Behind the Facade
Published in

Behind the Facade

When anxiety hits

I’m literally typing this in real-time.

Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

I feel this sharp pain in my chest.

My heart is racing, skipping what feels like a million beats at once.

My hands are shaking and my legs are restless.

I’m breathing harder, blinking faster.

“It’s just nerves,” I tell myself. “You’re not dying.”

I’m sitting on the couch, computer in hand yet staring blankly straight ahead of me. On the outside, I probably look calm as a cucumber, but on the inside I’m questioning every decision I made in the past 6 hours.

After work, I felt this pull to create a LinkedIn page for Behind the Facade. I was excited to share my stories with the world; to post them on LinkedIn and do my part to help break the stigma. I felt empowered and excited as I wrote the page’s bio and about section and published my first post. Per LinkedIn’s suggestions, I invited a few people to like the page and made a post on my personal feed announcing the new page. I was on a high, feeling like this—sharing my mental health journey—is what I’m meant to do.

A couple hours later, I log on to my personal email and see an email from someone at Medium asking if they could amplify one of my posts. I’m so excited that I text my mom a screenshot of the email sharing the news.

And then, as I’m watching “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (high school dramas are my guilty pleasure), the nerves settle in.

Why did I do all of that without thinking about it?

Did it look desperate that I asked my colleagues to follow my page?

Do I really want them to see this side of me?

The thoughts get so loud I have to literally pause the show. The uncertainty; the imposter syndrome; the anxiety — they overcome me.

I’m so glad I didn’t send out that mass InMail I wrote. What if my manager had seen it? Or my director? Or the CIO? Or the CEO? What would they think of me?

I started sharing for me. Does sharing on social media mean that it’s not for me anymore? Will that affect how and what I write?

Why do I feel the need to impress and get approval from people that I barely know?

Why is my heart beating so fast? It’s just a social media post.

But literally anyone in the world could potentially see it. Should I take it down?

No, I made a promise to keep posts like that up.

Write about it. Maybe that will help.

Get computer; walk to couch; struggle to sit down.

Damn it, now my feet are shaking too.

It’s way past my bedtime. I wish I could go to sleep but now my body won’t be tired for hours.

My hands are typing faster than they ever have before.

I need to get off this couch; go do something.

Right — take my medicine. Take care of myself.

As I struggle to walk to the kitchen (stress has manifested in my physical body and it literally hurts to sit, stand and walk), I let myself shake, telling myself that it’s okay; one thing at a time.

In my head, I walk myself through a checklist:

Open the pill box.

Put sleeping pill and supplements into hand.

Get mason jar.

Put water in mason jar.

Add drops.

Drink.

Add more water.

Drink.

Fill water cup.

Take pills.

Put pill box back.

Walk back to couch.

Write.

Write.

Write.

A few minutes in, I feel myself take a deep breath. My shoulders relax. The world slows down. Just for a minute.

Before I know it, the racing heart, fast-typing hands and shaking feet are back.

It’s like an aftershock of an earthquake, my heart acting as the shifting core.

I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. It doesn’t help, but I know it will if I keep going.

Inhale 3, exhale 6.

Inhale 3, exhale 6.

Inhale 3, exhale 6.

Again, again, again.

This too shall pass.

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Lauren Bartleson

Lauren Bartleson

multi-genre writer & mental health advocate figuring it out as I go. 📚: Insomnia, Behind the Facade (‘22), travel novel (WIP). 👩‍💻: laurenbartleson.com.