What Anxiety Looks Like from The Outside

I recently met a guy that seemed cool when we first met at a little show a local band was playing. In fact, he was the guitarist. He came up to me towards the end of the night and casually chatted me up. Of course, all his friends were there and being a majority of the way through the night and he seemed loose and easy going. We had talked a little more when the band finished playing and even went out to eat afterwards. We eventually exchanged numbers that night and parted ways.

You can imagine my surprise then when over the next couple weeks, he seemed a bit standoffish. We hung out a few more times in public places, another concert, dinner, nothing too crazy. But each time, after we went out, I’d play it cool and let him text me. He always sent a text within 24 hours but wasn’t much of a conversation holder through text.

After we spent a little more time together he told me that he knows he comes across as standoffish and that’s it’s not me, it’s him. “A-hub. Sure,” I thought as I kind of just labeled him a player trying to keep his cards straight in my mind. The conversation didn’t end there though, he told me about his anxiety and how everything from what he has or hasn’t eaten that day to whatever else is going on just plays tricks on his mind when he gets out into social settings.

Over the next few weeks, as I learned more, it all started making sense. I’ve watched him when we first meet up or even when we go out somewhere together and the first hour is hell for him. He stands sort of off to a side, a quiet and dark corner if he can find one and doesn’t make a lot of eye contact, conversation is simply non-existent.

To me, it seemed like he was being rude! After all, who takes someone out and then crosses their arms and doesn’t speak to them? Inside though, his mind was racing, the stimulus of being spoken to while listening to all the other people talking or brushing past him was simply too much. If there were lights moving or music playing mixed in with all the people and talking you could almost see the storm brewing in his panicked eyes.

Be careful how you treat, or judge others based on the way you perceive them. Try to treat people with kindness, you never know whose solemn face and unwavering stance is masking the perfect storm of anxiety just beneath the surface.

Guetschow, C. “When I Watched Someone Else Have A Panic Attack”. The Mighty. (website). 2016
  • 11 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • Spot on! This is my son, hands down! He is truly tormented by anxiety, so much so that he tried drugs to "feel normal" and became an addict. Looking back, if we, his parents, had acted more on it or any of his friends or girlfriend (mother of his children) had understood it, perhaps things may have been different. It is not our fault, of course, nor is it that of anyone else. Unfortunately, not everyone detects it or has the compassion to handle it as well as you have. Kudos to you! Having a friend like you may be a life changer for him. I'm not tooting my own horn, but I've been that person for my son. I could see it always, and offered him patience and support. He comments all the time that if it weren't for our connection, he would have probably taken his own life by now. Please stay in contact with your new friend. You may be the only one he is comfortable with. You have been placed in his life for a reason.
    Thank you for your post.
  • I have anxiety and I know exactly how he feels. When I go somewhere with a lot going on, I immediately feel like the room is closing in on me. It’s worse when the person I’m with won’t stop asking questions or trying to chat. I’m just trying to catch my ground and adjust. I need about 10 minutes.
  • I'm right there with ya, @RaisingCain. My son has severe depression and anxiety. His anxiety is pretty much debilitating most of the time. It's so hard to watch. He's been going to therapy and seeing a psychiatrist for years, with only a little bit of improvement. Right now, he's going through a med change, which is always a challenge. But we will keep trying and not lose hope.

    @Jlynn78... I'm sorry that you struggle that way. I hope that someday you'll be able to kick anxiety's ass.
  • @DeanD thank you. I’m medicated now, so it’s gotten better. I can go a long time without any horrible anxiety and then bam! It’s like it will never stop.
  • @Jlynn78 hey there! glad your anxiety is better now... i think many of us can relate to high and sometimes debilitating anxiety....

    i'm glad we can all be here for each other!
  • Happy to hear that, @Jlynn78!

    Have a wonderful weekend!
  • @dominica and @DeanD thank you. I didn’t come here for myself but I feel safe here. That’s comforting.
  • I'm glad you feel safe here, @Jlynn78. Happy Monday and have a great week! :)
  • I am so sorry to anyone who faces this demon. I watched it clutch my son, yet again, this morning as he had to head to work (he took last week off to get some help and calm down a bit). It started building last night at about 5. His mood became somber, his answers short. His eyes go darker and he begins to look tired. Soon the snippets of negative comments pertaining to his career begin. Shortly after that, he starts pacing and constantly checking his work email. Then he starts completely misinterpreting or over reacting to comments made in the emails or even reads things between the lines that aren't there. His mind takes him to a place of feeling threatened and his defenses go up in regards to all of us. He starts to withdraw and guard himself even though we are not "the enemy." In the past, he would go get high to escape; now that is not an option on his suboxone. He didn't sleep until 5 this morning and had to rise at 6 to go to work. He tried to hide it, but I heard him throwing up and could see he had been crying when he kissed his girls goodbye and headed to his car for his long commute. I have stayed close to the phone expecting his distress call, but it has not come. That worries me even more. For whatever reason, I am the person he calls when he wants "to drive into the desert until gas runs out and no one will ever find him" or whatever check out cry for help he has planned. So far we have been blessed that he reaches out and doesn't just act on his thoughts. Usually, talking with me calms him, but it never prevents it from circling again. You may be thinking what kind of horrible job does he have? It's not horrible. It's a major company with thousands of employees worldwide. It pays off the charts, allows for work from home 1 to 2 days a week, gives 3 days PTO per month, even has a fully stocked break room with fruit, protein bars, juices, sodas, energy drink all free. When he was over ridden with anxiety in the middle of a conference in another state and couldn't get out of his hotel room (almost couldn't get out of the airport to the hotel), they let him fly home and take a week off with pay! It's his anxiety and depression that tricks him into thinking it is the pits of Hades! This demon is real!

    TO ANYONE SUFFERING LIKE THIS...Lean on those that give you comfort. We WANT to be here. We WANT you to call. We are here for you in good times and bad. We choose to nurture our relationship with you, because we love you, like you, too. Our lives are richer with you.

    TO THE SUPPORTERS OF THOSE SUFFERING: Keep it up. Remember the joy these people bring to our lives and continue to help them find and serve their purpose whatever that may be. Each one of us impacts this world and is important.
  • @RaisingCain Thank you so much for your support and encouragement here. It means a lot to a lot of people who come here and read the forum.
  • @RaisingCain... That last comment of yours literally brought tears to my eyes. So much of what your son struggles with sounds exactly like my son. Especially this:

    He starts completely misinterpreting or over reacting to comments made in the emails or even reads things between the lines that aren't there. His mind takes him to a place of feeling threatened and his defenses go up in regards to all of us. He starts to withdraw and guard himself even though we are not "the enemy."

    I swear to God, my son is the exact same way.

    Keep helping and supporting your boy. And I will do the same with mine. Somewhere, there is an answer for them. I hope we can find it sooner rather than later.

    Keeping you guys in my thoughts and prayers.
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