Assume everyone has anxiety

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An editor hasn’t gotten back to you a few days after you sent an email? When this happens to me, I start to panic that they don’t like me anymore. I’m too annoying. Because I’m open about my mental health, I look crazy and they don’t want to associate with me. My last piece was shit and they don’t want to work with me anymore.

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Me when I don’t hear back from an editor for a few days. Photo from Amen Clinic Photos AC.

For days, my mind will run wild. And then they’ll answer. Everything is fine.

I get like this with so many social interactions. A cashier is rude to me? Someone cuts me off in traffic? A friend doesn’t return a phone call? There’s something wrong with me.

But, I’ve also been on the other side of this.

I’ve been the editor who doesn’t answer for days because my anxiety gets so bad, it’s hard to bring myself to refresh my email feed, painful to answer the important emails and absolutely not possible to respond to anything that isn’t essential.

And then the anxiety clears and I’m back at it.

I’ve started taking a new approach to life where I assume everyone is feeling as shitty as I feel at my worst. The cashier needs a smile. The driver needs me to let them go without repercussion (I’ll keep that fist shaking in my head). The friend needs compassion. And the editor just needs patience.

When I first started opening up about my anxiety, a lot of people told me they had no idea it was something I struggle with. People have been in the same room as me–played a game with me–while I was having a panic attack and didn’t even notice. I realized there could be people around me whose minds and hearts were racing, but who didn’t look the part.

Deciding to treat everyone like they have anxiety, I first thought I’d be tiptoeing around, as some people say they feel like they need to do around me. Then I realized that what I need isn’t tiptoeing; what I need is for people to hold their tongues on snarky comments, and be calm, quiet and kind.

Imagine if we all acted like everyone around us was having a rotten day. I think society would be a better place, don’t you?

To receive weekly emails full of motivation and support to help creatives who have mental health struggles be able to continue doing the work they love, sign-up for my weekly newsletter, which is being launched this summer.

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