When I hear a sound during the night, I assume there is a stranger in my house. Putting letters in the mailbox is a source of terror. Dancing? Out of the question.

At times, I shut down and withdraw because I don’t know what to say. Socializing stresses me out – my mind just goes blank as it is all too much to handle.

Sometimes, it feels like the whole world around me puts me on edge. Birds chirping, copy machines, the metro, cell phones ringing, even sleeping, eating, coming and going from the house — you name it, it all makes me very anxious. This also includes you.

So, am I a weirdo? Well, yeah, but that’s not why walking 20 feet to the mailbox makes me squirm.

I have what is known as an anxiety disorder – so it scares me away. It scares me away from too many things.

People often want to know why I don’t just “get over it.” Though they phrase it in a softer, nicer way than that (usually), but it’s still what they mean to say. They treat me like I am making a choice to stay where I am.

So why is it such a big deal, anyway? I guess I shouldn’t let things bother me like they do. I guess I should just forget about their crushing comments.

“It’s really not a big deal,” they say, and that’s what I tell myself, too — over and over again, each and every day. In my head, I know that none of it “should be a big deal,” but my anxiety tells me a different story, and the voice of anxiety is very, very loud.

As far back as I can remember, I have never not been anxious. Even at the earliest memories I have of myself – I can still remember. I habitually bit my nails, often pulled out my hair and was an anxiety-ridden mess. I figured I would always have my anxiety, but that it would never define who I was.

That’s why it scares me too that people’s comments are difficult to shake. If my anxiety didn’t define me at all, then why do I struggle to move on from their remarks? Hmmm…

It’s like on the inside, I know that I am stronger than my anxiety and I can live with it. So if that is true, why isn’t it working? People “make peace” with their pain, partnering to coexist every day – and they live on, often without anyone even knowing they are in pain. I am doing my best to follow suit, honestly.

I know the rest of the world doesn’t always understand either. When they witness anxiety in action, it can be perplexing – daunting at best.

Washing the dishes can set me off. Each time I have lived with friends, dirty dishes have always been the issue. While folks in their twenties don’t seem to like to do the dishes, but my anxiety convinces me that not doing the dishes will cause infection and kill me. They don’t understand that I feel as though my life is in danger.

I tried to explain this each time, but my friends just kept telling me that I was a neat freak – a Type A and anal.

All of this is very difficult to understand, let alone explain – even for me.

I always arrive early to something because being on time feels like I am totally late. No one else seems to be this way (thankfully), so I usually am the one waiting for my friends.

Remember how I told you my anxiety talks to me? When my friends are late, my anxiety screams at me, telling me that my friends are now making me late. So I become irritable and teary-eyed for no good reason other than being late. When was the last time you cried because you were late? If you are normal, not like me, your answer is “never.”

When there is a set plan, it should be followed. My anxiety tells me that it’s just the way it is.

At times, I feel like all of my friends hate me. It doesn’t take long before I am sure they do. Or, at least, that’s what anxiety tells me. On the one hand, I know that my friends love me, but it’s hard not to think that my anxiety might scare them away, too.

Interviews typically make me feel anxious. If I can distract my anxiety while interviewing, I rock it. I am awesome, conversational and engaging. I know exactly what to say because I don’t over-think it.

But if anxiety is alive and well, I hesitate and second-guess myself. If the interview starts to not downhill, I can’t seem to pull myself out and convince myself I’m doomed.

“You’re not going to get the job anyway,” anxiety chants.

Relationships seem impossible. Since my anxiety is always present, it feels like I am already with someone – like I am looking for someone to join the two of us – anxiety and I. Who wants that?

My panic attacks are not fun or attractive. I tend to ask a ton of questions, cry and freak out.

“Don’t let my anxiety scare you away,” I pleaded with a person I was seeing. “It won’t,” they assured me. Yeah right – it feels impossible.

You can take a guess by now that existing in general makes me anxious. I ask a million questions out of the fear of doing something incorrectly. Everything new I am asked or expected to do makes very nervous.

Even with something simple, like printing something, I think to myself, “What if I can’t figure out how to work the printer or it runs out of ink or breaks?” No matter if it’s baking a cake, doing my taxes or figuring out what to do tomorrow — just being is one of the most anxiety-producing things.

Do you feel drained reading this? I’ll bet. Now try living it. Anxiety is like a 5-year-old, thinking it knows everything and what it’s talking about, when really, it’s immature and naïve and will never know how to handle things properly. What’s worse is that it’s running my life – and doesn’t seem to have an “off” switch.

If you are an anxious person – then you know. There are a few things on the up side of being anxious, however.

We anxiety-ridden people tend to appreciate the little things. If something doesn’t make us anxious, then, it’s oh-so wonderful and so, so appreciated. The moments when I’m not anxious are treasures.

Anxious people tend to be highly empathetic; they often even care about people who hurt them.

People with anxiety are highly intuitive and make great listeners. They are passionate; work hard; love their friends and love life. Those with anxiety know how hard everything is so they take very little for granted.

As you can see, anxiety is trying, crippling – a nightmare. Sometimes it’s bearable – but most of the time, it’s not.

But while I have anxiety – I am not anxiety. There is a difference.