When your body is always in fight or flight mode, it can be hard to look at the bigger picture, including how much others love us.
Everyone worries about things from time to time, but when you worry constantly over an extended period of time, it could be because you have anxiety. It's a common mental health issue that often visits with its close friend, depression. I learned all of this the hard way. It started small with me worrying about what people thought of me, then I worried about what kind of an employee I was, and eventually, it took over my life.
There were days when there was a constant pounding in my heart because negative thoughts just swirled in my head. Even going out of the house took a major effort. Eventually, I started avoiding situations that could potentially trigger me. That's not the same as looking for the source of my anxieties and fixing them. When I began to avoid things, it also led to me not opening up to new and old people in my life.
When you are focused on building walls around you, it becomes hard to see how others are trying to be supportive. I started worrying about how others were going to take advantage of me, and the slightest mistake by others starting seeming like intentional hurt caused to me. It becomes hard to receive love from others, even those whom you love, in a situation like this.
Essentially, my anxiety made it hard for me to trust people. I have been hurt by others many times and that made me focus on protecting myself at all costs. Sometimes, that translates to me being unable to see how other people could like me or care for me. I imagine the worst of them and my actions stem from that place of insecurity. I am not always able to see how they show their love in the smallest of ways.
Being as insecure as I am about what others want from me, my anxiety can make it hard to form connections. If you just have negative expectations from others or no expectations at all, it can become hard to create new friendships. My first reaction is to shun all strangers and stay away from them. It also takes me weeks and months to open up to people. I can come off as cold and rude to others because all I am doing is making sure I don't get hurt or taken advantage of.
It makes it hard for me to judge when others are genuinely interested in me. My anxiety can make it difficult to love again. This one is a double whammy because being alone scares me but when I am dating or in a relationship, that worries me as well. I can only imagine that it would fail. I can only worry about how my current partner doesn't actually care for me and will leave me. This frame of mind is not conducive to love. Sometimes, I've sabotaged relationships and pushed people away. I didn't give them a proper chance.
My anxiety makes me act selfishly because all I worry about is self-preservation. Having anxiety is no cakewalk but the people in our life can also tired of our turbulent behavior. They get tired of having to prove themselves over and over again. It's not fair to ask them to do that. If they are not the ones who hurt us and have our best interest on their mind they shouldn't have to constantly show us how they love us. People in my life have long been attuned to having more patience because I may have asked them to show me how they love me too often. For that, I apologize to them.
One of the biggest things that I grapple with is change, within me and in others. It unsettles me and I blame my anxiety for not letting me accept things as they come. When you are constantly in fight or flight mode, even the enjoyable opportunities for growth or simple moments of joy with friends and family seem like a potential hurt. It stops me from growing and I have had to train myself to take pause and think about it. When I have had a moment, the positive often reveals itself.
None of these lessons were easy or quick. It took months and years to understand these things about myself. What others see as being responsible and cautious can often be signs of anxiety. I have been commended for these but it comes at a great cost. I wish my anxious self didn't make it so difficult for me to love and be loved.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Aleksei Morozov