Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and it occurred to me that though I’ve referenced my anxiety many times, I’ve never written a dedicated post about it. I’ve spoken a little about when it started and why, but never how it affects me. So, better later than never, here’s how anxiety affects day to day life.
I can sometimes go days or even weeks at a time without an episode of debilitating anxiety. I usually have a degree of low-level agitation, but I can live with that – it’s my norm so I have to! What I struggle with occasionally and I don’t think is ‘normal’, is my reaction to certain social situations.
On a day when I’m not feeling particularly anxious, I love seeing my friends and being social. But on the days when I’m crippled with self-doubt, I can’t bear the thought.
Thankfully though, this is unusual: it’s rare I’m disproportionately anxious in anticipation of an event. I’m quite shy around people I don’t know, so can feel apprehensive but that’s nothing out of the ordinary and I can usually manage it quite well – fake it till you make it, right?
Too often, however, I find myself meeting friends – people who I’m close to and will likely be surprised or maybe horrified to read this – and feeling terrible in their company.
How Anxiety Affects Day to Day Life
First, I become painfully self-conscious, and start tripping over my words.
I laugh too much or too loudly because suddenly it’s impossible to be natural and so I’m playing a part.
It’s a destructive cycle: the more excessive my laughter, the more self-conscious it makes me and the more desperate I am to appear normal – yet that becomes harder and harder. I feel horribly irritating, and even while I’m still with these people who I love, I’m second-guessing them and convince myself they must think I’m weird and annoying.
Afterwards I ruminate on what I said and how I said it and what I should have done differently. It becomes almost a fixation and I may feel ‘off’ for a few days while I try to rationalise and return to a more calm mindset.
I’ve been known to apologise to friends for being weird, blaming tiredness, when the truth is that while tiredness doesn’t help, my real problem is anxiety. (Although I’m sure there’s an argument for sleep-deprivation being the root cause!)
I recently had the opportunity to record a live video for a group I’m part of, to share my experience and knowledge of a subject. Yet despite preparing, when the time came my mind went blank and I was in the grip of full-force anxiety. It still makes me squirm to know that video is available for people to watch, I cringe just thinking about it.
Living With Anxiety
I didn’t tell anybody how bad I felt at the time nor since, blaming tiredness as usual, and laughing it off as ‘not my finest hour’. But the truth is I was mortified and bitterly disappointed in myself. Because I know that on a good day I’m capable; on a good day I look confident and competent. On a good day I don’t show myself up because I AM confident and competent.
Thankfully the good days outweigh the bad. And I think I mostly hide it well. But if ever I appear a little manic, it’s because I’m battling to stay in control. If it’s annoying, I’m sorry. But you can be damn sure that if you’re irritated then I’ll already be beating myself up.
And that’s why sometimes, I may choose not to socialise at all; it’s safer: if I’m alone then I’m not risking alienating my friends.
As a rule I try to avoid being negative in my posts; partly because I doubt that’s what you want to read, but also because positivity is my panacea. So now that I’ve made this leap, I plan to talk about my anxiety again – but next time with a more positive spin. I’ll tell you a bit more about where it started and, most importantly, how I manage it.
Can you relate to how anxiety affects day to day life? Is this something you struggle with too? If you found this insight into anxiety helpful, why not pin it for later?