Why Do I Automatically Hide My Anxiety in Public?
I have spent so much of my life learning how to hide this anxiety disorder in public that it seems at this point it is just second nature to me. The other day I made a comment after seeing a friend that I felt like a mess, to which she person responded that I seemed and looked fine. Meanwhile, while I had seen her, I was fighting tears and listening to my mind repeatedly panic, belittle me and convince me of all kinds of awful things. That same morning I had so much anxiety the emotions were overwhelming and unbearable. I had spent hours cycling between crying, snapping, panicking, scratching, and laughing. Seriously - almost every emotion possible. Yet in public I was able to smile, laugh, complete errands, and carry on conversations. Her comment made me realize that I have spent so much time covering up these visible symptoms that it just happens automatically now. I can't decide if I should be happy that I am able to pass as "normal" to other people, or if I am feeding into the stigma that mental illness should be hidden. Unless I say something, most people don't know when I struggle with anxiety. Even people who know me the best struggle with what happens on the days it gets really bad because "I seem like I'm doing so much better" most other days. Yes, most days I'm not in as dark of a place as I was a year ago. But it's not gone - most days it's just a constant shadow that I am able to manage. And I end up feeling like such a burden because when the dark days hit, they hit HARDD. And since I seemed like I was doing better, I should be better, right?
It's made me question some pretty deep beliefs - would crying in public make me seem weak? If I actually spoke the things that went through my mind, instead of acting fine, would people think I'm "crazy" or unstable? Hell, would they even keep talking to me? And why the fuck do I care so much about seeming "normal" or being accepted? Do I unintentionally hide it as a way to protect myself from judgement or having to explain? Or is appearing calm and collected the right thing to do? Does being able to function in public mean that I'm getting "better"?
In the spirit of full disclosure, even writing this post I kept thinking "are they sick of hearing about my anxiety? Does anyone even read this? What's the point?" Some days, it's just unbelievably exhausting. On days like this I wish it was possible to just never leave bed. But then again... I guess if I stayed in bed I would avoid this conundrum altogether, hey?!