Anxiety is a tricky thing — it manifests itself differently for everyone. One day can look different from the next, too. Walking into different social situations is like one big wild card — which weird, panicky feeling am I going to experience now?
After a while, though, you start to figure out your ticks — and the different types of anxiety you experience. I know I’ve definitely got mine figured out.
Welcome to my social anxiety
Honestly, this part of my brain gets activated so much that I think it’s just my personality at this point. I dread any kind of social interaction I may potentially have with someone whenever I go out. My brain imagines every possible way things could go wrong — and how I could completely embarrass myself.
For example: venturing into the world of retail. I’ve done my time as a cashier, so I know they’re not evil people out to attack the customers. I find myself in the self-checkout line at Target, anyways. Shopping is just so much easier when I don’t have the perpetual fear that I’ll be questioned for my purchase of a single pair of socks.
One of my worst fears is seeing people I know in public — even if I like them. Sure, we’re shopping at the same store so who are they to judge me? Something inside of me says to run away. Yes, I’ll truly go out of my way to avoid any kind of conversation in public. Suddenly that box of frozen fish sticks becomes interesting. At least it’s better than awkward small talk with someone you haven’t seen since graduation.
I’m even guilty of dodging my own dad in the grocery store. Don’t ask me why I did that — my anxiety just told me to.
With as little pride as possible, I can readily admit that one of my biggest social anxiety ticks is going to the local Dollar Store. There’s an “in” door and an “out” door — and the “out” door just happens to be right past the registers. If I wander into the store and don’t find what I need, I force myself to buy something else. No, I don’t need it. But how can I walk past the cashiers without buying something?
Meet my panicky anxiety
No, “panicky” isn’t really a word but that’s the best way to describe this part of my brain. It’s the piece of my anxiety that gets me worked up when nothing’s going on.
The old saying goes that “no news is good news,” though my panicky anxiety seems to think otherwise. My life could be literal sunshine and rainbows, but if that rainbow doesn’t text me back of course the world is crashing down.
“They’re probably not answering you because they don’t want to talk to you.”
“This whole friendship is probably one big joke — and you’re the punchline.”
“Maybe this is why none of your friends are texting you right now.”
The list of panicked thoughts goes on. But it doesn’t stop at just that.
Since I began college, one of my greatest ticks was watching other people succeed without me. I’m not mad at them for doing well, but I get anxious that I’m not doing enough. As anxiety goes , this slice of my brain goes to the extremes to get worried.
A lot of my friends are a year older than me, and in completely different majors than me. Naturally, we’ll follow very different paths. Well, not according to my panicky brain.
I doubt that a journalism major is going to be pursuing many research opportunities during their undergrad years. That doesn’t mean I can’t get scared about losing a position when someone else gets hired.
I worry so much about my future — even if my panicky anxiety makes me plan every moment to the last detail. It’s a double-edged sword.
The Big Breakdown
Over the years, I’ve discovered that the different pieces of my anxiety meld together on my worst days to create one big breakdown.
My social side forces me to withdraw for a day, but my panicky side makes me worry that everyone hates me for being absent. The two go at each other like the Kimye/Taylor feud, refusing to back down so both sides can be heard.
Eventually it all culminates until I’m left lying in bed feeling sad and broken down for the rest of the day — but I’m working on it.
Bringing in Success to my Anxiety
There isn’t anything in the world that can make all of your anxious ticks disappear. They’re a part of who you are. All you can do is work on combating that draining feeling as you learn about your anxiety.
It’ll take trial and error. You won’t figure out how to take care of yourself after your first anxious episode. I’ve been pretty anxious my entire life; a factor that only became a bigger problem for me a few years ago.
Even then, it took time to figure out all of my various ticks — and how to avoid letting them get to me.
One of the greatest remedies for me was discovering the healing power of writing. Every time I felt anxious, I’d write about how I felt which helped get my thoughts out in a positive manner. I wasn’t wasting my energy by beating myself up over things.
It gave me a good way to understand how ridiculous anxiety really can be. After writing something it’s nice to take a week before coming back to it. After reading the things you wrote, you realize how unrealistic it all is.
On top of that, finding a support system has been detrimental to my success over the past few months. My anxiety makes me question whether I can really trust someone so I usually have a hard time letting people in. However, I’ve found that every time I open up to someone about my anxious tendencies and the moments when I get sad I feel a little bit better.
It makes me feel stronger than the anxiety when I go against the things it tells me. So, one of the best things I’ve learned is to take pride in the little victories. After years of dealing with the voices in your head, there comes a time when you just decide to put your foot down. You have to give yourself the courage to stand up to your anxiety.
Since I began college I’ve had a lot of nervous breakdowns, but I’ve also made a lot of strides in my anxiety. I can’t remember the last time I worried myself until I got a headache over someone not texting back. It’s been months since I’ve paced the room and cried. All of the changes come from putting my foot down by trusting myself and my friends.
Show your anxiety who’s boss.
Last month I finally escaped the Dollar Store without making a single purchase— and it made me realize that all of my anxious voices were for nothing.
Now, onto taking down the next anxious tick.