For those of you who do not know I will be spending the summer in San Francisco away from my little family, while I’m excited for new opportunities to learn and build my career, it would be an understatement to say I am FREAKING out but the point of this post is that I always freak out.
Because I hear time and time again to just “calm down” or “everything will be fine” I thought I would share my frustration with those statements by explaining how my brain works. My brain does not understand “calm down” my brain only hears “freak out” and “everything can and will go wrong.” That is the immediate response I have when faced with anything, whether it is routine or novel.
No matter how many times people tell me to relax I can’t. I literally feel like I have hands around my throat and can hardly breathe the majority of the time. You know that big lump you get in your throat when you feel like crying but can’t, the kind that leaves you with a pounding headache… that is how I feel 99% of the time.
Let me explain this a bit more because people typically see me and think I’m fearless or I have it all together and trust me I work VERY hard to keep that image. In reality that is far from the truth.
On the daily basis I freak out about everything that could possibly go wrong from car crashes to abduction (no exaggeration) and because of this I research and plan everything out beforehand (of course this is only sometimes helpful because we all know nothing ever goes as planned).
Let me give you an example, if I have to go somewhere I plan out my route beforehand. Last year I was interning in Little Rock, AR and had to drive alone for the first time to the city. Not only did I plan out my route beforehand but I literally took a virtual tour of the route via google maps (street view to be exact). I planned which parking lots I would use and which streets I would walk down. This may not sound like a big deal but trust me feeling that I HAVE to plan every tiny thing is a huge burden and honestly it’s only the beginning of my obsessive thoughts. If you think I don’t know exactly which ways I will have to get to my internship this time around, which streets to avoid, which areas have more crime in San Francisco already, you do not know me well my friends. I’ve already researched the exact buses, BART (bay area rapit transit) and which streets I should walk down versus when I will need to call an uber or taxi (something I have never done). It may sound like I’m just overly prepared but let me continue.
I’ve spent at least 4 hours reading stories of people who’d been mugged in San Francisco, I read so much I found there is a pattern, it seems people are typically mugged between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. Which means I won’t be out after dark. I may as well be a detective right? I already discovered that the majority of the people in the area have their car broken into and that petty theft is often ignored by the cops in the area so I’ve been planning ways to secure my belongings. Even looked up antitheft bags. I even considered dressing down on the way to work and then changing my clothes once I arrive so I don’t look like an easy target. I also considered what steps to take in case I do get mugged and oh what if they have a weapon? What if there is more than one mugger? Now you’re starting to get it. Do you understand how annoying it is to feel this way? A part of me knows I am overreacting but regardless I can’t make the thoughts go away.
My mind automatically goes to the worst possible thing that could happen. Last night I looked out of the window more than 20 times because I thought someone would break in. I literally jump out of bed anytime I hear a car door close. Because it can’t just be a neighbor or civilian right. Not in my head… in my head, it is most definitely a serial killer. The only time I ever get a full nights sleep is when I know someone else is home (my husband or relative). I have a son who I check on at least 10 times once I put him to bed to make sure he is still alive. I even check if my husband is still breathing in his sleep half of the time. He may think I’m being sweet if I lay on his chest but I am just checking for a pulse. Relaxing is not my strong suit.
I always feel like someone is watching me, or following me. It feels like I’m walking on eggshells everytime I leave the house. Every time I get into the car I imagine getting into an accident. Every time I go to the store alone I imagine getting mugged. I hate walking anywhere alone. Even just calling people to handle administrative things stresses me out. I literally plan out what I will say in my head before any phone call or meeting, even if it’s as simple as asking for directions. I get so anxious I physically get sick. The majority of the time I keep myself incredibly busy to distract myself from these thoughts.
Now you may think I sound like a hot mess and you’d never want to hang out with me but do not worry, the majority of the time people around me do not notice because I have mastered my poker face. Internally I may be freaking out but on the outside, I look like I have it together and trust me that is a talent in and of itself. Odds are if we met, you would probably never know I was feeling this way. Unless of course, I told you, but then you still wouldn’t understand to what extent.
Don’t get me wrong being overly paranoid does have its benefits, though very few. I tend to be overly prepared which means I am never lacking when it comes to school and work. However, dealing with everyday life can be a burden at times and it is especially worse when people who do not understand how difficult it is for me to relax, tell me to do just that.
When I was just a child my dad left and my mother was arrested. My oldest sister was murdered and my brother randomly died in a car crash 4 years ago. Many of the people I grew up knowing have passed away. It bothers me when people say “you will be fine” or “nothing like that will happen to you” because if it happened to them what makes me an exception. Bad things happen and I have reasons for feeling like they will happen to me. A part of me feels that it is inevitable and so I should just take chances and live life to the fullest but yet I still worry about everything. It’s a neverending battle that I deal with on the daily basis but I try very hard not to let those negative thoughts rule my life (even though at times it feels that way).
It is not fun to live inside your head considering all the horrible things that could possibly happen at any given moment but it’s also not fun to have people tell you to just stop worrying as if it’s that simple. I wrote this in hopes that people who do not experience this level of anxiety will understand how burdensome it can be. We need to switch the need to tell people to just “calm down” or “be happy” and shift that into understanding how others perceive the world. Those things aren’t simple for everyone. It is easy to tell someone not to worry when you don’t understand how it feels to be bombarded with intrusive thoughts on the regular basis. Instead just be present and be there to show support. I hope this post will offer some understanding to some of you and I hope you share this with others.
Thanks for reading!