I’m unpleasant to be around.

Anxiety according to those around me.

Photo by Mario Azzi on Unsplash

“It’s all in your head.”

Ugh…can’t these doubters be any more original? I wanted to scream. Instead, I put my head down like the coward I am and slumped into the wall behind me, half hoping it would open up to swallow me whole as those words bounced across the tiny room. It was especially hard to take as they were uttered by someone I truly admired. Of course I pretended like it didn’t affect me in any way. I’ve been practicing that move for years. The reality, however, was far from that. My mind went into overdrive and started racing through question after question in an uncontrollable loop. I remember thinking that this will last for days. It came as no surprise that I managed very little sleep that night.

“You don’t do fun stuff.”

Sleep was always an issue. I roll around uncomfortably in bed so much that it might actually qualify as a hobby. But I’d rather suffer lying down in my own bed than in the presence of a crowd in a social setting. “Fun stuff” is the last thing on my mind. Maybe that’s part of the problem? I figured I’ve depleted my quota for social gatherings in my 20s, so I don’t feel too obligated to show up for most of the occasions my peers attend. Speaking of my 20s, I can’t seem to recall much from that time. I do remember enjoying long walks all by myself, though. And that I weighed a lot lesser.

“Did you go for lunch ALONE?”

F**k yeah I did! Last time I checked, this wasn’t a crime. I’ve always been comfortable being alone. Alone in my own obsessive thoughts and alone in my own mind. It’s been that way for the past two decades of my life. Until a few months ago, I’ve always thought that I was simply a loner and accepted that as just who I am. Despite getting married to my lovely wife 2 years ago, I still preferred being alone. The obsessive thoughts have been constant throughout the years, and they’ve been a burden I quietly suffered in. I was under the impression that these thoughts were the result of stress, and that my threshold for stress must be really low. Little did I know that I ticked the same boxes as someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder. FML.

“But everyone has anxiety.”

In a country where third world mentality thrives, mental health doesn’t get a seat on the table. And that sucks hairy balls for someone like me. It would be really nice if I could sit down and talk to someone. Someone who understands, someone who has been through the same, or at the very least, someone who actually believes what I’m going through is real and not something I made up in my own mind. Unfortunately, convincing the common folk about the importance of mental health education is futile and exhausting.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

“You look tired.”

Sometimes it feels like I’m participating in a mental marathon that involves navigating around a landmine. It doesn’t help that I’m bombarded with negative thoughts from the very moment I open my eyes in the morning. This sets me up badly for the day, everything becomes a burden and spirals into anger. My heart beats faster than it’s supposed to throughout the day, even when I’m going to sleep. That’s if I get any sleep to begin with. It’s a constant battle, fighting with the demons in my head. And I never win. I love winning.

“You’re just being dramatic.”

No. You’re being dramatic! One too many times I’ve been blamed for reacting dramatically. It’s really hard not knowing what will trigger the next bouts of anxiety. Sometimes it’s something I say and immediately regret. Sometimes I react badly to something that had occurred previously but is reignited by something someone else said. I plunge straight into the familiar dark loop of thoughts like a bad Miley Cyrus tune on repeat. Like the horrible songs they play 24 hours a day in Guantanamo as a form of mental torture. I obsess over what others say for days.

“Why don’t you ever smile?”

I can’t control these thoughts. I’m rarely mentally present. Or focused. While those around me are joyfully engaging in conversations and jokes, I sit there void of emotions. Some of the jokes tend to be about me, about how grumpy I am. About how I don’t ever smile. I’ve even been given nicknames and been told how similar I look with the angry emoji, but I’ve learnt to accept it. Only because I’m afraid of making a further fool of myself by being seen as someone who is not able to take a joke.

“Just snap out of it.”

I’ve tried. My brain chemistry has different plans, though. However, I’ve been reflecting on my journey lately, trying to dig deeper in search of answers, which consequently lead me to writing this post. Everything seems to connect now. I can’t help but look back to more than a decade ago, when I dropped out of college. I was pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. After successfully completing my first year, I started to lose interest. I started to question my choices, and of course those thoughts lead to lost of focus. I couldn’t cope with the classes anymore and at the same time I wasn’t present in social circles. I just wanted to be left alone to my thoughts, however unbearable they were. That seems to be the common reason why I don’t finish the things that I’ve started. I’ve always had an excuse to escape. There are plenty other examples to substantiate that. It all makes sense now. It’s been the pattern I’ve subscribed to most of my life. I’m a serial quitter.

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“Your mind is a dangerous place.”

I’m ashamed to admit it. I’m ashamed that I’m not normal. Not mentally at least. All these thoughts, some of them dangerously evil, are something I have to learn to manage. It’s not up to others to adapt and be careful of what they say and do around me, it’s up to me to find a way to live in harmony with my anxiety disorder. There are things that help lift the burden for a while, like writing this post. Yet, it’s deflating to know that no one from my circle of friends or co-workers will ever read this. And the thought of sharing this post with any of them or on any of my social media accounts, is by itself anxiety inducing. So what difference does it make?