This girl’s illustrations perfectly sum up what it feels like to live with anxiety

This is what an anxiety disorder really looks like


I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but it wasn’t until last year – after reaching a really bad point – that I finally went to the doctors, to talk about how I was feeling and get the help I needed.

Since then, I’v​e been doing cognitive behavioural therapy and also seeing a psychotherapist. It wasn’t until getting help I was able to clearly see and understand just how much anxiety was affecting me and impacting on my daily life. There should be no stigma attached to mental illness, and I believe one of the most important ways we can challenge the stigma is through opening up and talking about our experiences.

Anxiety is complicated, and not easy to explain because it comes in many forms – ​I’ve been diagnosed with both ​generalised anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. It’s possible to be diagnosed with more than one type of anxiety, but while symptoms of different forms do overlap, it’s important to understand each type of anxiety is distinct and everyone also experiences things differently. Things like this.

Fighting against panic

One minute you’re fine and the next you’re freaking out about why you’re feeling fine and suddenly your heart beats faster, everything starts getting louder and you become absorbed by panic that paralyses you. ​It’s not always obvious to others what you’re experiencing because on the outside you can look incredibly calm, and quite often panic creeps up for no reason at all and hits you during the most mundane situations.

I once read somewhere someone describe panic by saying, “it’s like you’re drowning in a pool, but the people around you don’t see. They think you’re swimming like them.”

Over-thinking

People with anxiety literally don’t know how to not think and can spend hours over-thinking something and over-analysing ​every​possible meaning behind it. I obsessively think over conversations I’ve had from one’s last week to several years ago. And I’ll turn something completely meaningless – such as the way someone says hello to me- into evidence they secretly hate me and wish me hell.

If your friend with anxiety interprets something you say negatively or asks if everything’s okay between you two, don’t take it personally. We twist things into negatives and seek validation because our mind works against us, telling us we’re worthless, that people hate us and we’re a burden simply for existing.

Irrational thoughts

Anxiety is knowing your thoughts are irrational, but every time you try to dismiss them your anxiety pops up and whispers “but what if”, and suddenly you become consumed with crippling fear that maybe, just maybe, you will get an infection from shaving your legs and die.

Bottling up feelings

The scariest place I’ve ever been is my own mind. I know a lot of my thoughts are irrational – but they can be overpowering and very frightening. Sometimes I feel crazy because of the thoughts I have and can’t control. I worry others will see me this way too, so I hide what I’m feeling and keep things to myself.

Feeling uncomfortable in social situations

Social anxiety is being in a room full of people and being convinced everyone hates you. It’s making conversation and thinking you’re coming across as weird or annoying. It’s leaving a party early because you’ve become overwhelmed with a feeling you can’t quite describe. And it’s laying in bed awake overthinking everything you did and said until your head feels like it’s going to explode.

Through therapy, I’ve been able to look back and see times where I behaved rudely, left abruptly, or avoided things altogether, and realised how these times were related to social anxiety. Now I’m learning techniques to deal with my crippling feelings of anxiety and panic, so I can change the way I think, behave, and cope for the better.

Constantly apologising and feeling guilty

Anxiety can be crippling and stop suffers from doing or enjoying things. A lot of guilt goes alongside this, aimed at the friends and family we feel we’ve let down.

We’re sorry for letting you down. We’re sorry for always cancelling plans and always cancelling at the last minute. We’re sorry we didn’t take your call. We’re sorry for leaving early, and for seeming withdrawn or rude. We’re sorry we’re not very good at explaining how we feel. We’re sorry for not being able to give you a genuine reason why we didn’t show up. We’re sorry we thought we could do something and then we couldn’t. We’re sorry for being flaky. We’re sorry for being ‘different’. We’re sorry for not keeping in touch enough. We’re sorry we don’t always say sorry when we should, and we’re sorry for sometimes saying sorry too much.

Related articles recommended by this writer:

• How to deal with anxiety at uni

• The ugly misconceptions about anxiety

• These are the signs you’re experiencing ‘September anxiety’