What Anxiety Feels Like
I was originally writing the piece that follows as the initial stage of some cognitive behavioural therapy. Last Monday (the 11th if you want to be specific) I’d been feeling pretty anxious and my head was acting the eejit so I said I’d try and sort it out, as I would do quite often. After writing it I figured it might be actually quite helpful to share so some people can see what anxiety can feel like, and others could find solace in the fact that they’re not on their own in this. Anyway, I edited it so it’s more readable. Hopefully this helps a handful of ye.
Anxiety is a weird one. It’ll shoot your self-confidence and esteem straight dead won’t it? On Friday I was my cheerful, confident self and since then my head started falling into second-guesses and attributing intention to peoples’ behaviour. It’s weird how it creeps up on you. For me it always begins with thinking people around me don’t like me. Be that acquaintances or my best friends, my brain tells me these people aren’t fond of your boy. That’s not a good space to be in.
When I’m anxious I feel like a burden. It feels like I’m irritating anyone I try to talk to or text. It feels like people have to ‘put up’ with replying to me. This is compounded then, when people don’t reply, or leave messages “seen.” It confirms to my anxious, and therefore irrational mind, that I am indeed a burden, and an annoyance, and essentially unwanted. Now this may be true for a minority of people who you contact, but generally your mind will be wrong about this. The person didn’t text back because they had their own shit going on. They were busy. Maybe they were also feeling anxious.
Anyway, this feeling of being unwanted causes even more anxiety and even physical stress. You might become restless, constantly checking and rechecking your phone. This lack of wanted attention increases your desire for validation, and superficial attention. When I’m anxious in this way I’m far more likely to post a random picture on Instagram, just for a serotonin kick. I’m more likely to jump on Tinder for a match and a conversation which may make me feel slightly better about myself. See, if you text someone you know when you’re anxious and they don’t reply, you’ll immediately assume that this person doesn’t actually like you at all, and so looking for validation from someone who doesn’t know you is better than nothing.
I don’t think I ever really got anxious like this before social media. Social media can be extremely detrimental for mental health. Constantly being connected means you’re constantly aware of when people are choosing not to reply. Before social media, we didn’t really know this. Even the simple addition of being able to know when people have seen you message, yet haven’t replied can be terrible for your head if you’re not firing on all cylinders. People don’t tend to ignore you to your face in real life, and so I don’t believe our brains have evolved (yet) to effectively deal with that kind of psychological rejection. I think being ignored hurts our egos, and our esteem, and confidence. When this happens in several scenarios in a short period of time, it’s very easy to see why you’d become anxious and start to think people don’t like you.
Of course, when you eventually stop feeling so anxious (and you will stop) you’ll understand that the way you were thinking was extremely irrational. I think we tend to forget that we all sometimes fail to reply to snaps and texts, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like the person who sent it. However, when it happens in reverse, we quickly jump to the conclusion that we’re not liked.
My take away from last Monday is that, when feeling anxious, being on my phone too much definitely intensified the feeling of anxiety I had. So going forward it makes sense to spend less time on it when I feel a bit anxious.
Anyway, I hope some of you can relate to that. At the same time, I hope that most of you don’t at all because it’s not great craic!