From the outside it’s easy to think that somebody has got it all figured out. Because my hair is curled and my cheeks are intentionally flushed – I must not have a care in the world.

As if it were expected from my demons to be worn like a scarlet letter pinned to my chest

– and they assume if you cannot see it, then it’s not really there. As if pain does not exist unless you’re bleeding or slung in a cast or staggering with a limp. But sometimes, the most painful demons are the ones they can’t even see.

So we learn how to smile, how to grin, and bear it. Because, nobody likes to talk about the tough stuff… Hell, I don’t like to talk about the tough stuff.

I have anxiety.

It feels like every cell in my body is moving so fast that my veins are blurry, that despite the constant rhythm of my heart-beat – inside my ears, it’s like listening to spastic drum line. It feels like bees inside my ears. It’s like a broken white noise machine playing all sounds at once… and I don’t even realize I’m grinding my teeth or cracking my knuckles or rubbing my forefinger against my pinky or twisting the gold band on my middle finger – holding onto myself like I’M the only lifeline bridge in the gap between reality on my own two feet and the atomic intensity of bliss and noises and sounds and feelings of fleeting rushing through my veins.

… and I’m avoiding eye contact. Not because I’m not listening to what you’re saying. But because I’m listening to the sound of my own voice – hoping that through your voice you can’t hear that it’s two octaves too high and on the verge of breaking because my palms are sweaty, and I somehow forgot to speak with anything behind my words, other than insecurity.

My anxiety feels like fire.

I imagine my feet moving with trails of dust behind them like in those cartoons because somehow I’m moving faster than the sixty seconds they’ve allowed in a minute – all the while I’m just playing catch-up on the stopwatch. It doesn’t add up like it did in high school Mathematics – I can’t carry the one and find the square root of the problem, because most of the time, THERE IS NO PROBLEM.

There is no life or death situation – there is no rhyme or reason, there are just FEELINGS and I’m feeling all of them at once.

So do you want to know what happens when you get scared of being scared?

Well, if I could, I’d stay in my house all day, ’cause I keep thinking what happens if I get a panic attack in public. Going to the store or the pharmacy is a torture, so I plan ahead. I think about ways to escape. When I stand in line I start thinking about how everything can go wrong. Unknown places paralyze me because I don’t have an emergency plan for those.

Partly because I’m scared, partly because it’s hard to meet someone new when you just stay in your bed all day.

I think too much.

I think ahead, I think behind, I think sideways.

If it exists, I thought of it. And it’s not like I can just quit and choose not to have anxiety, it’s not just simple worrying… But there comes a time when you just have to leave the house, otherwise you’ll starve to death and you probably have someone you really care about so you have to make an effort.

So I walk out the door. My route is very simple. I pass the suburbs, pass the woods, I can almost see the place where I’m heading.

And then it kicks in – anxiety.

I feel the street tilting. The road is so grey it’s going to burn my eyes out  and I’m probably going to fly out into space because I can’t feel my feet on the ground. A million thoughts pass through my mind.

No, I’ve been through this before. I’m all right.

Can they see me? Will someone call an ambulance?

I can’t breathe. I’m going to pass out. Please make it stop.

This time I was lucky. I made it through. And pretty much no one knows.

I don’t want to show my weaknesses because like I don’t want them to judge me.

They’ll say I’m whining or being dramatic anyway, so it’s just easier to hide it.

People don’t realize how often I just lie my bed, crying and shaking, without any particular reason. They don’t know how many great opportunities or even simple daily activities, I have to say no to, because this thing completely paralyzes me.

All they see is someone who indulges in self-pity. They think I’m lazy or rude, that’s why I didn’t go out with them.

Yet again. No.

Actually, I was lying on my bathroom floor, unable to move, completely exhausted after another panic attack.

That’s why I didn’t come. All my plans for the future got lost somewhere along the way… because… How do you think about studying in a different city, among complete strangers when you can’t even go to the nearby shop without thinking the whole world’s going to cave in on you.

And I think people just don’t get it, because…

We expect those with mental disorders to just walk around, with no makeup on, in ragged clothes… and dirty hair… looking like they are completely crazy, and the truth is exactly the opposite.

We try to hold on to what’s left of our sanity by at least trying to look normal. And when you finally open up and you tell someone, people just… tune out. Anxiety permanently ensues from then onward.

Some days are better than others….

Some days are worse. But they’re just days… and I’ve got more where they came.

Author: Roman Andreea Maria