What It’s Like to Live With Permanent Anxiety

Health

What It’s Like to Live With Permanent Anxiety

Illustration: Arati Gujar

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ere’s the thing about me: When people say they need to talk to me, I gracefully brisk walk in the other direction. I run straight into the waiting arms of my permanent companion, my soulmate, my friend, and fall – face first – straight into her arms.

Allow me to introduce you to my friend, who has been around for seven years. Her name is anxiety and she’s a bit clingy. But then, she’s always there for me. She’ll show up at the unlikeliest of places – while I’m boarding a flight, on a date, in the middle of a family get-together, hell even when I’m reading a book, all by myself. Or on the first day of a new job.

Let’s rewind to about three months ago. The auto decides to break down some 10 minutes from the workplace. Not wanting to get late on Day 1 of work, I decided to walk the distance. What better way to stop your legs from trembling? It’s muggy, the mascara starts running down my face and when I get to work I look like that doll from Child’s Play.

The good part is nobody notices me. Who cares about an intern? The bad part is, every office has a friendly HR person whose life goal is to make people like me uncomfortable. As much as I hate meeting new people, my friend anxiety loves them. So now when I know she’s going to show up, I pretend that I have to make an important call and then pace up and down the corridor. What works in my favour is that I’m a millennial, so all odd, flaky behaviour is totally acceptable. Fake laughs have become my coping mechanism and I use them more frequently than Uday Chopra tweets when high – it helps when you are surrounded by colleagues with a sense of humour.

That’s the thing with anxiety. You manage to make a complete fool of yourself, every single time.

Of course there are days when none of my magic tricks work. And I wonder whether I sound smart enough or whether my voice is too nasal. Am I too short? I start biting my nails like a rat nibbling cheese. And then I look at my friend’s pictures on Instagram and wonder why they didn’t invite me for the night out. Because they don’t like me anymore? Or maybe I am no fun? Or maybe because I have a PhD in ditching people at the last minute. The weird part is, I’m pretty sure I’d cancel on them even today. I’d rather be at home in my PJs… me, my tanhaai, without any anxiety.

Because being in a room full of people who I think are out there to judge makes me say to myself, “Run, Forrest, Run”. I’ve channelled by inner Forrest before, once when a boy asked me out, and I turned around and sprinted, toppling over a couple of bar stools and stamping on other people’s toes with my stilettoes, like a modern-day Cinderella.

That’s the thing with anxiety. You manage to make a complete fool of yourself, every single time. I’ve passed out at concerts, because I felt so suffocated, so I decided to drink a bit much. I’ve bumped into glass doors, not because I’m clumsy. I blame it on my meds that make me zone out.

Despite this long and abiding friendship, I really really wish anxiety would just curl and die somewhere. All that therapy and medication, I wished would make her disappear into thin air. But that Vanishing Spell from Harry Potter just doesn’t seem to work. Maybe I am muggle after all. Two weeks is the maximum I thought I’d take to get through this, and look where we are now.

I’m 21 and always anxious.

I’m waiting for the day I can get through 24 hours without jumping around like those shocked cats everytime someone calls my name. You know how they say a friendship that lasts more than seven years never ends? This friendship looks like it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon.

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