1. You’re constantly called “type A” or “anal retentive” or just “a perfectionist.”
People credit you with going above and beyond the call of duty, and always executing things to an nth degree. They poke fun at how you (sometimes unintentionally) seem like you have a “my way or the highway” mentality, like it’s just a personality quirk. In reality, the idea of not finishing something or doing something exactly how you’ve envisioned makes you sick to your stomach. Things like someone coming over and seeing your laundry or missing a deadline by even an hour makes your head spin. They shouldn’t seem like a big deal to you, they should be something you can move on from and not dwell on, but they aren’t. You obsess and overthink, dwell and stew. So your perfectionist ways (seem) to manage that.
Here’s exactly what it feels like to have anxiety, and what you should never, ever say to someone who is suffering.
2. You have little ticks that manifest physically, but they just seem like “bad habits” to the outside eye.
Nail biting, hair picking, knuckle cracking, lip chewing. Even picking at your skin or scabs or leaving your cuticles in a bloody mess. They’re all little symptoms of your anxiety. You try to keep your panics and nervousness internalized as best you can, but it slips out in these seemingly little things.
3. You don’t know when to say when.
“No,” is your most underused work in the English language. You don’t know how to stay away from reaching your limit. So you pile things on top of each other, always assuming that you can just handle anything and everything. You stretch yourself way too thin and then even after you’re breaking, still try to take on more.
4. You can relate to the idea of “compartmentalizing” your emotions.
No one would ever be able to say that you’re someone who wears their heart on their sleeve. In fact, you do pretty much the opposite. You’re so used to and trained to behave like everything’s “fine” even when that couldn’t be further from the truth, that you’re nearly impossible to read. You’ve told yourself so many times that you’re just being “dramatic” or that no one would understand that you’ve become a professional level faker of being fine. You rarely let how you’re actually feeling show, instead you just bottle it up and cover it up and hope that it goes away.
5. And because of this, you’ve been called “stoic” or “unemotional” even when that couldn’t be farther from reality.
You’ve likely gotten a reputation for being rational and logical to a fault, because you don’t let how you’re actually feeling show. Your compartmentalization is next level. Rather than feel your feelings and process them in real time, you put them on a metaphorical shelf in your mind in order to “deal with it later.” Problem is, later rarely comes. And then there are all of these anxieties and issues and feelings that pile up on top of each other and it becomes unbearable to manage.
6. You joke about having FOMO — but it’s much bigger than that.
It’s not so much an “I wish I was included” notion, it’s more a deep-seeded fear of missing out on an opportunity. It’s the fear of being a bad friend if you don’t go somewhere with someone. It’s the fear of not being enough if, for some reason, you’re not able to do everything.
7. You worry about opening up because you’ll be accused of “not getting it” because you seemingly live a normal day-to-day life.
There’s this idea in your head that because you’re still “functioning” your anxiety isn’t a problem, and won’t be perceived as one. Even if you don’t mean to, thinking this way plays into that “trauma olympics” mentality. It’s the idea that because you DON’T do something that’s associated with anxiety, or because your anxiety is different in any other way, you don’t “qualify.” So, rather than say, “This is what I’m struggling with,” and open up, you say nothing at all.
8. You lose a lot of sleep.
You keep yourself up at night often. Whether it’s because your mind is going 10,000 miles a minute or because you’re convinced you can just finish one more thing, you’re way too familiar with being exhausted. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” you probably laugh after another sleepless night. But reality? It weighs on you. Both physically, mentally, emotionally. It’s a problem.
9. Most people would just call you an “overachiever.”
Because when you look at someone who’s so good at compartmentalizing, repressing, deflecting, and who’s anxiety manifests in a way that makes them hyper-vigilant about very specific things (ie: work, staying occupied, cleaning, list making) it can be so, so easy to only see their successes. But what you don’t see, is the battle that it took to GET there. People only see the achievement part, not the stress, the anxiety, the sleeplessness, and the self-deprecation that it took to get there.
10. You joke about needing to be busy to be happy.
“I LOVE being busy.”
“I’m happier with a full to-do list.”
“Keeping busy keeps me out of trouble!”
It sounds like a glorification of being busy, but really, it’s a cover-up for a fear of what will happen if you stop. The go go go becomes like a drug. The “always having something do” keeps your mind off of, well, your mind. The constantly chasing something else and doing something is ultimately, a big distraction from the anxiety that is ever present in your life.
11. One of your biggest fears is letting people down.
“You could’ve been better.”
“Why did you do this?”
“You’re such a bad daughter.”
“I wish you were a better friend.”
Are those things being said? Probably not. But in your head, in your anxiety-riddled brain, you hear them when presented with the possibility of not doing something at a top tier level. The pressure you put on yourself is enormous. And it ultimately stems from the idea that if you don’t hold yourself to some near-unachievable standard, you’ll be letting someone down. And that breaks your heart. It may be the anxiety talking, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel it every single day.
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