Anxiety. It’s one of those odd topics that seems to be a hit or miss scenario in our society. It’s either “hush, hush” or “scream it from the rooftops.” My social media news feed is flooded with little quotes, scripture, lyrics, one-liners, and news stories about the disorder. Often times these things piggy back the idea that your anxiety does not define you. The idea that the black and gray pieces of discomfort, stress, apprehension, fear, or over analyzing somehow do not mesh with the colorful pieces of happiness, joy, and contentment, to ultimately complete the puzzle that is your whole self. I don’t know about you, but when I’m putting together a puzzle, I live for that moment of completion, that moment I can connect the final pieces and dance a jig at my accomplishment. We dread those times that we get to those last few pieces, only to notice they are missing from the box, and we stare at the picture, and despite the 997 pieces we put together, all we notice are the pieces that are missing. That’s how I feel when I start trying to hide my anxiety, or pretend that in some fashion it does not define me, or that it is not a piece of my puzzle. I look at myself and all I see are the missing pieces, the pieces I don’t want anyone else to find. And I feel incomplete.
Despite the fact that when sorting this all out, I can almost convince myself that I would, in fact, be just fine if I holed myself up and lived a life of seclusion, I know deep down that the hermit life is not for me. I’m actually pretty fun once you get to the colorful pieces, but the black and gray are part of me too. This makes connecting with new people as an adult such a chore. Let me introduce you to one of my anxieties characteristics to further this…
“The feeling that even my closest friends don’t like me.”
That’s right. A great majority of the time, this over analyzing feature inside me can come up with 100 reasons in a matter of minutes of why my friends are probably tired of me. I talk too much. I forget my filter. My friendliness comes off as flirtiness. I don’t have the right job. I post too many selfies. I make every situation awkward. I talk too much about myself. I don’t check in on them enough. Yada, yada. You get the idea. So, there are times I go weeks or months without talking to my friends, because I don’t want to bother them. I send a text and don’t get a response, (or let’s be real, I get a response with the wrong punctuation, because that’s how far I take it,) and I think, “that’s it, they hate me.” I just stop the interaction. I find myself saying things like, “Okay, well, I just wanted to check in….” or “I’ll let you be….” because I just feel like a total bother. Guys, I’m like this with my twin sister sometimes…and we shared a womb, we’ve literally been best friends since before birth, but my anxiety convinces me that even she is tired of me.
My anxiety defines my friendships. It does. Did you read the previous paragraph? IT DOES. I have to find the crowd that not only “gets it,” but can handle it. The ones that reply to those passive aggressive messages with encouraging, “you’re not a bother” responses. But, until I introduce my anxieties to people, I go back and forth in this pattern of people not liking me, and the idea that it’d be easier to just be alone.
And, should I even try to talk about romantic relationships? The husband search? I just finished this book about a girl who literally built herself a robotic boyfriend because the pressures from everyone around her were too much. As crazy as that seems, part of me was like, “that could work.” (I kid, I kid.) I’ve been swimming in the trashy, muggy waters that is the dating pond for a solid 10 years now. It’s got to be too much for anyone with normal wiring, but me…good grief, Charlie Brown. It’s awful. The communication, the expectations. It’s too much. The bad thing is, though the muggy waters comment may steer you astray, I’m actually pretty optimistic at the initial first line thrown in to start a new connection. To start “talking” to the next fish, or whatever we’re supposed to call it these days. But then, WHAM! The fishing line gets stuck in the tree and suddenly, “it’s not you, it’s me.” And anxiety is like, “knock, knock, me again…” Let me introduce you to another characteristic…
“The feeling that it actually is always ME.”
When that just a step above the “ghosting” one-liner comes out, “it’s not you, it’s me,” every inch of me hears, “YOU MESSED UP AGAIN.” Questions arise, I all but get out a notebook and start recalling every conversation, every move, every date, every text. And, what about the things we aren’t supposed to talk about? Like kids, marriage, finances. I’m 32 years old people, if you ask me what I see in my future, I’m going to say, “marriage, babies, stability.” But, that is the wrong answer? I’ve actually had people say, “you scared me with talk about marriage and babies.” So, what am I supposed to say? My anxiety says, just lie. Maybe say something like, “yeah, that’s not really that important, I can wait another 10 years…” Then I’m in a predicament, and in the past, a relationship with men who think I don’t care anything about marriage or kids or comfort. So, I live in a relationship of lies and darkness, because it was easier just to be who they are looking for than who I am.
My anxiety defines my romantic relationships. It does. Again, if I choose to remove the black and gray pieces from the box before I start a new relationship, showing only the color, the puzzle will never be complete. There will be a constant push and pull of just trying to squeeze the bright pieces together to cover up the hole. And it will be misery.
There are at least another dozen characteristics of my anxiety that I could share with you today that aid in defining me , but the rise in my blood pressure tells me that I’ve said enough for one post, and if I keep going, you’ll probably stop reading. (See?)
But, I’ve rambled on simply to say that yes, I do believe that my anxiety defines me. As a whole? Of course not. But just as a puzzle cannot be complete without all the pieces, nor am I complete without full disclosure of my anxiety. I can choose to hide it, or I can choose to be open, and that choice can ultimately determine the outcome of future friendships, and relationships. Often times we are so scared to show our whole self, to present the whole puzzle. We think it’s better to hide the pieces, and feel incomplete, than to just say, “hey, I’m Happy Holly, but, sometimes, a big, gray rain cloud hovers above me, are you willing to hold my umbrella?”
The right people won’t hesitate with their answer.