Thursday, April 27, 2017

I Have Anxiety, But I'm Not Always Anxious

Lately, I've been noticing something. People seem to think I'm always anxious. Always. I'm (happily) excited about something, people tell me to calm down. I'm joking about something, people think I'm serious and try to calm my fears. I post a curious question on social media and people tell me "not to worry about it" "don't stress yourself out over it". And let me say, I do appreciate their concern, truly.

But the thing is, there are plenty (and I mean plenty) of times in my life when I'm legitimately anxious. Because I suffer from anxiety. All too often, I have to deal with the "relax", "calm down" comments from those who don't understand it, because anyone who does knows that you can't just relax and calm down. So when I'm not anxious, it's even more frustrating to deal with this. Not to mention, the fact that I can't even joke around without people going into "oh no she's anxious again mode" makes me feel like people must see me as a giant bundle of nerves who can't ever relax, joke, or have fun. I lately feel like whenever I post something, I have to add an emoji or "LOL" or "J/K" to clarify that I am not being serious.

The thing is, for those who don't know me well, I have a dry sense of humor. So I get that sometimes, especially in writing, I come off as serious when I'm not. Which basically makes me sound like  either a sarcastic ass or a person continually on edge. And sometimes, I am (continually on edge - hopefully I'm not a sarcastic ass). But it's difficult when you feel like you have to clarify every single tiny thing. It's exhausting to have to continually say "I'm just kidding", or to add a follow up explaining what you meant, or that it was a joke. It's frustrating to get all of the comments more or less saying "relax" or "it's not a big deal", when you weren't actually stressed out in the first place. When you were just joking, actually trying to be light.  It makes you wonder "Geez what do people think of me that they think *this* is a serious concern for me.' Do they really think I'm that incapable of handling anything? And I'll be honest, it makes me unable to enjoy the times I am feeling positive, because all of this then makes me anxious.

The thing with anxiety, and all mental health conditions, is that just because we always have them doesn't mean that we are always experiencing the symptoms acutely right in the moment. Think about it this way:  you may have asthma or diabetes, and you may always "have" it, but you aren't always suffering from an asthma attack or a blood sugar crisis right then and there. It might always be a possibility, that it could come on, but it's not always happening right in that moment. Just because a person with asthma coughs doesn't mean they're going to have an attack. Maybe they have a cold. Maybe they're eating and swallowed something in a funny way. It's the same with mental health.

Now, there are certain areas or topics that may make me more prone to anxiety than others. Changes in plans, for instance, especially when they're last minute. Or running late - I *hate* running late, especially if it inconveniences someone else. Or not having control of a situation. Or group.... anything. I know it can be difficult to tell. But please, give me the benefit of the doubt. If I am anxious, I'll usually say something. If I need help, I'll definitely say something. And if you're truly concerned because you see a pattern of posts or tweets or whatever that look... well... concerning, I will be more than grateful if you reach out to check in on me. But please don't assume I'm always anxious. I know my anxiety has gotten worse lately, but especially if you steer away from these topics and situations above, I promise that I can be lighthearted too.

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