(Content warning: anxiety and mental health)
Normally people see the bubbly me, laughing and joking, but behind the mask it is very different. I have a sort of fog that follows me, confusing my mind and creating a sense of dread. It has a voice telling me there is something wrong. It is the voice of my anxiety and it won’t leave me alone.
It doesn’t just mentally torment me; it can manifest physically. It makes me ill. Some mornings I wake up with an intense weight on my chest, I can’t breathe and I can’t move. These mornings I stay in bed hoping it will pass. When the weight eventually lessens I manage to get up, I can start the day. But I still have that fog following me. All day I force myself to act ‘fine’ because I don’t want people to see my anxiety. I want to be ‘normal’. I am worried about my work, my appearance, how I act and the opinions others have of me. I am not allowed to relax, I must work, my anxiety tells me to work. At the end of the day I am exhausted and sometimes it is just too much, all I can do is cry. I go back to bed and shut out the world. Falling asleep can bring some peace but I know that I will have to do it all again when the morning comes.
At the worst times the fog engulfs me whole and I cannot maintain that mask of normality. There are days I have attacks, I can be in the middle of the street and I’ll break. My heart races and my body shakes. I feel my throat close and a sickness grows in my stomach.
Some days are better than others, sometimes I feel perfectly fine. If I keep trying, keep fighting, I can stop those bad days altogether. My anxiety is a part of me, I will have it for life, but it doesn’t define me and it certainly doesn’t stop me. I am grateful for those who help me to stay strong and hold me together when I feel too weak. Having a support system like that is invaluable.
Having an anxiety disorder is difficult and everyone’s experience of it is unique. My only advice for those suffering is to not be afraid to ask for help. Seek support to understand the disorder so that you can take control of it. Each day I work towards managing my condition so that one day I won’t be followed by that fog. One day I will be free of my anxiety.