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High Functioning Anxiety

I have high functioning anxiety. What is high functioning anxiety, you ask? Strangely, it doesn’t mean that my anxiety is constantly functioning and that it is constantly in effect. It actually has nothing to do with the amount of anxiety you feel on a daily basis.

This is the quote that hit home for me. This is what I have, what causes my mind to be this way.

 “Anxiety is hard to understand…high functioning anxiety is even more so. We stress, we plan we panic. We achieve. We tell people we’re fine. We say this so we may start to believe it ourselves.

Inside, I’m drowning— drowning in lists, calendars, and post-it notes stuck on every single crevice of the wall reminding me to not miss my deadline. And as a journalism major, deadlines are everything. The constant deadlines; they’re the reason why my nails are basically stubs. The second I feel like I’m falling behind, my anxious nail picking habits reveal themselves. A lot of the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it until there’s blood.  All I know is that I’m panicked and then my fingers ache.

I have panic attacks. For a while, they were under control. I went almost three months without feeling that awful feeling in my chest that almost feels like a heart attack.  I know I’ve given myself too large of a workload when I start feeling my breathing get heavier and my heart beating faster. And then I can’t get myself to do much of anything.

I do too much. Everyone says I do too much. But I strive for greatness. The only thing I care about is my future and my goals. This is what sets high functioning anxiety apart from generalized anxiety, which was my original diagnosis. 

Those with high functioning anxiety strive to achieve dramatically. Not because it comes naturally, but because our brains tell us we need to; work yourself to the bone. Will I feel less stressed and more accomplished if I ace this test? Or apply to this job? Have two internships instead of one? Regardless of our greatest achievements, the anxiety and pressures still manage to creep their way up into our skulls.

I hold my greatest accomplishments to my chest like armor; these things tell me that I am okay. I am good enough to succeed.

Each victory only brings more pressure. And of course, the ever-aching question: “What if I can’t do it?” Does everyone already know? Do they see me stumbling? How long do I have until everyone learns I am simply not good enough?

It’s hard to explain to people. They think, “well if you are stressed out by everything you do, do less?” But sadly, I cannot allow myself to. The thought of falling behind or failing myself shakes me to the core. It literally keeps me up at night.

It’s not like I take on everything I’m offered or asked to do.  Those with highly functioning anxiety have constant raging mental battles for every single decision they make. When I say people like me plan, we PLAN. Everything, every detail, to make sure everything goes as planned.

High functioning anxiety is always looking for the next outlet, the next big project, the next possible success; and then having no time to do any of it.

It’s always being busy while also avoiding something.
It’s feeling like your own mind is against you when all your brain wants to do is work. Managing motion that can be productive, or even self-destructive.

It’s me, fighting against my own need to constantly prove my right to simply exist, and do what I love.

I have high functioning anxiety, but I’m surviving, and I’m thriving, and my anxiety will not tear me down.

“A person with high functioning anxiety can look calm on the surface, but underneath that practiced veneer, their thoughts are churning.” -The Huffington Post

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