Why You Shouldn’t Hide Your Anxiety
I spent most of my high school in fear of what others would think of my mental situation. Admittedly, society’s stigma may have gotten the best of me. But at the same time, I didn’t feel I was in the right place or the right point of my life to be openly discussing my anxiety disorder.
Come college and everything entirely changes. I don’t know what came over me, but I felt this urge to come out about my illness and, it turns out, many around me were able to relate. It was a wonderful feeling knowing I wasn’t as alone as I had felt the four years prior.
However, I recently had a conversation with another anxious individual who - for the sake of this blog - we’ll call Sam. Even though Sam hangs around the same crowd I do, she doesn’t feel the same way when it comes to her anxiety. In fact, she feels very limited in what she’s willing to reveal.
She told me part of this has to do with society’s stigma. She developed the tendency to avoid discussions about her illness since she was young. She also mentioned it’s her way of coping with the trepidations she lives with on a day-to-day basis.
I believe everyone with an anxiety disorder has felt the need to hide it at one point or another. I know I still throw myself in social situations where I just don’t feel comfortable. Inevitably, I don’t say too much and linger around until I find the courage to leave.
These behaviors have never done me nor Sam well. Yet, it’s just another way we manage something that can be difficult to explain. But as I continue to learn while battling anxiety, there are a lot of consequences to hiding it from others.
It all depends on the way you handle the illness. Some people feel the urge to be a people pleaser for the sake of avoiding negative emotions that can ricochet back. Others pretend to be consistently happy even when people are insulting towards them. And then there are people like me who get angry whenever fear kicks in. Inevitably, using feelings of power to mask low levels of self-esteem and forget about feeling hurt.
These are all destructive behaviors in their own right. For myself, using an angry coping mechanism caused me to leave old friends behind and brought on other mental health problems. For Sam, becoming a people pleaser led her into unhappy relationships and friendships where she felt used.
The consequences that come with hiding anxiety end up being worse than the anxiety itself. If you find yourself falling victim to this trap, there are some ways to get out of it.
The first and probably most difficult is to make the decision to quit coping with anxiety in this fashion. For some people, like myself, it just hits them one day. As a revelation, if you will. For others, like Sam, it takes time and understanding. It shouldn’t be overlooked that you’re making a life-changing decision here. If you have difficulty making it all at once, take little steps towards it.
Secondly, you’ll want to become aware of yourself. Before I had my epiphany, I couldn’t believe how out of touch I was with my own emotions. There are different methods people take in order to gain an understanding of their emotions again. Take the time and be patient when it comes to comprehending your own. Know that anxiety will come up again and trust it’s passing.
Thirdly, find those you can trust and begin openly discussing your anxiety. This is going to be difficult, but I guarantee, you’ll feel as though you’re making some visibility in your social circle.
Finally - and, ultimately - face those fears you’ve always hidden from. Your anxiety is an internal experience, and there really is no avoiding it. Therefore, it’s best to find healthier ways of coping with it when it appears in the external world.
I continue to struggle with anxiety and have accepted that it’ll probably be with me my whole life. I take it one day at a time and keep in mind that there isn’t anything I can’t overcome.
I know you can get yourself to this state of mind too. And I have faith, that with some time and practice, you’ll be on your way to surprising yourself in ways you’d never expect.
Written by Paul James.