These are my fingernails. My real, unadulterated, unmanicured fingernails, worn down and weak from years of anxious picking, biting, ripping, hiding the biting with acrylics and then scratching acrylics off two weeks later. These are my fingernails.
And they make me feel brave.
Talking about anxiety is tough. I don't mean it is tough in that it's awkward or scary (it can be. Okay, it is) but that more so that it's tough because it's...
wait for it...
here comes my favorite term lately...
Anxiety is as tricky to explain or define as it is to manage. It's just tricky. From the outside, "high functioning" anxiety might look like killer productivity or a Type A personality but, on the inside, all that action is accompanied by a deep, dreadful drowning sensation. Drowning on what? I have no idea, really. Free time? A busy schedule? The unknown? Plans? Loneliness? Social Obligation? Everything?
but also nothing. We are not choking on anything. We will be just fine... if we can just remember to breathe again.
Remember when I said anxiety feels like someone left the faucet running inside my head? That's probably the best metaphor I've ever come up with to describe what my high functioning anxiety feels like It wasn't until after I wrote the paragraph above that the déjà vu kicked in and I realized that I've written this before. Almost word for word. (Follow the link, you will see.)
My sister recently sent me an article about anxiety in which the author talked about how society assumes an outgoing, social person's struggle with anxiety is less than. She talks about the surprise and even disbelief she encounters when trying to explain her anxiety to friends and family. Ugh. The assumption that good social skills and the ability to project a healthy, "normal" lifestyle negates a person's mental health issues is dangerous and flat out wrong.
In the post, the author linked to a video fromThe Mighty.The Mighty almost always does a great job facilitating conversations around mental health in an open, approachable way but this video absolutely kills it. If you only watch one youtube video today (doubtful, let's be honest) please make it this one. If you are struggling to empathize with your loved one or coworker with anxiety, watch this video:
Oh, and you should also read the comments.
Yes, you read that right! I'm actually encouraging you to read the comments on a YouTube video.
I scrolled through almost two pages of them and did not find a single hateful, negative message but instead hundreds of personal accounts of anxiety. Hundreds of people finding the support they needed to own their struggle.
One of the comments that stood out to me the most referenced a line in the video about bravery. The video mentions how "answering a text impulsively and thoughtlessly is an act of bravery," and this person deeply connected with that line. Another person replied to his comment in agreement stating that often times even opening a text message feels like an act of bravery.
Answering a text message means inviting in a new stimulus and a new unpredictable conversation into your life. It's a potential request or a social plan. It is scary. It is the reason, if you're someone I text, you're used to going from receiving eight, back-to-back messages from me to nothing... for days.
I can understand how many people don't feel this way. I can understand that using the word "brave" to describe an action that, to most folks, feels mundane and simple might not make sense at first. When you have high functioning anxiety, however, almost every act of existing can feel brave.
Just think about it. When your body so often feels like it is in a state of drowning, surviving something a seemingly small as a traffic jam or a cancelled meeting can feel triumphant and bold. That could have been the thing to push me over the edge. That could have been that last drop of water that cut off your air flow, but it wasn't.
My fingernails are unsightly. I won't lie, I cover them up with acrylics and manicures a lot.
But I never lie about that. When I'm complimented on my "nice nails," I immediately tell people that they're fake. That is not my truth. My brittle nails are a part of me and my story. They are a reminder of my bravery, my newfound ability to talk about my anxiety openly and my determination to accomplish things with it by my side.