Even for those who know me well, it’s hard to believe that I have anxiety and have suffered with depression. However, symptoms aren’t always outwards and most of what happens is in my head. Anxiety doesn’t always look like the person having a physical panic attack and depression doesn’t always look like the person who can’t get out of bed in the morning. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, and it’s often the most achieved people you know that suffer from such illnesses.
I am by no stretch of the imagination the most achieved person that I know, but I like to think I have a lot going for me. Despite having anxiety, I do fairly well in university, work hard at my jobs and try my best to get involved. I consider myself high-functioning, but there are certain situations that make me anxious such as talking to new people (especially in small groups), making plans (especially with new friends who might reject me), following through on the plans (even if they’re five minutes late, I lose my mind), realistic dreams that make me feel dissociative, what people think of me, large assignments such a long essays, certain sounds, how my social media looks (Instagram and Tumblr got to be too much for me, I was spending hours a day making sure it looked the way I wanted before I deleted both), what people think of me, back pain (once I recognize I’ve been sitting for too long, I get really restless), using the toilet (once I even think I have to go, I need to go or else I won’t stop thinking about it, this is particularly bad at night, where I’m often to the toilet three times or more before I fall asleep), how my class notes look (this may be a positive symptom, it sure as hell keeps my work clean, but sometimes I’m so preoccupied making my notes look decent, I miss parts of the lecture), technology troubles, being punctual (especially on foot or using public transit, if my journey doesn’t go according to plan, I go into a downward spiral), balancing all the things that I enjoy (ironically, some of these things aren’t enjoyable sometimes because it feels forced), and much more.
Now you know some of what sets me off, here’s what happens: I’ve bitten my nails for as long as I can remember and although I’m better these days, I still do it in times of extreme anxiety, I sometimes pick the skin on my heels so bad I can barely walk, I can’t fall asleep if there is any noise, especially if there is more than one kind of noise (such as both a dog barking and faucet running), most commonly, my mind races with all sorts of absurd thoughts and situations, I clench my jaw (usually without even realizing it until my face is sore later), I verbally lash out to those that make me anxious and go into myself, cancelling plans and avoiding social situations.
However, just like with most illnesses, physical and mental, I have my good days and I have my bad days. Thankfully, now that I’m on medication, most of my days are good, however, anxiety is unpredictable and something I feel fine about one day could induce extreme anxiety the next day. Don’t be mistaken, even my good days can have moments of exceptional worry and pronounced symptoms, but I’ve accepted this and have learned to live with it.
The point is that even though someone may appear to be high-functioning, even a good day for someone with anxiety is sometimes an uphill battle.