The Collateral Damage

I’ve been talking a lot about how anxiety has affected me. It’s ever present, it’s painful, and it’s fucking exhausting. I struggle with it every day. I have all these feelings that overwhelm me consistently, but only one really stands out tonight. I feel guilty.

I’ve grown used to the daily worry, and the occasional sadness, and even the physical symptoms (pounding heart, shaking, restlessness, nausea, etc.). I experience these things all the time. I accepted each of them as just something to work on. Today, I completed some pages in an anxiety workbook instead of writing. From one of the pages I gained a new perspective on the way I present my symptoms.

I began with the internal symptoms, which I’m already pretty familiar with. I went through that section rather quickly. Then there was a question about how my symptoms present outwardly, which I must admit I hadn’t really considered, except on a fairly superficial level. I knew that I become very restless and fidgety. I learned to flip pins and roll coins across my fingers and solve a Rubik’s cube, just to have something to do with my hands at all times. I knew that sometimes I get really tongue-tied and have to repeat the same sentence 4 times to get all the words out. I knew that I often just shut down, and let everyone else do the talking.

As I moved on, thinking I had finished (how silly of me, of course not), a thought suddenly popped into my head. I noticed then that my shutting down had, on many occasions, forced my friends to make excuses for me. “He’s a little shy,” or “He’s not feeling well” or some other bullshit excuse. Meanwhile, I isolated myself from situations that, for some reason, I though I would enjoy. It made me wonder how my outward displays of my emotions affect the people around me. I know that I’ve ruined relationships because I couldn’t feel confident. I know that I’ve pushed people away instead of solving the problems that I had. I was sure there was more.

I’m still sure of that, separated from that moment by over 8 hours. I feel very bad. People who care about me have been picking up my slack. They’ve been carrying my burdens for so long.

At this time, I choose not to think deeper into this. I think that’s progress, stopping myself before I’m drowning in self-loathing. Instead, I want to take this opportunity to thank the people who propped me up every time I fell flat on my face. Thank you for sticking by me. My friends all suck, but I love them anyway. Anyone you’re reading this, thank you for being a part of my story.

Written by Bryant Dietrick

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