High-Functioning Anxiety

A friend emailed me this link on https://themighty.com/2017/04/high-functioning-anxiety-needs-to-be-taken-seriously/.

I’m putting it as a lens through which much I say about my life can be viewed. I am struggling, have been struggling, between *letting go* of the need for control, constant motion, ever mounting projects, and the cost of letting go.

For me, the cost is high and requires an enormous amount of external stability. The loss of control, the panic, the fear that I never want anyone to see costs me for days if not weeks when even my most beloveds see it. I am still reeling from an attack I had a month ago because someone saw it.

I’ve taken practically every medication available, had every kind of therapy, tried every kind (and I mean every) of destructive behavior and in the end, I still don’t know what works all the time.

Except my addiction to work, caffeine, and likely alcohol when I am out of medicine.

Throw any of those out of whack and I am the friend who goes radio silent for weeks or months as I try to regain sane.

I function at such a high level I have a difficult time getting doctors to take me seriously. I literally fight for medication on a monthly basis, and usually I’m calling from a different city each time. I know what over the counter remedies will help, I will absolutely smoke (though I hate it) to avoid a trip to the ER for panic, and I will hide all of this from everyone and send cheerful texts if I can manage when I am drowning in loneliness but unable to show anyone that I haven’t washed my hair or put on makeup and can’t sleep.

The humiliation of begging over the phone for help as I lose my mind, of sitting in a bathtub rocking back and forth, of being in constant terror is too much. The constancy of external stability is too erratic. The need for order and predictability too annoying.

So I work. Hard. I focus on externalities. I prepare as though every deposition is the most critical 3 hours of my life. I live in hotel rooms, because I can keep them organized and calm.

I travel 3-3.5 weeks a month and work 80-90 hour weeks and I do it to survive. And to some extent this may cost me the kind of self care that provides a brief reprieve — yoga, my horse, my friends, my home — but it also insulates me from becoming that person who is forever falling apart. Who is — like her Mom who killed herself — a ticking time bomb of crazy.

I am viciously hard on myself. I am always surprised when people are kind to me, which makes no sense because most people like me when they meet me. I judge my body and my externalities relentlessly. And I may cry in a bathroom out of fear and rage and too much adrenaline, but no one will see it when I walk into the room.

And when someone is unkind to me, does not like me, judges me, it stays with me for months, years, decades, because it just proves that under it all, I am a mess and too much and if anyone ever got too close, they wouldn’t stay.

Pretty much my life has proven that to be true.

So I work. I work and I work and I show up and help. I may be the friend who disappears, but I am also the one who will run through airports, who will deny her own feelings to help. I always hope my mitzvahs outweigh all the bad parts I see.

There is no good or bad to high functioning anxiety. It is not more or less preferrable to my mother’s long battle with depression or to friends who are more able to share and vocalize their fears. We are all simply people trying to get by. Some of us, like me, have neuro-atypical brains and it shapes how we view and interact with the world.

This is simply me. And how I know to survive in this world.


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