Most people don’t know that I have anxiety unless I tell them. I don’t seem like your “typical person with anxiety,” – or, whatever that means. Most people are shocked when I bring up my anxiety problems with them because, I don’t really struggle or function like the people in most stories, narratives or conversations typically do. But, that doesn’t mean that my anxiety problems are any less real or raw than others. Ever since I was young, I have always felt like my mind, my body and my life was on “over-drive.” I grew up in a very chaotic home and my childhood was never truly “stable.” With divorced parents, numerous financial issues, social struggles and other occurrences that most children don’t typically go through – I always felt as though I was “different.” After struggling for years, my mom thought that at 12-years-old, it’d be worth it for me to go “talk to someone” and see a therapist.
After years of therapy and seeing numerous specialists, I’ve been told by several doctors that I have what is known as “high functioning anxiety.” From an outsiders’ point of view, I’m a perfectionist, an ambitious worker, a social butterfly, a strong woman, a “happy-go-lucky” person, an organized individual. From a therapist’s point of view, I use work, conversations, risky decisions and non-stop schedules to mask my anxious thoughts.
Throughout my life, I have always been the girl from my small neighborhood that succeeded. Parents would always stop me when they’d run into me and say how “impressed” they were with how much I’ve achieved. Friends would reach out on Facebook and tell me how much they read my work and how awesome it was to know someone who writes for so many sites. My family would constantly speak about me in praise because I had pushed myself to succeed so well. If you looked at me, you’d never know that the majority of my accomplishments were parallel with an anxiety disorder I had struggled with and masked for years on end. While it may seem like anxiety typically is filled with despair, the kind of anxiety I had been told I deal with is “high-functioning,” which means, the majority of my disorder is masked with success. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about myself, my anxiety and how to cope with it on an everyday basis.
My schedule is always packed because being busy means I have less time to think.
Ever since I was in high school, my schedule was jam-packed with things to do. I worked a few nights a week while in high school at a local pizzeria to keep busy. When I went to college, I picked up two more jobs while going to school full-time. Working or going to school 7-days per week kept me always running to do something and be somewhere that was important. It wasn’t the type of commitment where I could wake up and decide not to go. If I didn’t show up to a job, I would be fired. If I didn’t show up to school, I’d fail out. I kept myself preoccupied in order to keep myself constantly busy – which left my thoughts at bay and my anxieties at rest.
I have a lot of friends, yet I don’t see them very often.
Many people assume those with anxiety don’t have many friends or social circles because they get anxiety when it comes to making friends and keeping them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I grew up being friends with several different circles and still maintain a lot of the friendships I had from middle school, high school and beyond. However, I don’t always see them. In fact, a lot of times, I don’t. Being someone with high-functioning anxiety, I feel if I’m not being productive, I’m wasting my time. Although seeing my friends is not unproductive, I do feel as though there are moments where they will cancel, or they’re late, and I have wasted my day or my time.
I have little “ticks” that most people think are just bad habits.
My mind is constantly on overdrive, and because of that, so are my habits. When I am sitting around watching TV or a movie in which I’m not doing a lot, my mind begins to scatter and I feel like I need to do something. My worst habit is that I pick skin or bite skin on my lip – it’s been a bad tick of mine since I was young. Everyone who knows me knows that it’s something I do – especially my family – and I’ve even had to get medication to heal the cuts that appear when I’ve been “picking” too much.
It sounds extremely gross, but it’s not something that I’m necessarily proud of (or feel comfortable sharing with the entire world, so congrats) but, it’s something that many people also go through. Some people pick at their cuticles or bite their nails, some people twirl their hair – and although it seems like just a “bad habit,” it can also be the sign of a deeper problem.