I have a superpower.

(Apologies to anyone who reads this. I am not a writer, nor do I aspire to be. That requires a talent that has always eluded me.)

I have a superpower. I can’t fly like superman or anything like that though. Mine isn’t anything you will ever see in comic books either. That’s because mine isn’t funny. It doesn’t save lives or make people look up to me. It isn’t good or even wanted really. My superpower is being able to jump to the worst possible conclusion every time.

I have an anxiety disorder. It’s hard to explain something like this to someone who doesn’t know. They have no frame of reference. The best description I’ve been able to come up with is this: How you feel when you’re really worried about something very important, that’s my normal. It’s not just the big things either. Every little thing causes me to go into that fight or flight response. It’s always on and I have no way to turn it off.

Some examples that come to mind are:

  • When having a conversation with text with someone and they don’t immediately respond. I suddenly start pouring over the conversation wondering if I said something to upset them or offend them. Wondering if something was taken not the way I meant it. It then becomes the greatest feeling in the world when they do reply and the dread was all in my mind.
  • Daily meetings with my team at work where we talk about our progress from the last day and plans for today. I’ve shaken from time to time and I always stumble over words. I’ve worked with these people for years and still do this.

I’ve always shied away from telling people that. Like it or not, there’s always been a stigma towards people with a mental illness. Most of my family doesn’t know. I have friends that don’t know. None of the people I’ve worked with over the years have ever known.

I’ve heard the usual from people over the years when I tell them. It doesn’t matter if they are friends or not.

“Have you tried just not worrying about it?” (Have you tried not breathing? If it was that simple, I would’ve done it years ago).

“Calm down, it’s nothing to get worried about.” (I know you have good intentions, but this is a horrible thing to say when I’m having an anxiety attack.)

“You’re just faking it to get attention.” (This might actually be the worst. Anxiety makes people NOT want attention at all. We want to go hide and be alone.)

I’ve had varied responses to this over the years. I’ve lost relationships and friends to my problem. They either don’t understand, don’t want to try to understand, or don’t want to deal with it. I don’t necessarily blame them, I can be tough to deal with at times. Thankfully none of my friends or family has ever seen me in a full blown anxiety attack. I’ve been lucky to only have them when I’m alone or hidden from people (in my car, in a bathroom, etc.)

I’m thankful to the few friends I do have, especially the ones that know about my problem and are supportive.

I’ve been in therapy and I take medication for my problem, but it’s not a cure. It’s something I have struggled with all of my life and will until the end of my days.

If you have someone in your life that knows this struggle, my advice to you is treat them like a normal person, because they are. Be there for them, be supportive. You don’t have to offer advice, it’s just enough that they know you are there for them.

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