Anxiety Is Not Pretty: How It Feels To Live With Anxiety

This is a stream of consciousness written at a point in time when I was gripped by anxiety so tightly I could barely think because of it. It’s angry and it’s messy, because that’s the reality of anxiety for so many people. I’m sharing this in order to give one perspective of what it’s like to live with anxiety – of course, many other versions exist out there, some of which will resonate with this more than others.

(Potential trigger warning for those who experience intense anxiety – this is descriptive of my thoughts and experiences and I don’t want that to hurt anyone further.)

Anxiety is not pretty. It isn’t glamorous, or endearing. It may seem that way in books and films and on social media, but that is definitely not how it feels to live with. It is rough, brutal. Mean-spirited and ugly. Anxiety is a constant argument in my head between the unconvincing, faint yelp of the rational, and the fearful, controlling scream of manipulative desperation.

Anxiety makes me obsessive. If I have a doubt it eats me up, devouring every piece of me with a bitter desire to know a certainty. But once one question is answered, anxiety creates an infinite list of uncertainties even worse than the first. The burning sense of not knowing things makes me feel like I’m losing grip on whatever control I once had. But anxiety doesn’t just take that.

Anxiety steals so much from me. Time, energy, motivation, inspiration, creation. It drags me away from things I love and people I care about. Anxiety is jealous. It doesn’t want to see me doing things with anyone else, feeling anything else, thinking about anything else. It’s never satisfied until it gets all of me, every single bit of me to itself. It doesn’t want the trees to see me, nor the sea or the shops or even the inside of the car. It likes me in bed. Alone. Where it can shove its greasy hands inside my stomach and squeeze and twist: a chinese burn along my gut.

Anxiety tells me, “you’re nothing, you’re worthless, you can’t do anything or be anyone. You need me, you are me and I am you. We are one. Don’t say too much, don’t get us noticed or something bad will happen. You better check over your shoulder at every turn, because I’ll be there.”

Anxiety hurts me. It tears at my skin, claws into my brain and rips out the precious pieces. It throws bits of me I love into the gutter and I watch them slip between the grates of a drain. I forget the things I like about me. They’re gone. Because in that moment I am full, so damn full, of a rolling nausea that swells me out like a balloon. Out and out, I take up too much space, I’m noticed by everyone and everything as a disaster on centre stage. The kid who peed their pants as they sang their long-awaited solo at the school Christmas play. People pretend they don’t see, they turn their face the other way, or worse yet, they look dead in my eyes and don’t let their smile falter. If you keep smiling it will all go away, right?

Anxiety encourages my organs to crush each other out, and they fight to hurt the most from this thing that everyone tells me is ‘all in the head’. Oh I guess I didn’t get that memo. Tell that to my lungs, which can’t find it in themselves to inflate and deflate anymore, the air they seek is intangible. Tell that to my shaking arms, which cannot feel the weight of gravity and flail like the branches of a birch, yet pull me down, down, down into the ground. Tell that to my legs which fight to keep me standing up, walking on, continuing – business as usual. But it’s not usual, this is not usual. Well it is for me, but it shouldn’t be.

Anxiety, and other mental health problems, should not be glamorised, simplified, boiled down into palatable chunks. My experiences are not potatoes, to be mashed up or thinly cut or fried and served to people in their favourite way. It is not my job for others to feel comfortable contemplating how I, and so many others, feel. It should be uncomfortable.

Our wellbeing should be examined. We should question how, in our society, so many of us reach such painful states of being. Yes, that’s an uncomfortable topic. Because mental illness isn’t comfortable to live with: it’s fear and anger and sadness and not knowing what the hell you’re feeling or why. It’s uncomfortable for others to think about because the damaged wellbeing of so many reveals much deeper and darker questions about a damaged society.

Anxiety is mental. But it’s also physical and emotional. It’s detrimental and painful, personal and social. Dysfunctional, ungrateful, distasteful, uncomfortable. It’s all of these things and so much more.

But it is not pretty.

I’d love to know what anxiety is for you. Let me know in the comments ❤

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Header photo taken by @inigomiranda on Instagram.


61 thoughts on “Anxiety Is Not Pretty: How It Feels To Live With Anxiety

  1. The diary of Ellie says:

    I 100% agree and think you’re super brave for putting your own experience out there because i know there are so many fake perceptions that anxiety makes someone ‘cute’ or whatever x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bexa says:

    Wow! Such a powerful, honest and well written post Alys. I love that you are so real and open with your emotions, thoughts and feelings. It’s refreshing to read. This is such an important post and highlights the fact the anxiety is definitely not glamorous or trendy. Thank you for sharing 💖 xx

    Bexa |

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Johnzelle says:

    Alys, this is my favorite post you’ve ever written. As I read it, it felt like the literary version of what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another Little Birdie says:

    I can see how much effort and thought was put into this post. It’s disheartening to see how much anxiety can take over the most awesome people, and it’s definitely not glamorous. Thanks for putting your emotions out there for this post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. nowheretobeproject says:

    Your openness is admirable and I’m certain it is helping others. For me, anxiety is the one thing that has been with me always, everywhere. Some days it wins. Others it loses. It is inextricable from who I am, so I have learned to accept it and collaborate with it as peacefully as I can. 😍❤️✌🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  6. abbyuppington says:

    This was such a wonderfully written post. I agree with all of this, mostly the obsessive part. My anxiety comes out in obsessive thought patterns, like OCD of thoughts. I obsess and obsess over one thing & drive myself insane. It’s the worst thing about it for me, I can’t just find it difficult to get out of my own brain xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Emily says:

    This post is STUNNING Alys! So beautifully written, and so raw and honest. I relate entirely to the obsessive thoughts and whirlwinds of emotion, that you feel in the middle of a bad spell. Posts like these always remind me that I’m not alone. Thank you so much for sharing! 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  8. hollywritingfinch says:

    This is so powerful, and so brave and amazing of you to post! Thank you so much for sharing this and reminding us that we are not the only ones feeling this way. Honestly, this really hit home for me and I will be thinking about it for the rest of the evening, I’m sure. Beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. torriek says:

    I hate how often mental health is lightly mocked in pop culture or romanticized in songs. I also have to point out, how annoying it is when girls refer to themselves as “crazy” like it makes them cute or unique. I always think, “Trust me, if you had anxiety you wouldn’t be so quick to label yourself”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nicculent says:

    ive had anxiety for a HUGE part of my life, and its the worst thing ever.especially the physical and permanent effects it put on my body, I hate it all.But it grows you as a person too, I guess that’s the good thing about having it.I love this post, there are so many people who say that they have anxiety, as a joke, and it’s not cool to do that!Great post girl xx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. sabayoub says:

    The “Anxiety tells me” paragraph really speaks to me. That negative self-talk hits home for me. And the obsessiveness. My anxiety, depression, and OCD seem to be linked. Each makes the other much worse.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Cara says:

    This was the perfect description. The Anxiety being a jealous being is so accurate. It just wants to devour your every thought and keep you bedridden and down. Thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Karen Wodstrup says:

    Oh woaw – What a great post Alys! You’re so extremely good at describing anxiety! Like I’ve never ever come across someone who illustrates and visualizes it as well as you do. I just thought you should know.
    Personally anxiety has been such a huge part of my life for a good 5 years now, however I feel like I’m in a very positive place right now. I’m really improving which I’m so proud of – like when it was at it’s worst I would never had thought I’d get to this point. I’m not saying it’s not a part of my every-day-life. However, it doesn’t get AS mush attention as it used to – or in other words; I’m not letting it control as much anymore.
    Thank you for doing these posts and normalizing anxiety! You’re such an amazing person, and no one should make you forget that! ❤ xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alys says:

      Thank you so much Karen! Aw that is the loveliest thing ever, I really appreciate it. I’m happy to hear you’re in a more positive place now, I love that you’re able to control it more! Aw thank you lovely, you’re wonderful too xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Wendi011 says:

    Hi Alys What you wrote really describes what I go through with anxiety. I’m medicated so it’s not as bad as it used to be. You have a gift for words! Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  15. seaofwordsx says:

    You are really so brave for writing this blog post. I agree with you and understand you so well. I also suffer from anxiety and it’s such a hell. It’s emotional, physical and mental like you said. It’s all together. I wish people would understand it more and respect us. I really hate the fact that some glamorize mental illnesses. There’s nothing beautiful about it. I also don’t like when they use it as an adjective. You are awesome and deserve the best ❤️ I’m always here for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Louise Moore says:

    This is so accurate ❤️ Anxiety is so scary and I empathise with you. I hope each day is a better day and you have a great support network.
    I’ve recently written a blog post about what anxiety feels like if you’d like to check it out.
    Lou xx

    Liked by 2 people

  17. thehumanexperience says:

    The journey of self reflection that you’ve taken is admirable. I am a young therapist myself and it helps me so much to hear such raw and honest self commentary. I’ve begun a blog and my hope is to capture exactly what you talk about and that is the resiliency of the individual Hope you enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed yours and we can both spread our messages!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. twentyfiveandanxious says:

    Anxiety for me is sitting at my desk is work, staring blankly at my screen for half an hour engulfed by some anxious thought and unable to function. Thanks for sharing ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  19. nataliex says:

    Reading things over anxiety really shocks me how common it actually is to feel the way I do, I’ve recently started seeking help and the things I’ve said to the therapist today was the exact things you’ve worded in here of obsessive behaviours and the niggling voice in your head that’s completely irrational! I’m glad blogs like this exist so I don’t feel as alone in all of this mayhem. Thank you for this post☺️

    Liked by 1 person

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