By Katie Bingham-Smith
For as long as I can remember, as soon as I wake up in the morning, my mind starts going. My to-do list punches me in the brain before thoughts like, “Look at this beautiful morning!” can enter. It is automatic. It can’t be pushed aside so I can be in the moment and rid some of the early morning blur from my eyes and head. No matter how hard I try, my anxiety creeps in and tries to eat me for breakfast — every single day.
My hands run through my hair. I start twirling and twisting. I need an outlet for my nervous energy, and it helps. I’ve done this ever since I’ve had hair. I used to chew my nails too. Then I sucked back cigarettes while standing at the backs of buildings or sat in my car trying to hide my dirty habit as my mind kept fast-forwarding to the next thing I had to do.
When you have high-functioning anxiety, your nervous energy either paralyzes you, or springs you into action, and when it does, fuck, you know how to get shit done. People think you have it together, but the reality is it hurts too much to be still, so you keep moving. Relaxation is not something you are familiar with.
I, like so many others who live with high-functioning anxiety, go through this ritual every day. It is uncomfortable, but if you suffer with angst often enough, you are pretty damn comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I know I am not alone — 18% of adults suffer from some form of anxiety. You may appear calm on the surface, but underneath it all, you are wondering how you can be better. You get really good at picking yourself apart, and you use those thoughts to propel you forward. You appear productive and motivated, but you are also exhausted. It feels good, and it feels bad.
If you suffer from constant thoughts like, “I am not good enough,” or “I should work harder,” or “How can I make this better?” and you are still able to carry on, you are badass. You know how to wade through your own muck. You are capable of recognizing that these thoughts aren’t really true, even though the weight of it is really heavy at times. Because of this, you’re an expert at recognizing your own bullshit, which makes it easier to detect bullshit in others — a fucking superpower if you ask me.
You are a master at lifting someone up when they are feeling less-than because you live it every fucking day and will be damned if someone you love and care about is going to let these feelings control them.
You also know this: Feelings are valid. You can not make them go away by telling yourself or others, “You should not feel this way,” or “Get over it.” That’s not how it works, and you know it, so you extend that empathy to others. You are strong.
You know how to put on a game face when it’s needed, but coming clean and verbally throwing up on someone else helps you soothe the deep, dark tunnels you are trying to climb out of. And you want to climb out. You are tough.
So many times you hear things like, “Don’t let it bother you,” “Don’t be so sensitive,” “Just calm down,” or “Does it really matter?” And you are tired, so tired, of hearing these things over and over from other people who don’t understand the struggle. You already wish, my god do you wish, you could change these things about yourself, but it is not that simple. You have tried, so instead, you embrace what you have to offer because it’s a hell of a lot.
As you go through life, you realize things like exercise, hobbies, or being around other people help relieve some of your anxiety. You are always busy.
If you are anxious, you are in touch with yourself. You know what triggers bad feelings, you know what situations and people make you uncomfortable almost instantly, and you aren’t afraid to say no, remove yourself from certain situations, or ask for what you need. You are amazing.
You are used to kicking your own ass every day through coping with the bullshit anxiety throws your way, so remember every time you have thoughts like, “I just can’t today,” to remind yourself that you can. Because you have before. Because you are a strong badass who knows how to rally, and you are worthy of living your best life.