I’ve decided to write this in the present moment rather than attempting to articulate what anxiety feels like and what being alone with anxiety feels like. If I try to think back on moments when I was anxious they become elusive, as if my memory was erased and I never experienced it; the moment simply and objectively occurred. But, at this moment, I’m incredibly anxious. I have been for about 6 weeks, but today it feels more severe.
Today, I’m at work, in the office. It’s like every other COVID office day: four people total, relatively quiet, and constantly wearing and taking off my mask as I walk around. But, unfortunately, as I attempt to concentrate on the normal office days, I’m actively avoiding focusing on my stomach-cramping, sweat-inducing, self-deprecating anxiety.
It’s exhausting in many ways. I’m physically tired and want to let my body go and release all-natural reactivity that would keep my body from crumbling as I walk. I was carrying a box of wine earlier and so much of me wanted to let it drop to the floor and just watch. It feels like doing nothing, absolutely, literally nothing is the right decision. I’ve been waiting all day to do nothing. All I want is to stop thinking, because every time I think about anything, anxiety rushes to my stomach again.
Making decisions is a tremendous effort that requires all of my energy, and spares none for the rest of my seemingly simple actions.
I want to cry, but my body won’t let me. That feeling comes from my stomach, and I can’t decipher if I’m sad, tired, or if it’s just mindlessly reactionary.
But, for six weeks I didn’t tell anyone at work. In fact, I only told four people how I’ve been feeling – one being my therapist. Today, however, I told my boss. They were extremely receptive and supportive of my words and feelings. It was nice to receive and hear confirmation. My boss even said “I hope talking about it makes you feel better.”
“I do too,” is what I said back.
I said that because I didn’t know what would make me feel better. Not many coping mechanisms have worked lately, so all I could say was “I do too.” And in that moment, I realized why I had kept my mouth shut about my anxiety for so long.
I was afraid to tell my coworkers at first because I didn’t have a solution for them. I wasn’t able to tell them that I need X, Y, and Z from them in order to feel better. I didn’t have anything to say other than “I’m not OK.” I thought that was what was keeping me quiet. But, after I was acknowledged with empathy, I still felt anxious.
Opening up didn’t fix anything. Saying it out loud just felt like words. Usually when I hide my feelings it’s because saying them out loud makes them real – like I can’t take anything back. It’s tattooed in the air for everyone to know.
I discovered that what truly kept me coy was that I’m still anxious, and I’m alone. I can have all the support I want and need, but I’m sitting at my desk alone. I have to deal with this on my own, in every moment, and especially in the moments when I can’t reach out for help.
That’s what being alone with anxiety is. It’s recognizing that I can try to heal myself in every way imaginable – good ways and bad ways – and still feel like I want to stop and do nothing. I’m not able to climb up a rope to freedom. I’m still hanging, some amount of feet away from the top, wondering when I’ll be back to feeling good again. I’m waiting for the day, again, when I can tell the truth to people when they ask me “how are you today?” I’m waiting when I can say “good,” and feel it within.
Today, I don’t feel good. Today, I have recognized that everything around me is going on and on as usual. I have friends, people that love me, and a good job; the sun is shining, and I live in America. But I’m distant from all of that. All I want to do is run away because I don’t know what else to do. But I can’t because I’ll still be alone with my anxiety. I can’t run from myself.
I’d like to promote the idea that it’s OK to feel like this. And it’s OK to acknowledge these types of emotions. It is important. I also think it’s important to share them with people we trust. But, I also think those are just words at times. I want to end this with a happy ending, with positivity and uplifting energy that I attempt to exude and establish. But today I can’t. And I think that’s also just as OK as accepting my emotions for how they are.
About the Author
My name is Cole Swanson, I’m a young creative who loves to follow my passions and aims to make a mark on the world around me. Through my love of writing, I have paved myself a path that allows me to always tell stories. With each blog post, I desire to share a story in hopes that it allows others to find the courage to share their own.
I’ve been actively working on my own mental health for the past three years. During that period, I learned of the struggles of wanting to give up trying to improve myself, as well as of the joy I feel when I know I’m becoming healthier.
At NAMI, I act as a volunteer for their Ending the Silence program where I talk to students about the power of vulnerability, empathy, and self-advocacy, so they can find the power to redefine the stigma of mental health.
The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of NAMI Eastside. NAMI Eastside will not be held liable for false, inaccurate, inappropriate or incomplete information. The content should be used for general information purposes only.