Anxiety and the Fear of Public Speaking

When I was in highschool, the thought of public speaking made me want to throw up. I would stress and panic over it and I would be nauseous all day. I would shake and nearly cry at the thought of having to get in front of a classroom to present whatever it was that I had to do. The more I got my anxiety under control, the easier it got, but I still struggle with it to an intense degree.

To get my college degree, I am required to take a business and professional speaking class. I would be lying if I said I jumped at the opportunity to take it right away – as I am currently taking it in my junior year. I thought that the class would help me immensely but the anxiety remains. I still am nervous to a high extent, I still nearly throw up each time I go to present, and I still shake terribly. I am not as stressed before going up to present, but it is during the presentation and after that gets to me. Sure, I am becoming more comfortable with talking in front of a group of people, but the anxiety remains.
So you might be asking: How does an anxious person get comfortable with presenting in front of a group? The short answer is: you don’t.

Those of us with anxiety are obsessive. We want everything to be perfect to the point it plagues our minds. We stress out over every ‘um’ and the thought of stumbling and fumbling over notes in front of everyone makes us anxious. The presentation I had to give last Thursday was a required PowerPoint. You want to know what made me the most anxious? The thought of getting up in front of the class and starting my PowerPoint the wrong way. I stressed about hitting the stupid ‘start presentation from the beginning’ button. I stressed about whether I should email it to myself or I should put it on a flash drive. But what if the flash drive didn’t work? What if the class saw the start to some of my emails? Was my presentation informative enough? Maybe I should’ve done an easier topic. Is the presentation too intense for some people?

I have gotten to the point now that telling myself that everyone else in the room is nervous doesn’t help. People telling me that they too are nervous doesn’t make me feel any better. Meditation doesn’t work. I have gotten to the point now where I just have accepted the fact that public speaking is unavoidable. I’ve gotten to the point where I just need to be one of the first presenters, get it out of the way, and return to the back of the room to stress over everything that went wrong. It has been four days since my presentation and I’m still stressed about it.

Being a good public speaker doesn’t happen overnight. A public speaking class doesn’t mean you’re willingly going to jump at the opportunity to speak in front of the class. Being anxiety ridden and obsessive equals out to you just having to find a way to be comfortable. Maybe that means going first and getting it out of the way. Maybe that means going last and leaving it in the past the moment you sit back down. Maybe its hours of prep work beforehand (or none at all).

Being anxious doesn’t mean you are a horrible public speaker – as most people can’t even tell I have anxiety when I speak. It just means that you have to push your boundaries and make it so that you are comfortable. Find what makes you comfortable. Remember that every speech has a beginning but also must have an end. That being said, once you start you are that much closer to being done and sitting back in your comfort zone.

Vulnerabilities Part 2

Whenever I first started therapy in my junior year of high school, now 4 years ago, I was embarrassed to say I started therapy. I didn’t want to go to begin with, but as I’ve continued my mental health journey I got more comfortable with sharing my life story. That being said, I’ve become very open and have encouraged people to start therapy. I am the first to start stories with “So in therapy the other day…” or “My therapist said…” I have become someone that is transparent about my struggles and about my mental health journey – and have truly become a mental health advocate. I’ve posted on Facebook about my struggles, and hell, I’ve dedicated an entire blog to my anxiety.

All of that being said – I am still vulnerable.

Yesterday I had to do a presentation in my Business and Professional Speaking class. Yes, you read that correctly. I identify myself as an anxiety ridden little bean, and yet I’m in a class where I have to speak in front of other students. That statement alone shows how much I’ve improved in four years’ time, considering my senior year of high school I had to deliver a small speech from Great Gatsby and nearly threw up. Anyways, whenever it came down to choose a topic, I decided to talk about my anxiety.

Going up to it I was super confident, my professor was eager to hear what I had to say, I talked about it with my therapist, and I felt like it was a really good topic. Making the PowerPoint proved to be difficult, but while practicing my speech I was finishing around 8 minutes – over the set time limit. With a flash drive in hand, I wasn’t nervous until I sat down in my class and looked around at the other students. What would they think of me? How would I go to class afterwards with everyone knowing I have a mental disorder? Would they think differently? I have slowly grown with this class of 12 students, and yet, I was being so raw and open with a group of strangers. Sure, I had other classes with some of the other kids, but they didn’t know me.

When it came time to present – nothing was helping. Breathing techniques, meditation, telling myself that every other person was also nervous, absolutely nothing. By the time I got up to present, my hands were shaking as I turned in my notes to my professor, anytime I pointed to the board my hands visibly shook with fear, and my voice stuttered the entire time. I rushed it so much that I was below the required time frame of the speech by several seconds. What turned into a speech that could be stretched to 7 minutes and 51 seconds turned into a rushed and anxious speech ending in 5 minutes 55 seconds. I felt as though I was going to vomit and felt extremely anxious before, during, and after the presentation.

I don’t regret it in the slightest.

I got to open up my journey to a class of only 12 students. I got to tell them about my struggles. I shared photos of me dancing on stage and showed pictures of my picked to shit fingers after an anxiety episode. I was open. It was raw. It was me showing my demons to the classroom. It wasn’t easy, but it was vulnerable. I could’ve talked about the history of ballet class, I could’ve talked about how to sew pointe shoes. Instead I showed my struggles. In my research statistics show that someone, if not several, of those students needed to hear what I had to say. They needed me to come out and be vulnerable, if not for me, then for themselves.

Being vulnerable is in no way easy. It is not a walk in the park. I did it with shaking hands, busted up fingers from picking, and a speech shorter than the 6-8 minutes required. But I did it. I opened the room up for discussion. I helped open the eyes to students to show that even ‘normal’ students struggle, and hopefully I made those people realize that they weren’t alone.

Frustrations

As I write this – I want to drop out of school. The course load is heavy and I don’t feel as though I belong. I’m back to my high school days where I no longer feel as though I fit in. I try to imagine a future in my major but I keep drawing up blanks. At the same time I don’t want to admit defeat and don’t want to feel like a drop out. As I write this I am nearly done with my Fall Semester of Junior year. I truly don’t have that much longer to go. I am doing well in class but I’m not hungry to succeed anymore. I put off doing homework and studying just to stress myself out the night before. This entire process is exhausting and I just wish that I had clarity on everything.

What I’ve learned

In a year of blogging I’ve learned that writing is a great stress relief for me. In a year of blogging I’ve learned that you can be strong and independent – but at the same time still be weighed down by a controlling and toxic relationship. I’ve learned that some things just aren’t worth posting about – that some victories and frustrations are just better left unsaid. I’ve learned that keeping quiet is sometimes the best response you can have.

I haven’t been the most consistent when it comes to posting on this blog. I’ve had bursts of inspiration – so much so that I created an instagram page for this blog. I’d feel this excitement – only to be weighed down by exhaustion after I smacked into the wall of writers block. Today my WordPress membership has been renewed for an entire year.

I am uncertain as to where my future with aberrations lies – but I know you will be there with me.

“Feeling on the Verge”

A lot of times whenever I sit down and talk to my therapist I often at times can reflect and tell her about the moments where I had a breakdown, often telling her that I could “Just tell that I was on the verge”

But how does one explain these feelings?

On the verge is feeling as though you are standing on the edge of a cliff, half of your foot over the edge already – the arches and your heels remaining on stable cement while your toes hang right over. It is standing there and knowing that one simple gush of wind will send you over.

It is feeling the tears well up in the backs of your eyelids and constantly pushing them back – but also knowing that if one person says the wrong thing that it will release the tears.

It is a constant burden on your chest with an accelerated heart rate that beats almost too quickly against your chest wall.

It is sweaty palms – always.

It is feeling the quickened heart rate, the sweaty palms, and it is the burden on your chest – but you are also feeling numb and the constant switching between the two of them.

It is feeling the work you have to do physically piling on top of you – and you feeling as though that no amount of time in the world could get it done and knowing that one more paper is going to push you over the edge.

It is the feeling of begging something to happen, so you could just get over with it already.

Being on the verge means that you can feel yourself almost to the point of no return. On the verge it is the difference between crying and being okay. Being on the verge is knowing you just need one final push to send you spiraling. Sometimes it can feel as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Some of us live our daily lives on the verge – almost waiting for that straw or for that gush of wind to send us over.

While we can be on the verge, we also know how it feels to come back down and to recover from our falls. That is what is most important to try to remember.

Why it is Okay to be Selfish

The word selfish is typically one that is looked down upon and looked at in a negative light. Not one person likes to be described with the adjective of selfish, but ultimately, in the world of mental illness and health – it is an adjective that is one of the most important things to be.

There are a lot of people that suffer with a form of mental illness, whether it be anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ptsd, or so on. Some people have it in the slightest forms while others suffer in a more extreme way.

Those that suffer are typically those that you do not expect as mental illness can affect anyone – it does not matter your age, race, or gender.

Most people, like myself, give and bend over backwards for everyone and anyone – often at times putting others peoples needs before their own. So much so that they wind up shoveling emotions and feelings underneath almost convincing themselves that the needs and wants of others are more important than their own. Often at times they will put their needs on the back burner, convincing themselves that the needs of someone like a friend is most important, more important than their own emotions and feelings.
This leads to the burial of emotions and stress that eventually boil up – ready to be set off by the most minuscule things.

Not only does the selflessness of mental health mask our own feelings, it also is extremely exhausting. Some of us will hold ourselves to an insane number ,of standards when it comes to being there for others. We are not catering to our needs but to the needs of others and ultimately draining the energy needed to keep ourselves afloat.
I read somewhere once that the development of mental illness can also contribute to a development of a selfish personality.

Do I consider myself selfish? At times. Am I open about my need to be selfish? Always.

For those of us that have mental illnesses we need to constantly be aware of our wants and needs as humans due to the smallest change causing what could be a downward spiral.

Not only do we need to be aware of our bodies, but our mood as well.

Sleeping and eating on a regular schedule are vital to keeping our mood as stable as possible whenever it comes to self care.

For example, in mental illnesses such as Bipolar Disorder, tracking your mood is essential in staying up on it. It is noticing the most minute of changes in mood. It is essential to notice the changes so that those who are medicated can report it to a psychiatrist which may require change in medications as soon as possible.

You must be extremely aware, not only in your alone time, but when with other humans while being social.

Is my speech slurring due to talking too quickly? Are my conversations bouncing from place to place constantly due to my inability to focus on one topic? Are my responses appropriate? Is this how I act on the daily?

We must be in constant awareness of our mood and how we are feeling, why we are feeling, and to try to judge how long we will be in this state of feeling.

Mental health may also come with a selfish behavior, but that is okay.

I am not telling you to only look out for yourself and no one else, and to push people around for your own advantages – being selfish does not always have to be that negative.
So be selfish. For those that know you and love you – they will understand your need to be selfish and will be there to support you and will still be there whenever you come back.

2018 Review – In Spotify Playlists

Music has forever been my time capsule to take me back into time in terms of memories and moments that are most important to me.

Certain music can take me back to things like a car ride home with friends while others can take me back to making it through my senior year of high school as an outcast.

One morning when I woke up and began to get ready for my commute to school, I saw that Spotify had created a brand new playlist for me that was being recommended on my homepage.

Your Top Songs 2018

Instantly I was intrigued. I wanted to know what songs I listened to the most this year, seeing as my rotation was constantly changing with my music tastes for several months now. I was interested to see if Spotify could pick up on the songs that always made it back into my commute playlists and if they knew what songs seemed to be my favorites.

I found myself laughing at a few song titles such as those that belonged to Youtubers like Tana Mongeau and Gabbie Hanna, songs that I listened to ironically (enough to end up on the Spotify list haha).

I was enjoying the laughter and memories that came along with artists and songs by Rick Astley, Stacked Like Pancakes, Queen, and music from movies like Moana and Beauty and the Beast. I was taken back to all the good and pure moments of 2018. Songs that reminded me of singing in the dressing rooms before a performance and songs that took me back to car rides and singing with my sister.

That was whenever I heard the low whistles of “Asleep” by The Smiths that took me back to my lowest moments.

Immediately I was taken back to sitting in my bathtub – listening to that song during a depressive episode. I knew that the song would make me feel worse and more upset – but I hit the loop button so that it could play repeatedly without me needing to hit the back button.

There was a large chunk of me that wanted to hit the next button in that moment, maybe move onto a happy song from Moana to make me sing and dance in my seat as I drove to class.

I felt as though I was taken back in time and like I was back to sitting in lukewarm water, uncertain as to why exactly I felt so down.

Then there was “The Night We Met” by Lord Huron.

That song already had an emotional place in my heart due to the appearance of the song in 13 Reasons Why. It was introduced to me my senior year of high school and I can remember listening to it to get through it to the best of my ability.

The song followed me through high school, summer, my first year of college, and through my relationships.

It was a song that was forgotten about until the month of June and July where it was played, sang, and danced to on repeat. After July it fell back out of my cycle and had completely been forgotten about – it hurt too much to listen to and carried too many memories of my mental states and relationships beginning to take a major decline for the worst.

The vastly different types of music on my Spotify playlist was a great wrap up an example of how the year of 2018 went for me.

Some moments were pure and filled with laughter and smiles. Music such as Teenagers (My Chemical Romance), 21st century Liability (Yungblud), and You’re Welcome (Moana) come to mind for these songs. Songs that played as I sang to my nephew as I visited him and my sister in Maryland,  songs that were performed in the hot warped tour heat, and songs that I could jam out to in my car while driving to work and school.

The other moments were better suited for songs like “Asleep” (The Smiths), “The Night We Met” (Lord Huron), and Pictures of You (The Cure).

A large portion of 2018 can be explained by my sadder songs, where lyrics such as “Sing me to sleep, I’m tired and I want to go to bed”, and “Crying for the death of your heart” seem to fit better in my narrative than other ‘happier’ lyrics.

2018 was the worst year of my life thus far.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I struggled with major depressive disorder, I went spiraling backwards in all the steps I took towards getting better in the world of anxiety, my grades suffered, I was overworking myself in an attempt to distract myself from the amount of depression I was dealing with, I went through a horrible breakup, and I felt as though I lost a lot of myself for several months.

2018 was also my best year.

It was a year of self-discovery, a year of meeting new people that were like me and accepted me (and didn’t judge me for my short comings), I stood my ground and stood up for myself many times, I fell down ( a lot )  and got up each time, and I learned what I will and will not tolerate in terms of my self-worth.

2018 had been filled with way more downs than it was filled with ups, but I managed to get through it. Some moments and months I was down longer than others – but here I stand.

-N;KK;

A Change in Seasons

Sometimes a change in season and motivation is what is needed to realize what is really needed for yourself as a human being.

I started this blog as a way to normalize anxiety, depression, and the feelings of darkness that everyone experiences but nobody wants to talk about.

I wanted to be that platform for those who felt isolated, alone, and as though they were the only ones that were experiencing awful feelings that came along with anxiety.

I still want to be that person and that has always been my goal as a someone who is very open with her mental health struggles. I do not hide behind fake smiles and personas. I do not post on social media happy faces and laughter whenever I am feeling at my lowest of lows.

From February to September I was suffering in ways that I cannot even begin to understand and I believe my brain has repressed the worst of it for my own safety. I don’t remember being sad… I remember struggling, but the rest is a blur. I remember specific times where I broke down as a person and anxiety and crippling depression had its arms wrapped so tightly around me – but I don’t remember being unhappy for so long and for so many consistent days and weeks.

Now that I have grown and reflected, I have come to the realization that I am now stronger than I ever was before and the broken persona I had grown into all those months ago is beginning to repair itself and be built back up into an independent and strong woman again.

I no longer feel a need or a desire to place myself in such a darkened mind space in order to force words out of my brain onto paper for the sake of a blog post. I am not in the same mindset I was in this time yesterday, let alone this time in August or this time two months before that.

This original post was going to be about seasonal depression and when it hits people and how no one realizes it unless they deal with it first hand through either themselves or family members or friends, but here I am now.

I still want this blog to be about finding normality in the unusual. I want to help people and help them feel more normal but in all of this I have tried to fit in the mold of normal blogs that I see on the daily. My brain was riddled with blogs about ‘top five things that help anxiety’ and ‘how to find happiness in day to day life’ and the desire to fit into a steady theme. I felt as if my blog was scattered and jumped from point a to point b with some fiction writing in between.

I felt insecure, I felt scared that others would think that my thoughts and posts were too scattered which resulted in too many scrapped pieces to count.

Today while reflecting I realized that somewhere along the lines of insecurities, the name of my blog has been forgotten about

Aberrations.

A departure from what is normal, usual, or expected, typically one that is unwelcome.

A characteristic that deviates from the normal type.

From here on out, I am not going to place myself in a negative mind space to write encouraging words the layout of other anxiety blogs. I am not going to compare myself to other pages and posts. I am not going to force myself into a mold I was meant to stand out from.

If I want to post about anxiety one day, post a piece of fiction the next,  and go back to personal stories, then I am going to do so.

Those who are like me, who are an aberration, are those that will understand and come along on a new journey with me.

I am not normal nor will I pretend to be for the sake of a steady and flowing blog page.

Maybe one day I will find the correct flow, but that day is not today.

N;kk;

And I am Alone

A hand pushes through the cloudy haze of confusion and swipes it’s long fingers at me.

“Get away from me!” I scream at the pale hand tainted in bulging blue veins. I cannot see the body in which the hand belongs to through the darkness. Nothing but an extended arm is extended towards me.

It’s fingernails are long enough to curve over at the tips, the nails more yellow than flesh. I am shaking as I try to back up away from the long extended fingernails to prevent any further harm done to my body.

“I don’t take orders from you…” My voice shakes as I try to muster strength in my voice. My attempt to hit the hand away from my face is a failed one. Immediate fire is set where the fingernails shaved off pieces of skin.

“You get away from me!”

Dark red blood is falling from the wound and crimson seeps into the creases of my fragile hands. The hand continues to swipe at me as the blood drips into my eyes, the same eyes that have seen too many horrible things in their lifetime. My eyes burn and are blinded with the red cataract, my hands making it worse as I rub at them.

“Get away!” I scream as I continue to back up away from the hand as my legs tremble and shake. My vision is tinted and blurry, I still cannot see. My bloody palms wipe at my eyes in an attempt to get my vision back but I wipe more of the hot tacky substance into my line of sight. I can feel the whip and the snap of the wind as the hand swipes at me again and again and the nails scrape at my cheekbone, peeling my skin back layer by layer. My hands grip at my skin as the freshly opened wound rips and pulls at my nerves. I scream out into the empty air and I feel the strain and wrench of my vocal cords as my fingernails peel at my skin. My back strikes against something cold and hard. I pull my head back to dodge another swipe of the fingernails and my skull cracks against a harsh surface behind me.

My once red tinted vision suddenly goes black and my body hits the ground underneath me.
The cold air holds onto me as I wrap my arms around myself and hope that doing this will protect me from the outside world. My body shakes violently and brutally. My hands are wrapping so tightly around myself that I am nothing but a firm and bloody ball of human flesh and bone. I feel hands grip at my body arms both firmly, but not hard enough to hurt me, and my eyes pop open and a face stares back at me.

The face is kind and familiar.

“Emerson!” She yells at me. I shoot into an alert as my hands grab at my face but no blood stains my fingers. My fingers glide along the skin of my face and I feel nothing but the flesh that lines my prominent bones. Bones that have gone too long without food. Bones that are heavy and crumpling from lack sleep. No long and yellow fingernails dangle in front of my face. The kind face extends a hand to me again and I try to escape her touch as she reaches out for me. Her touch burns at my skin as her hand rests at my shoulder and I feel as though a thousand needles were jammed down into my fragile skin. I shrink away from her once more.

“You were deep in it, Em.” she whispers to me. “I came over when I heard you screaming.” she says to me as she tries to reach out to touch me again with her hand. I pull away from her as sharply and as quickly as I can.

“I’m fine.” I manage to growl at her.

“Emerson,” She whispers to me. We both know that I am far from okay. Even the voices in my head know that.

“I said I’m fine.” I hiss at her rudely.

She looks at me with that face that she has looked at me with a thousand times before.
Her face is sad, her lips forced into a sad frown. Stress presses into fine lines and her concern is evident in premature wrinkles. Her forehead shows signs of stress and anxiety with wrinkles forming in her face in heavy and thick crinkles and rolls. Were these premature signs of stress there before or after I came into her life? I may never know and I know she would never tell me the truth.

I wipe at my face again in an attempt to find the blood that was just drenching my face a few moments ago, find signs of anything that just happened being real.

“You’re alright.” She says again. Her hands rest on the tops of her thighs now, she got the message not to touch me.

“Emerson, your delusions have come back full force… you’ve been taking your medicine?” she asks me to which I do not reply to her “You know what the doc-” she begins but I cut her off.

“Taylor, Please.” I say to her as I rub at the temples of my head with my left hand, my right hand trying to find the cut that I felt rip into my skin just a few moments ago.

“I’m fine.” I whisper to her as I avoid the stares that she pushes into me. Medications. Doctors. Needles. According to her this is all that I need to feel better. What she doesn’t realize is that I am Emerson Matthews. I suffer from delusional disorder along with depression, and who knows what else. I am a concoction of all things negative in this world. All things bad were pushed under the fragile frames of my skin, compact into one sad human being. What did I do to deserve all of this? My fingers push into my skin harshly and I can feel the movement of the loose skin that blanket my bone. My fingers push and pull at the skin that is there so hard that I feel tenderness that resides there, and while it hurts, but I don’t stop.

“I need to be alone” I whisper to her but that word rolls off of my tongue like venom. It bites at me and puts in a sting in my rapidly beating heart. I know those words hurt her, but they hurt me too, just the same. I watch again as her pink lips push into a line and she stands to her feet without a word. The sadness in her body is evident as she moves through the house and she closes the door behind her. I can hear the slide and the click of the door as it locks into place and I hear her footsteps disappear down the stairs and onto the street. I swear to myself and to you that I can hear her front door slam behind her, making me shrink away from the sound.

And I am alone.

That word wraps around me like hands holding me at my throat. It works its way into my stomach like a virus with its fingernails scraping up my insides. I feel sick to my stomach and try to stand up on my feet. My hands press into the cold stone of the fireplace that I had just smashed my head into just moments before.

Did I really hit my head or did I just imagine it?

I try to maintain my balance but my knees quiver; the pull of my tendons and ligaments cause my knees to cave in.

I am alone but I did this to myself.

The emptiness claws at me and the pit of my stomach grows larger with each scratch and scrape. My eyes land on the white door to my left but the loneliness paralyzes me and I cannot move. My mind is cluttered with a thousand thoughts and voices. Along with a constant repeat of the scene that just unfolded. Blood, hands, and the hurt I just did to Taylor. How, much like the delusions, Taylor came in and left without a second guess.
The feelings of being alone are pervasive and consume me like an infection. Loneliness pushes through me like a wave and eventually it will drown everything in its path. Eventually I will be nothing but an empty shell of bruises and bone. My memories of a time before this one are vacant.

Loneliness is all I have ever known.

The pit extends into my gut and I can feel the twist and pull of this vicious virus that I am trying so desperately to get rid of.

I want to cry and I want to scream out into the empty house. The house that is filled with nothing but empty rooms and delusions – those of which that belong to a mad man. A panicked and rushed gasp escapes the back of my throat and my hands grab at my mouth as if I was going to push the sound of distress back in again. This is all that escapes me as my eyes slam closed. Tears leak profusely from my eyes and begin to soak my cheeks. My stomach concaves inward and I feel the roll of my spine as my body begins to work against me and I hunch over. My knees convulse and I collapse, my bones falling onto the hearth of the fire place. I curl into myself, the stone is cold against my body once more. Panicked and frantic sobs escape from my mouth and the tears soak at my face. I try to quiet the sobs that frantically escape me, trying to silence the weakness that I try so desperately to keep away from the human eye. The stone is cold and my body is empty. I lay on the large flat rock holding myself more and more tightly as more sobs escape into the empty air.
And I am alone.

“Everyone has anxiety!”

Today, I was working the morning  shift at the historical hotel restaurant as I always do. The day I had was both short and long as I was working a split shift, so my first part of the day was done except for my last table of the morning which was a table with two gentlemen.

They started off as any normal table, a few questions about drink options, what came along with the meal package they had, the decision of what breakfast they will get, and what dressings they did or didn’t want.

It was two men that were very personable, one man told me how sweet I was, the other telling me how great I was and how amazing the food he just had was. The man hands me a crumbled up five dollar bill that I shove into my pocket as I begin to take the bill away from his table before he stops me.

“Why do you have one clear nail?” the man asks me, diverting my attention to my fingers.

Tucking his bill into my other apron pocket I spread out my fingers and present my hand to the man in front of me.

“It’s not a clear nail, it’s sparkly” I say to him, showing the fresh acrylics that were just put on yesterday afternoon.

I told him that I had just gotten them done at the salon and he was confused on the concept of not just painting your nails at home.

“These will last me about two weeks without chipping and they’re better quality.” I inform him, shifting slightly and nervously on my feet as he glances at me.

“Why do you have fake nails, then? Why pay all that money?” he asks me.

“Because I wanted to, not only that, but it helps me from picking at my fingers which I have the tendency to do.” I say to him with a nod of my head.

Of course, he asks me why I pick at my fingers.

To which I reply “I have really bad anxiety and when I’m nervous or whenever I’m bored I’ll pick at my fingers.” I say to him, giving him the short answer.

“What is anxiety?” he asks in return.

Uncomfortable and feeling like I have an interrogation light shining down on me, I swallow and begin to feel panic and anxiousness whirl around in my stomach. The familiar skip of my heart rate returns and my heart rate accelerates to the point that I can feel my blood thumping and pounding in the veins in my neck.

Uncertain of what to say I look away from him and twist the ring on my finger. “I just get really nervous about things and overthink a lot.” I explain to him.

“Well, I get nervous sometimes too, everyone has anxiety!” He informs me with a chuckle.

I nervously chuckle with him, taking his last bit of dirty dishes away from him. I left it at that and didn’t go into it fully with him.

I didn’t tell him that I am not just nervous before going up to a stranger to ask them if they want a refill, that I spend hours at a time before my shift, anxious over the thought of messing up their order, so much so that while at work I reread my notes and compare it to the order I punched in at least three times before sending it to the kitchen. I don’t tell him about how I pull up the same tab three different times, even after it is sent, to make sure I got it right.

I don’t tell him about how a lot of times I am exhausted, not because I worked two jobs yesterday and woke up at 5AM today, but because I spent the day before being social, taking care of tables, and selling merchandise at Hot Topic, and my mental capacity is low and I need to recharge.

I do not tell him that I get ready two hours early before I have to leave, leaving my house and giving myself over 30 minutes to get to my 10-15 minute drive to work, because I fear that something may happen, or “What if I need to stop and get gas?” and “What if my tires need air in them?” and “What if I were to break down?”

Only to get to work at 6:15 when my shift starts at 6:30 and I am alone in the kitchen until everyone else shows up for work, too.

I do not tell him that I pick at my fingers to the point that they are bleeding and sore – that I continue to pick and pull at the skin that resides on them until I get to the point of having to wrap band aids around each of my fingers and sleep with socks on my hands to give them time to heal.

I do not tell him that paying $45 to get my nails done is well worth it because the fake nails make it nearly impossible for me to pick at my fingers, giving the sore flesh time to heal and get better again.

Only for me to pull my nails off two weeks from now and fall back into picking at my skin.

I do not tell him about how big of a step it was for me to waitress, whenever I couldn’t even go into a gas station three years ago due to fear and anxiety.

I do not tell him about how I’ve been in therapy for three years, and how I go to therapy twice a week, and still manage to feel anxious and sad a lot of the times.

Instead, I smile and laugh at his poor attempt at a joke and thank him “so much!” for letting me wait on him, I tell him that I hope he has safe travels to his next vacation in Washington DC, and that I am very glad he enjoyed his breakfast.

In my head I cannot help but to be upset and put off by his comments and how his words made my disorder feel like they were no longer validated. I am uncertain as to why I cared so much about an older gentleman that I more than likely would never see again, ever, in my life. It still stung. I know that I cannot be upset, as he was probably coming from a good place and trying to be supportive and make me feel normal, but his attempts came off as insensitive and hurtful.

This isn’t the nervousness you experience before you go to your first job interview. This isn’t ‘first day of school’ nerves that pass once you get through the door of your new classroom. This isn’t  the fast beating heart you experience before you go on stage, to forget about it by the time you start moving in front of an audience.

Rather,

It is feeling a fast heart rate in your chest for reasons unbeknownst to you, it is knowing where every exit and entrance is, and which is closest to you if you need to run away. It is micromanaging everything in your head and leaving an hour early, just to arrive to the location you were headed and wait for 45 minutes, whilst picking at your fingers.

It is taking medications on the daily to feel normal, and getting withdrawal symptoms when you miss a dosage. It is getting up three to four times a night to make sure the doors and windows are all locked – even though you know its locked, but fear and ask yourself “What if it isn’t and someone breaks in – then it’ll be all my fault.”

It is constant nausea before and after you eat, and multiple trips to the doctors to get your stomach looked at – to come up empty handed and to leave you in a state of worry that something and everything is wrong with you and it’ll be too late before they catch it – whatever ‘it’ is that is wrong with you to make you sick all the time.

This is just scratching the surface of what goes through our minds on the daily.

Your nerves before a job interview, before the first day of school, or before approaching a crowd are not invalid. Rather, they are understandable.

However, you do not have anxiety just because you felt anxiety from time to time before big events that make you understandably nervous and on edge.

I would not wish what I go through on the daily onto anybody. I just wish that others whom do not experience it could validate my feelings and emotions just like I do when they tell me they had a bad day or they were nervous.