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Illustrations by Ross May. Photos by iStock.
Women are nearly twice as likely than men to experience it in their lifetime.
It comes in countless different forms, with varying intensity and effect.
It can crop up when you’re changing jobs, moving, pregnant or in the postpartum period, experiencing menopause — or at any other point or time in your life, without warning or a particular reason.
Sometimes, it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what’s wrong, but you definitely know something is not right.
So, in June 2018 we launched a series called Anxiety Chronicles, and (almost) every week since then, we have asked the same six questions to a different woman.
In honor of today — World Mental Health Day — we are sharing some of the diverse answers we have received.
It shows that anxiety is complicated and nuanced, and that while the details and degree differ, it’s an experience many can relate to.
We asked about anxiety. Here’s what you told us:
“My anxiousness has been plaguing me since I was a child. I used to tell my mother that I felt like Jell-O on the inside. I have always wanted to fit in but never have.”
“Although I suffered from oppressive anxiety and depression as early as 13, I did not become acutely aware of their severity until a decade later. … I come from a family of German heritage where feelings are meant to be contained.”
“I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember. My first memories of feeling this nauseating worry came from thinking my parents were going to leave me behind somewhere, lose me in public or never come home.”
“My shoulders feel like they are higher than they should be. My neck feels stiff and knotted, my bones like porous coral. I want to take my head off, straighten things and put it back on. The back of my shoulders hurt.”
“When I’m in a crowded area or in any type of social situation for too long, I can get headaches and clammy hands, along with a jittery impulse to leave the situation permanently. When the depressive episodes come in, there can be fatigue, excessive hunger and sometimes dizziness.”
“I get overwhelmed with fear and my mind thinks of the worst-possible scenarios. My son calls me, and I immediately think he has been involved in a car accident. My boss calls me to his office, and I am sure he is going to reprimand me. I get a letter in the mail, I fear it is from a debt collector or someone suing me. My mind, when anxious, is hell.”
“My anxiety presents mentally through racing thoughts and a feeling of doom that can make me very quiet around other people. It’s hard to communicate when there’s a whole conversation in your head about what could go wrong any moment.”
“I am frozen with indecision, feeling incapable of doing even the simplest tasks. My mind is either in the past (worrying about events past) or in the future (worrying about events to come), but not quite there in the present.”
“It will often begin with me being unable to get out of bed, and once I do manage to get out of bed, I will either stay in my pajamas or change into another pair of sweatpants. I will completely ignore personal hygiene and not really take care of myself.”
“I think more about what will happen in my future and make spontaneous decisions without giving them a second thought. I don’t think clearly all day and my thoughts are racing.”
“The one that has helped me the most is thinking that I’ve gone through this before and I will make it again and that I’m stronger than it.”
“I’ve written a ‘healing list’ for myself. It’s a list developed by Stevona Elem, a black woman who promotes self-love and healing. On the list, I’ve written both tangible and intangible items that help keep my anxiety away and put my days in perspective.”
“Writing and, unexpectedly, performing stand-up comedy and spoken word poetry that addresses these issues directly rather than avoiding them. As it turns out, people are much kinder than my brain gives them credit for.”
“I wish people knew that anxiety can appear anytime, any place, in anyone. Anxiety is not fictional. Most people assume because I’m high-achieving that everything is fine, that I have everything together. That is not always the case.”
“I wish more people around me understood that it isn’t a character flaw, I can’t just ‘pray it away’ and that a handful of therapy sessions aren’t going to ‘fix’ me right away. I’m not selfish for getting help or weird for wanting to talk about this.”
Have you ever been physically or emotionally impacted by your birth control in ways that you didn’t expect? We want to talk to women who have troubleshooted their birth control by trying a few different kinds — or by going off it completely. If that’s you, fill out our form.