Anxiety is weird. We all experience it to some degree, but we don’t always talk about it. Or maybe we just don’t understand it enough? I can remember being in middle school and feeling anxious, but I didn’t have the words to describe how I was feeling beyond “I feel weird.” I constantly felt guilty for no reason and I always said “I’m sorry” for things I didn’t need to apologize for.
Flash forward to college when I began experiencing panic attacks for the first time. I still didn’t know it was part of anxiety or why I was having them. I just sometimes felt like I couldn’t breathe and would begin to hyperventilate. While stress and the unknowns of college were leading causes, there wasn’t always a reason behind the attacks or the “weird feelings.” They just always hovered in my mind.
Recently, I’ve noticed that my anxiety presents itself physically when I shut down. My body literally can’t do anymore and I’ll find myself on the couch unable to be productive or motivated. My body is giving me a warning sign: take a break.
I try to listen to my body, but when I shut down, I also shut out my friends and family. My energy level is low and I have to take a beat to reset before I can engage with them. Not on purpose and not to be dismissive of them. I just need a break.
For someone who is social and (mostly) outgoing, this can be taken as a slight when in reality it’s my body’s way of coping with stress and anxiety. Most of my close friends and family understand that it isn’t personal, but it can be hard to explain to others who don’t know me quite as well yet! They might feel ignored or abandoned by my non-existent reply, but that isn’t the case at all! There’s usually a reply (it just might be a few days).
I know I can’t be alone in this. I also have seen how important it is for us to share our experiences with others to help end the stigma against mental health. I’m so proud of everyone who shares there experiences and I thought it was time to share mine too!
It’s okay to not be okay. Or to feel weird. Whatever it is. Just know that there are people out there who can help or who will be willing to listen! Find your support system and learn healthy coping mechanisms! We can change the way mental health is viewed, we just have to take the first step!