A lot of people don’t notice that I have anxiety – my quirkiness & randomness that I’ve procured over the years has masked it so well that my label is the eccentric of the group. I tend to be quite reclusive when it comes to my anxiety; I hold a lot in while I still smile on the outside. I feel too much, but go on with my day, even if I want to crawl under my comforter and camp out for the day. On the outside, to everyone else, it may seem like I have my life together. However, no matter how many great and positive things are going on in my life, I’m in constant fear of what I can lose. I can thank my past for that, and unfortunately, no matter how many times people try to reassure me, it’s still festering in the back of my brain.

Anxiety is always there, it never disappears. It shows up in different forms throughout the day like panic spouts, over-thinking, stress-sweating, migraines, etc. You name it; I most likely have experienced it. I’ve developed several habits of picking at my skin, playing with my hair & crossing my arms frequently. Since I was a kid, it was made clear that I needed to be seen and not heard, and unfortunately, that mentality was consistent until I left my surroundings at the age of 19. I was berated for being different and continuously told everything was my fault. You start to believe it, and instead of getting treated for anxiety, I felt alone and silent. Anxious feelings find a way to try and consume you, continually battling every day, you have no time off from it.

I’ve been on high alert recently. A lot of small things have just been piling on top of one another, and I feel I’m at a bottleneck point.

My usual step to combat this is to distract myself. I keep myself overly busy when I really should be doing the opposite. I throw myself into work and plug away, so I’m not alone with my thoughts for too long. I’ll reach out to everyone surrounding me to listen to their issues and offer advice when in reality I wish someone would do the same for me. I continuously strive for perfection, but I’m my own worst critic and will ‘beat myself up’ for not getting something done off of my to-do list. I’m so hard on myself, but I’m so happy that I went to therapy so I could understand that all humans make mistakes and things will be OK.

Even though I know this, whenever things get this stressful, I isolate myself. Isolation has been the coping mechanism that I’ve developed from a young age, and this is my comfort. Even though I do this, I find myself lonely. Friends and some family don’t understand why certain things are hard for me, why I leave events without notice or have a hard time accepting a compliment. They’ve all come to accept this as “my thing” and have stopped inviting me out or checking up on me. I’ve been having a hard time accepting this at this point in my life, but a great friend reminded me that it’s not the quantity of your tribe, but the quality. I know she’s right, and I wish I could push through this feeling, but I’m finding it harder than usual. It’s most likely because I give 100% of myself to my friends, and when that effort isn’t reciprocated, I feel as if my energy went to waste.

I’ll continue to push on because that’s what I do. Years ago I made a promise to myself that I would never let myself be a doormat again – I am transparent, honest and blunt. I will never apologize for who I am – this is me.

Back in February my Mother-in-Law notified me about a short story contest that The Star was holding. She likes to cut out articles for my husband and I whenever something catches her eye – I think it’s adorable. When she handed me the small advertisement, I checked the deadline and realized I only had two weeks to submit something. Cue my anxious thoughts:

You don’t have any ideas on what to write about, you won’t get it done on time, and nothing you write is good enough

I sat in front of my computer for a good couple of hours letting these thoughts wash over me, and I was slowly starting to agree with all of them. Acknowledging this fact, I knew that I had to do something about it.

What’s the worst that can happen? I don’t win? At least I can say I TRIED

So, the next day I started to form a character in my head. I kept a notepad close by to jot down a couple of notes and by the end of the day I had a solid story – in my eyes, at least. The turnaround time took roughly a week to complete, and I was quite proud of how quickly I was able to bang it out. I circulated it throughout my office to gain some feedback, and I got nothing but praise. My spirits were elevated, but that didn’t mean my anxiety wasn’t knocking on my back door.

Since I was cutting close to the deadline, the plan was to drive to their head office and drop it off personally. My ears were throbbing with my heartbeat the entire ride down. I lost grip once on my steering wheel from the excessive sweat exuding from my palms. I missed my turn and had to circle the office at least twice before landing a parking spot two blocks down. Once I turned my car off, I just sat in silence for two minutes. My breath was rigid, and I needed to calm myself down.

You’re only dropping off your story, Andrea. A decision won’t happen for over a month. You’ll be OK.

Once I was calm, I entered the lobby of and placed my entry in the provided box. It was officially too late to back out. I walked out of that building with a little more confidence. Weeks went by, and the official date of being notified came and went – I was not selected.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t overly upset about it. I was happier with the fact that I gained the confidence to push through my anxiety and draft up a short story. I hope this new found confidence can help me push through other anxious scenarios!

Click here to read The Lottery

This past weekend I went to a housewarming party. I go to these with my husband, but due to his work schedule, I was to go alone. PANIC. I don’t normally go to parties alone, especially when I only know a handful of people. Immediately I started to think of excuses of how to get out of it. My brain automatically does this, regardless if I want to go or not. I REALLY wanted to go: I haven’t seen my friend in a LONG time, I’ve never been to her house, and she has a baby on the way, so I’m not sure how often I’ll see her in the long run.

Since my husband would be home later in the evening, I made the drive out to her place with the full intent to come back home and spend some quality time with him. I made it on time, which I normally do so I can talk with the hosts. Luckily not a lot of people were there, and it made my anxiety subside.

At one point both of the hosts were in other rooms either giving a tour or pouring drinks, leaving me with two other couples in the living room. The room was a little silent, so I jokingly said loudly “Awkward silence!” which did not bode well with the others. They all glanced at me at the same time which made my throat close up. Tough crowd. My anxiety said to stay silent for the remainder of the time that I was there. I excused myself to the kitchen and poured myself some water for my dry throat. I didn’t have my husband to bring me down from my anxiety, but I was determined to stick it out for my friend.

Even though my visit was short and my anxiety did come through, I’m quite proud of myself for staying. As the party went on a couple of acquaintances came through, and I was happy to say hi to them as a welcomed distraction from my idiotic attempt at being funny. When I got home, I ran through that “Awkward silence!” possibly twenty times in my head, bashing myself for even trying to be funny. Unfortunately, this will never escape me, and I’ve come to accept it. Do I regret going to this party? No. Pushing through things that make you uncomfortable is the only way that you can grow as a person. Will I yell out “Awkward Silence!” Again? Most likely – I am Anxious Andrea after allsocial-anxiety-toronto-1