or that I am at the brink of dying of a heart attack. Even as I write this now, it feels like there is an ever-growing weight on my chest. I feel like I am suffocating, drowning, and fainting all at the same time.
When I was very young, I constantly worried about small things like what I was going to eat for lunch and if I had enough money to buy a snack just in case. I spent many of my lunch breaks tethered to a pay phone talking to my mom so she could reassure me that everything was going to be alright. As I got a little older, my anxious tendencies were kept at bay. I worried about typical stuff — getting good grades, maintaining a part-time job, and finding a husband one day.
However, when my mom got diagnosed with a terminal illness, everything changed. From that moment and to this present day, my anxieties came back. I became constantly afraid of things I couldn’t foresee or control:
I am scared that it’s only a matter of time before I or someone else in my family will die of cancer.
I am nervous that yet another neighbor will complain about my dog’s anxious and loud barking.
I am afraid that I will attend my high school reunion and feel like a failure next to the lawyer, the doctor, or the guy who has launched a successful business.
I am fearful that all of my pregnancies will lead to miscarriages – even though I have never been pregnant.
The list goes on and on. I am terrified that I will disappoint people, so I often do not take risks. I often turn down invitations to social gatherings because I tend to be anxious around other people. I have the unfortunate tendency to make a mental beeline to the worst possible scenario. In my imagination, I’ve been diagnosed, incarcerated, fired, divorced, and buried. My mind is a scary place to be sometimes.
There’s never a convenient time for my anxious tendencies to show up. One time, I got so scared about a meeting with my boss that I was embarrassingly out of breath and could barely make out a sentence. When I’m home alone and panicking, I go straight into thinking that I could have a heart attack and just die alone. When I’m in a movie theatre and my phone starts buzzing, I almost instantly think that something bad has happened and I plan out how to exit the theatre in tears without making too much of a commotion.
I read somewhere that “If you expect to be disappointed, you’ll never be disappointed!” In so many circumstances, I’ve conditioned myself to expect the worst. The interesting thing is that I am married to a generally spontaneous and carefree person, so you can imagine how I freeze when he commits us to a social engagement without checking with me first. To be honest, I have always admired his courage and his willingness to try new things, even if they’re a little scary. I often come to him in tears asking how I can prevent things from crippling me. He thrives in situations where he knows he has the freedom to fail. I, on the other hand, panic at the mere thought of failure.
If you feel as if you’re living in a world of “what ifs,” and you’re backed into a corner with nowhere else to turn, talk to us about it. Anxiety can feel like a looming shadow that follows you, even in a dark room. It can feel inescapable, but please do not face it alone. Talk to a mentor, it's confidential.