A cloak that’s so good, in fact, that whenever I say “I have severe anxiety” people are AMAZED and SHOCKED because, “you’re so together.”
I’m not. Maybe one day out of ten, I’m together. And those are a damn good ten days if one of them is amazing. And by amazing, I mean I’d classify my anxiety as a four or below for the daily average on a scale of one to ten.
I’m just, like so many other people I’ve come to know who also have anxiety and depression, spectacularly good at appearing like I’ve got my shit together. Because of my anxiety. You see, my anxiety makes me so anxious about my own axiety that it turns into this terrible feedback loop of anxiety that never ends. This my thought process on any given day when it comes to anxiety and how people perceive me:
- I’m really anxious today
- (What else is new)
- It’s obvious to everyone, even the people who don’t know me
- They’re going to talk about it and treat me weird
- OH NO
- They’re gonna ask the question the dreaded question the ARE YOU OKAY question
- How the fuck do I answer that question what do I say???!!?
- Okay no one has asked me the question
- Why haven’t they ask
- They don’t care
- Life is nothing
- I need to appear collected
- I don’t want to be treated like I’m broken
- I am broken though maybe they should treat me that way
- But then I’ll cry
- Will I cry?
- Yeah I’ll cry are you kidding I cry when babies smile at me
- I don’t want to cry everyone will know and then I’ll be THAT PERSON
- Okay so, what do we do
- Calm projected aura of calm and togetherness
- If I act normal they’ll treat me like normal
- And then maybe I’ll BE normal
- That’s how that confidence thing goes, right?
- ACT CONFIDENT BE CONFIDENT
- ACT TOGETHER BE TOGETHER
- Except this didn’t work yesterday
- But it takes time I should do it again
- I should commit to the task of self betterment
- And in the mean time everyone will think I’m alright and then some day I WILL be alright and no one will have ever known
Except, as I’ve come to realize, no one ever knowing is exactly my problem. No one ever knowing the extent of my mental suffering and the mental gymnastics I do on a daily basis and how terribly draining that is will ever know any of those things because I don’t share them. And because I don’t share them, I get told every day how RATIONAL and CALM and TOGETHER I am and those words have done me far more damage than someone asking me if I’m okay.
But a part of my brain has a tremendously hard time accepting this fact. It’s so foreign because I’ve lived this way for so long. People mistake if for social anxiety because when I’m really anxious and strung out I avoid people because that’s what I do because I’m not together and I’m not okay and I’m not equipped to deal and the spoons in my jar have run out, but social anxiety is less terrible and more cute. And I do have social anxiety but it’s a part of my overall general anxiety, and it’s not the sole cause. It’s not that I’m not putting myself out there enough and just need to get used to it, acclimate like one has to acclimate to a higher altitude.
Because my issue is that my brain takes all these scenarios and treats them all as if they’re LIFE THREATENING. I go from zero to sixty faster than one of those fancy racing mustangs. And some days I wake up already doing sixty, for seemingly no reason at all, and I have to work hard to calm myself and rationalize the anxiety down to a simmer from a hard boil.
Anxiety is exhausting.
But it’s more exhausting to act like nothing is wrong at all. It’s a micro-aggression I’ve committed against myself: appearing like normal so that I’m treated like normal. It hurts me more than I can say when someone compliments me on how well I’m doing. But no one sees or hears about the Olympic gold medals I’ve won every day in the fine art of masquerading my anxiety (and, by extension, depression) because they weren’t told about the convention. There weren’t any tickets or vending machines or hot dogs with packets of ketchup being offered, no announcements our spectacular commercials to look forward to. It’s a sport of silence, a sport of being unseen.
And it’s one I excel at.
So here I am, attempting to shed the invisibility cloak. Because I’m not just doing myself a disservice, I’m doing a disservice to everyone who loves and cares about me by keeping quiet and performing my gymnastics in the shadows, hoping no one notices.