To my loving, thoughtful and caring boyfriend:
You may ask, what is my anxiety? It may seem one-dimensional to you, but there is so much more going on below the surface. What does it look like, and what does it mean? It’s hard for you to understand it the way I do because I live with it every day. But I hope this letter helps you to understand the difficulties I face in living with anxiety.
So, what is my anxiety?
My anxiety is having no appetite one day and eating everything in sight the next. It’s being completely out of touch with my own feelings and needs.
My anxiety is feeling ill with no explanation. It’s feeling like you have a perpetual hangover with no end in sight.
My anxiety is feeling like I physically can’t get out of bed in the morning. It’s more than simply not wanting to get up — it’s being terrified of what could happen in a single day. It’s being paralyzed over the uncertainty of whether it’s going to be a good or bad day. It’s being worried about having a panic attack. Some days it’s easier to stay in bed than to face the world.
My anxiety is being perfectly happy one minute and snapping at someone the next. It causes mood swings I didn’t even know I was capable of. I snap at people out of pure frustration over feeling like anxiety prevents me from living my life the way I want to.
My anxiety is closing my bedroom door and not answering it when my roommates knock to ask to watch reality TV together. It’s wanting to be alone because you’d hate for your anxiety to affect others. Pretending I’m not around is easier than trying to explain why I don’t want to leave my bedroom.
My anxiety is walking around the grocery store for an hour and a half trying to decide what to have for dinner. It causes me to carefully consider every possibility in a situation until I feel like I have made the right decision. It’s more than just indecision; anxiety causes a small decision to evoke a debilitating fear of choosing the wrong thing.
My anxiety is having zero energy. It’s going from being an energetic, happy person to having the life sucked out of me. It’s feeling like lifting my hand to grab the television remote will be so exhausting I’ll need a three-hour nap to recover. Please know when I’m feeling this way, that’s when I need you the most. I need you to sit by me, hug me, tell me it’s OK and fight alongside me.
My anxiety is isolating myself even though I want to be around other people and participate in fun activities because I know those activities have the potential to cause a panic attack. I snap at people I love when they reach out and ask me to join in because I’m frustrated with the reality that I can’t be a part of certain things.
My anxiety is something I can’t control. It’s something I have tried for years to control. It’s something I’m still trying to accept as a part of my life, knowing I probably won’t ever have control over it.
My anxiety is doubting everything you, my loving boyfriend, say to me. It’s doubting your trust when you have given me no reason in the world not to trust you. It’s questioning if you want to be together because of the way I’ve been treated in previous relationships, or agonizing over why you didn’t respond when I said “I love you” when you probably just didn’t hear me.
My anxiety is an emotional roller coaster almost every day. And I’m in the front seat every time whether I like it or not.
My anxiety is an illness a lot of people aren’t educated on and don’t understand. They don’t understand how difficult a single day can be. Anxiety is invisible in many ways, and because people can’t see it like a cast on a broken leg, they tend to assume everything is fine. They don’t understand why I get upset or tire easily or isolate myself from the group. Truth is, oftentimes these people don’t want to have a conversation about what I’m dealing with. It’s easier for them to just ignore it even though I don’t get that option.
My anxiety is me trying to fight what my brain tells me every day and losing that battle almost every time. Don’t tell me to just “get over it” because it kicks me down daily. Don’t tell me to be strong and pull through — you have no idea how strong I try to be every day. Don’t tell me I’m not trying — I’m putting up a fight every single day of my life. Help me during those times when I feel like I have no strength in me to fight it that day.
Be patient with me. I know that’s a difficult request when I tend to be impatient about most things. I have to learn to be patient with this illness, and the only way to get through this is for you to be patient too. Know sometimes I need some space and other times, I need your arms wrapped around me and you telling me it’s OK. It’s OK that I can’t control this. It’s OK that I’m going through this. It’s OK that I can’t face people today. We’ll try again tomorrow. It’s OK that I snapped at you. Try to remember I’m sorry. It’s OK that I’m frustrated because I know you are too. It’s OK that I have anxiety because you love me, no matter what.