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An open letter on living life with anxiety

Anxiety can change the way you think, the way you work, and the way you face your day, but it doesn’t have to define you.

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A day in the life

Anxiety. We’ve all had it; that fluttery feeling in your stomach before your presentation or cold sweat before a date. Anxiety can manifest itself in a million different ways. However, for someone with an anxiety disorder, it’s a completely different thing entirely.

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A state of constant worry

What’s it like to have an anxiety disorder? The answer I give honestly depends on the day. Some days, it’s manageable, hardly noticeable. Other days, it’s like weight of the Earth is crashing down on me and everything is my fault. Some mornings I wake up and I already feel breathless with panic about everything I need to get done in a day. I worry that I won’t get everything done and I’ll let someone down.

I worry I’ve made the wrong decision, or my mind goes over and over the same thought a million times with “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” I worry that I’ve said the wrong thing and my friends are mad at me. I worry that I haven’t said enough and they think I don’t care enough. I worry that I do too much and not enough. In essence, some days, my worries have worries.

Everyday tasks become more difficult

It’s not just about the worry, though. Simple things can trigger anxiety quickly and without warning. For example, grocery shopping is fairly simple for other people, or at least it seems to be. You make a list of what you need, go to the store, grab what you need and get out of there. For me, too many people make me nervous. I feel like I’m trapped and I can’t get out. I have to avoid aisles if people are coughing or lingering because I can’t deal with it. I see and hear things more acutely during these times, perhaps part of the fight or flight response.

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I can’t concentrate on what I need to do; I just have to get out and away from the people.

I have had to leave a store without making a single purchase because I felt overwhelmed by people, noises, or my body deciding it’s a good time to full scale “panic.”

It affects work behavior too

When people say, “just calm down,” I want to say, “really? I never thought of that.”

Frankly, you have no idea how badly I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t. It’s something I deal with, it’s part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me. However, it does define how I work at times. If I’m given the assignment and left to do it, I can do it quickly, happily, and precisely. However, if I have a boss or client hovering, asking me every five minutes how a project is going, I shut down. It’s overwhelming and I have great difficulty dealing with it. It feels like they are telling me I’m inadequate, that I cannot do the job to their standards so they need to constantly and consistently check up on me. Now, in some instances that may be the case (bad clients and bad bosses), but in other cases, it may just be the other person’s nerves showing through and have absolutely nothing to do with my abilities.

What you can do as an employer

Why do I tell you this? Well, I’d like to make this an open letter to employers: employ someone with anxiety, depression, autism, or any of the other millions of issues people have.

Why?

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Because if you treat them with respect and give them the room to fly, you’ll never have a more dedicated employee. For some employees “flying” may mean an extra five minutes to focus and de-stress before beginning a project. For others, it may mean being allowed to try it several different ways before they find what works; believe me, it’s worth it. Helping someone flourish is NEVER a waste of time.

I know because I have one of these bosses.

They embrace my anxiety and encourage me to be a better writer and because of this I am actually able to be a better writer because I know they believe in me. They see more than the insecurity and anxiety; they see Jennifer, the writer. Be this employer and help someone realize their potential. It’s worth more than you know, to them and to your company.

#Anxiety

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Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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  1. Pingback: Entrepreneurs face higher rates of mental illness - here's help [part one] - The American Genius

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