Before I even begin my rant, let me provide you with the knowledge of what “high functioning anxiety” even is. While the term is not its own medically identified version of anxiety, it is more like “a catch-all term that refers to people who live with anxiety but identify as functioning reasonably well in different aspects of their life.” Meaning people who suffer from this don’t ever really look like they are struggling; they just come across as hard workers or really motivated people. And that’s the problem.
Wanting better for yourself and working hard to achieve your goals is a great trait to have, but when it becomes all you think about, and subsequently, every decision you make is so that you can reach that goal or dream, things start to get messy. The article linked in this one also mentions that most people with high functioning anxiety feel like their anxiety pushes them to move forward rather than cause them to freeze, and I myself can attest to that. Daily, I have 100 different thoughts that run through my mind, so keeping myself busy has unintentionally become a coping mechanism.
My logic is that if I’m doing something, I won’t be able to chaotically think about the fate of the world in such a fast manner that it almost becomes dizzying. Unfortunately, time and time again, I prove to myself that that logic is flawed because I overthink around my obstacles. I’ll be washing dishes thinking about how I can better my life for tomorrow, obsessively. Staying busy is only benefiting me, so what does it matter if I feel sick with worry every time I try to relax? I should be working this hard at this age. This is all normal, so why, why make a thing out of what people strive to be? Being “more motivated” is what people say as New Year resolutions, not get anxiety over where the line between relaxation and acceptable work ethic is—or if it should even exist in the first place.
I feel like all of my friends have a different relationship to their work and/or their school-related activities than mine, and it sort of pointed me in the direction of how I knew I was someone with high functioning anxiety. Obviously, school is important, and you should try your best on everything you submit, but when friends missed an assignment or two, it didn’t haunt them in their dreams or scare them into overachieving on the next assignment as it did for me. They didn’t even say, “oops, there’s always next time,” which also became a thing I said a lot after having first disappointed myself, which I then tortured myself over, and, finally, actually delivering more than I intended to that “next time.” I always impressed both my peers and me when the consequences of working hard paid off.
I didn’t feel like I deserved it because I needed this work to feel fulfilled. Which by the way, that fulfillment would only last a second before I’d start to think of what to do next. We overthink, and we are very receptive to people, which is why we rarely, if not ever, speak on the constant noise going on in our heads. How are we going to explain to people who really don’t get it? That we look like we are doing so well… It’s crazy how badly I want to add, “but don’t worry, I’m actually great” to that statement, but I’ll continue by saying that we are struggling to keep it together. Every time I wake up at six in the morning, can’t go back to sleep, then give up starting my day of busy work early (which, by the way, isn’t always productive work), I want my protest to be staying in bed and being lazy that day. Just this once. But then every day, I wake up at six and barely change the routine.
Recently as an attempt to unlearn this behavior, I’ve been trying to watch TV shows or movies while really focusing on what I am seeing, not allowing myself to think about anything apart from that show. Being present and focused and actually allowing myself to enjoy that exact moment without doing my usual, zoning out to think about things like how I want to make sure I have more moments like these, or how I could better the one I am currently living through, or how I could ensure this moment’s feeling for my future, has been one pretty difficult thing to do. But I’m trying. And I think we all should try when unhealthy habits need to be curbed, just make sure you do it slowly and reasonably. Not all at once, like how I have been doing. It’s okay to take your time, and oftentimes, I find myself having to remind myself of that throughout the day.
On Twitter, you hear a lot of “check on your happy friends,” and since we have started equating happiness with superficial success, check on your friends that are “thriving.” Just see how they are doing. For some, this busy lifestyle is being lived in a healthy manner, so checking in with them will probably be exciting. But the people working hard because they feel they need to are probably just waiting for someone to notice enough to check-in. So if you believe yourself to be strong and healthy enough to handle the consequences of bringing this topic up to a friend or loved one, then please do. Support is a truly powerful thing, and having people who understand your relationship to your work to be strained enough that they work around you or help you when necessary is beautiful and sweet in all its kindness. Remember, you never know what people are going through on the inside, so it’s best to just not assume anything about people ever.