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Anxiety – An Open Letter

Dear…well, everyone,

This is me. I struggle with anxiety. Some days more than others. Some weeks more than others. There are times when I have thought it’s completely gone away, only for it to soar back in at full force. There are times when it has gotten so bad that I wonder if there is ever an escape. You might not know that I struggle with it, because it is more of what’s called “high-functioning anxiety.” Which is exactly what it sounds like. Someone with anxiety that you might not ever know they have it, because they are so good at keeping it to themselves and hiding it from others. Yes, sometimes even the really close friends.

About a month ago, I began to do a little more research on what living with anxiety feels like, because even though I’m on meds for it and I literally just took an EKG that showed a heart palpitation caused by anxiety, there’s still a little part of me that wonders if I actually have it. I don’t know why, but I always seem to have a mindset of “I’m just mentally weaker than everyone else. I don’t really have anxiety.”

I’m also not one that likes to put blame on things. When in doubt, it’s my fault. Which is another thing that I struggle with with anxiety. I usually just dub the high stress, mind-racing moments to being overwhelmed. I hate the thought of my mind struggling with anxiety. It’s like my own brain is waging war on itself.

Well, the moment I started doing a little research and looking at articles written by those who struggle with “high-functioning anxiety,” I began relating eminently.

I began to see that what I deemed “laziness” was actually my brain on overload and me being paralyzed out of fear. I saw that what I thought was a lack of motivation was actually emotional exhaustion from the constant battle going on in my head. I saw that I’m not mentally weaker than everyone else, my brain is just responds differently to situations than other people’s brains do.

With that being said, here is what living with high-functioning anxiety is like to me.

Anxiety feels like…

Constant tension in my muscles. Having to take a second to notice that my shoulders are tense because my body is just assuming something is wrong and uncomfortable. Then I have to tell myself to just relax and let loose, only for my body to tense up a few minutes later.

Exhausting. I feel tired basically all day, unless I’m doing something active. Getting out of bed feels like an enormous task, because I don’t feel like I can muster up the energy to make it through another day successfully. I don’t feel like I can put in the energy to have to think through things and make decisions throughout the day.

Despite this, I still manage to struggle with getting enough–as well as quality–sleep. During the seasons that I struggle more, I can’t fall asleep until one to three hours after going to bed. On nights I do fall asleep in a good amount of time, I usually wake up for about one or two hours. About half of the time, I wake up six or seven times from 3 am until my alarm goes off.

And when my anxiety gets really bad, it feels like every part of my body is going crazy all at once. My mind is going 100 MPH and is jumping from one thought to the next. My heart is pounding out of my chest as my breathing speeds up rapidly. I feel a need to suddenly jump up and starting sprinting somewhere because sitting still is only making matters worse. My emotions…they all come flying at once. I begin to overthink everything and start to imagine terrible scenarios that are completely unreasonable, but I make them happen in my mind. And in every scenario, I am the reason for whatever problem I just made up.

It’s like something takes over my body, and the real me is stuck on the outside watching. Have you ever seen the movie Get Out? It’s like I’m trapped in “the sunken place” while a different version of me is controlling my mind and body.

 

Anxiety sounds like…

You’re not good enough. You need to try harder. Be better.

Haha, you suck. They’re not really you’re friend, they just feel bad for you so they act like your friend.

Why are you so needy? Keep it to yourself, they don’t care.

Don’t ask for a favor, you don’t deserve a favor.

Don’t do that. Don’t do that either. Nobody’s paying attention, just stop.

Anxiety? You’re just mentally weak. Stop being a baby. Get over it.

Don’t get help, this is your burden and others shouldn’t carry it for you.

Something’s wrong, but I can’t tell you what. Just keep faking it, they don’t need to know something’s actually wrong. 

Anxiety looks like…

Lying in bed, thinking about how my day ahead of me is so busy and I just don’t know if I’ll be able to do it. Until finally, I check the time again and the realization that I have to leave for work in 10 minutes kicks in and I finally get up to get ready.

Text messages lying in my inbox for hours at a time, because I don’t want to respond to a simple message. It’s not that I don’t like the person I don’t respond to, it’s just that I have to muster up energy to read the message first, and I might not be ready to do that right away.

Jumping from one task to the next, without finishing that first task. For example, starting to fold my laundry, stopping halfway through to go downstairs and clean the kitchen. Then stopping halfway through cleaning the kitchen to do another task. Why do I do this? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I get so overwhelmed with thoughts that I can’t think through doing one thing at a time.

Being busy, but also putting off important things so they don’t get done. I let things pile up instead of admitting I need help and am overwhelmed. This one is hard to explain. But I always thought that I was just lazy because I put off important things to do, until I read articles written by those who also struggle with anxiety that explained things exactly how I view them and do (well, don’t do) them.

Not taking time for myself, because I tell myself that that’s selfish. Even when I know it’s what I need most times, I still don’t take the time to do what’s best for me.

Rushing from one place to the next, because my schedule is so full that I barely have time to breathe between events.

Focusing on another aspect of my day while I’m trying to complete something else at the moment. For example, eating breakfast, but stressing out about how my day looks and trying to plan when I’m going to do what, instead of just enjoying my breakfast peacefully and restfully.

Avoiding asking questions because I feel like the answer is something I should have known.

Doing enough to get by, but not enough to excel.

It’s being a positive, outgoing guy on the outside, but on the inside, there’s always that little voice that says, “What if…”
“What if they actually don’t like you?”
“What if you’re not good enough?”
“What if you can’t do it?”

Sometimes it feels like I’m so distracted and restless, and my mind is constantly racing. Other times, it feels like I’m detached. I dissociate myself from others and it feels as though my mind has left my body–that I’m in that “sunken place.”

Recently, I have begun to take steps I need to cope with these things, and I have been able to see progress. It’s an ongoing struggle, and I definitely still can feel overwhelmed and isolated, but I also know that it’s worth it to fight this battle and not just let it overtake me. Life is precious, so why let some stupid lies get in the way of being the best me that I can be?

Sincerely,

Pierce Moriarty

 

 

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You Are Good Enough

Growing up, my mind made everything a competition. I strived to win those time tests back in sixth grade. I remember taking second a few times and silently accusing the person who won of cheating, simply because I was salty that I lost. Playing around the world was so much more than learning math for me. If I lost, I would throw an internal fit. I just wanted to be the best, so I held myself to such a high standard. In gym class I was always the try-hard who won things. I didn’t care if I was sweaty for the next class period, I had to win.

In high school I always wanted to be the leader of whatever team I was on. I wanted to be the captain, the mentor, the best player, and the “on-court coach.” If I wasn’t any of those, I looked down on myself. I remember my freshman year in high school, I had made a large improvement over the year as a basketball player. I wanted to be on varsity so badly. I even hung up a hand-made sign in my room that said “VARSITY.” Every morning I would walk out and give that sign a little slap and think about how I was going to get better that day. I put hours upon hours in the weight room, gym, watching video, and reading articles on basketball. I just wanted to be the best.

One open gym during the summer going into sophomore year, my coach asked if I wanted to play with the varsity guys, and I got so excited. “This is it, this is my chance,” I thought. I played well and thought I impressed my coach enough to where I would at least get the chance to play with them the rest of the summer. Afterward, I went up to him and told him that I was excited for the opportunity to play with the varsity team, and I asked if there was anything that I can improve. He basically told me that they just needed players to fill in so they could do the drills they wanted, and that I wasn’t going to get the chance to play with them over the summer. I was so disappointed in myself. “I should’ve worked harder. I should’ve done this better. And I definitely could’ve done that instead.” I expected so much out of myself, and hated that I wasn’t good enough after all of the work I put in.

Even now, I expect a lot out of myself. With two older brothers who are successful people, it’s hard not to compare myself to them. I get a lot of comments about being a Moriarty. The one I get the most is, “You’re a Moriarty so you’ve gotta be good at volleyball.” Or something along those lines. I hear that, and I think to myself, “I’ve gotta somehow work to be better than my brothers.”

Not just with sports, but even the little insignificant things like playing video games with my roommates. I get so overly competitive with that, and I expect to win. I get frustrated with myself if I don’t.

Having perfect expectations like that makes for a hard relationship with God. It makes for unfulfilling ministry. I never took the time to celebrate what God has done both in and through me. I was always thinking how I can do better. About a year ago, one of my closest friends placed his faith in Christ’s death on the cross. WHY DID I NOT CELEBRATE THE CRAP OUT OF THAT? That is so exciting! Instead, my reaction was thinking how I can do my part in his growth, whether that’s pointing him in a direction or being there for questions and discussing things with him or really engaging with him and walking with him. None of those are bad things to think about, but there was no initial joy and celebration.

We had our Cru leader’s retreat a couple weeks ago, and one of our staff members talked about grace and standards, and that resonated with me so clearly. I experienced grace in a really deep way that weekend, and it was incredibly freeing. I was able to take a step back, and know that I don’t have anything to live up to, because in the end, perfection is impossible. And that’s why grace is so beautiful.

I knew grace was an undeserved gift, but I didn’t let that be my driving factor for change. If I knew I needed a change of heart in a certain area of my life, I would try to change it on my own. It was when I failed to change my heart that I would try to experience grace. But grace isn’t this vending machine where whenever you screw up you put in a prayer, press the “B3 button,” watch the circular spiral contraption push out some grace, pick it up, leave and tell yourself you’ll do better next time. Grace is something that’s already been given to us, and there’s an endless supply.

Am I perfect? No. Do I still want to be the best I can be? Absolutely. But it’s a freeing feeling knowing that I don’t have to meet standards. I don’t have expectations to live up to. I don’t have to be better than my brothers. I have Jesus. And because of that, I’m good enough.