Living with Anxiety & Resting Bitch Face
I'm going to start at the very beginning. The moment I realized I was different. The moment I realized the thoughts inside my head were not typical and that everyone else was not walking around day after day wondering if it is was even worth it -- life, that is.
Ever since I can remember I have had these thoughts on whether or not I want to remain on this earth. Now before you call the police and report your concern for my safety, let me acknowledge the fact that just because someone has thoughts like this does not mean they are suicidal. I am not. I never have been. Well, except maybe that one time.
It isn't about wanting to kill myself. It wasn't when I was 10 years old and it certainly isn't now, it is about wondering if I am valuable? If I am worth it? If I can stand to walk around every single day scared of my own thoughts and even worse, the thoughts of others.
When I was 10 years old and standing in my 5th grade classroom, I remember being surrounded by a group of kids. They were chatting and rotating around me like planets. I so desperately wanted to be invisible but at the time, I was cursed with a pretty face and athletic ability which in 5th grade makes you popular by default, even if you really would prefer to be irrelevant.
One of the boys was telling one of my very best girlfriends that even though he thought I was cute, he didn't like me because I was weird. And shy. This delighted my friend, of course, because she was only asking him who he thought was cute in order to find out whether or not he liked her, not me. He pointed at my face, which was crimson red, as usual, and he said, "see....she's always....red."
I'll never forget that because for the first time I realized that people saw me as different, and that I didn't just FEEL different.
From there, every single night as I laid in bed, I barely slept. In fact, I would say that when most kids had 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night, I had maybe 2 to 3 because I would lie in bed awake and nauseous, mulling over every single thing I said and did that day, wondering why I felt so awkward all the time and why the hell anyone even spoke to me? There were nights when I literally wished I was born ugly and small and invisible. Then, when I woke up each morning with swollen eyes, I would plan out my day and plot out my path in the hallways through middle school and high school in order to avoid the people who made me feel uneasy and red. I would consider just pulling my hood over my head and keeping my head down but I couldn't decide if that would just make me stand out even more. Why did people have to notice me? The worst part was that the people I enjoyed spending time with the most were often the ones who made me feel nauseous and I could not understand why I was trapped in a body and mind that suffered so deeply within. It was horrible. I'm not sure if most people enjoyed middle school and high school but I can tell you right now that every single day of it was hell for me. And I was popular. And I had boys calling me and telling me they wanted to date me. And a lot of friends. On the outside, when I wasn't cringing and red with anxiety, I had what many people would long for. I do not say that to sound stuck up, I say it because I want everyone to know that just because someone looks like they have it together on the outside does not mean they do not suffer on the inside. And sometimes the people who you think have it easy, may have battles they are fighting which cannot be seen.
I wish that their were a blog post or a book or a poem or a note tucked in a bottle floating in the ocean that I found when I was in high school so I could understand that it is not normal to want to disappear but also that I was not the only person in the universe who ever felt like this. When I was younger, anxiety was not as openly discussed as it is now. If you had anxiety or depression, you were considered a little bit crazy. Allowing the term "crazy" to be stitched to my being or listed amongst a chart with my name on it felt even more lonely than trying to ignore it did. So I ignored it and tried to disappear even though I never could.
Forcing smiles has never been easy for me. Resting bitch face is a real thing. It's not that I'm unhappy, I am now achingly happy with my life and have learned to cope with my anxiety a bit. But it is the constant need to pretend to be someone I am not that eats away at me. Why do we live in a world where women must be peppy? Have you ever noticed that? Its completely okay for a man to shake your hand, say "hey, how are you?" with a small smirk and carry on, while if a women were to lose her pep, forgo a hug, and not start up a conversation, they are looked at as a bitch. I just want to be able to shake someones hand and leave it at that. Listen, I like you, respect you and appreciate you and why can't that be enough? Why do I have to force a hug, a conversation and a smile?
I always feel the need to find the moral to any post. So what is it here? Well, I think I just want to start a conversation about seeing past this little thing called "resting bitch face," and understanding that introverts and extroverts are all kind of the same on the inside, some just deal with their anxieties and internal battles silently, while others just let their shit hang out.
1. You should not always associate being bubbly and cheerful with being a good person. Let's face it, the world loves a good extroverted and cheerful person. They are the kind of people who others gravitate towards and who light up a room. They tend to be easy to talk to and make others feel at ease. Yet, too often, we underestimate the introvert in the corner with the resting bitch face. Likewise, we assume the extrovert has all the talent and goodness because, well, they eagerly share it. Let's rid the notion that good always comes with cheerful.
2. Resting bitch face does not equal bitch. Over and over again, people assume that if you're not overly friendly then you must be bitchy. That cannot be any further from the truth, at least in my book. You do not have to be a cookie-cutter, outgoing and smiley person in order to be kind. Introverts with RBF may not stand out with their bright personalities but to be honest, they never wanted to anyway.
3. People with anxiety and resting bitch face do not think they are better than you. In fact, if nothing else, we spend more of our time wishing we were more like the bubbly girls. The fact of the matter is that every personality is different, every face is different and smiles do not always equal happiness and resting bitch face does not equal unhappiness or judgments. We just can't get our face to look happy sometimes without it also looking like we are pooping or constipated.
4. Serious people are just that, serious people. When did "serious" become a bad thing? Serious means just that, we are serious. Meaning, we take things in. We observe. Everything matters immensely to us and we feel things a little more deeply. Just because we don't say, "oh this is SO WONDERFUL" or laugh as loudly as the prettiest, most bubbly girl in the room, does not mean we are not feeling those moments as intensely. In fact, it may mean that we are feeling those moments even more deeply.
5. Just because we don't wear our emotions, doesn't mean we don't feel them. That's all I have to say about that.
6. Affection does not come easily for introverts or those with anxiety. We aren't going to be the one in group calling everyone, "babe" or "hun," it actually makes us cringe a little. We wonder how in the hell some people allow those words to flow out of their mouths as easily as the F bomb flows from ours. Oh, and the most difficult thing we have to face is the simple task of saying "hello," or "goodbye." We start planning our entrance and exit from a party before we've even arrived. We never know when to hug, shake hands, or stand there with our arms flopped at our sides. Do we smile? Do we attempt an awkward cheek-kiss? And more often than not, we are wondering if we can sneak out of this place without anyone seeing and if we do, will they think we are assholes?
7. Phone conversations make us want to vomit. You think we are just being an asshole for not answering your calls, we know it. But the truth of the matter is that phone calls take weeks for us to prepare for. So, when all of a sudden our phone rings, we are snapped into the reality that we must communicate with the outside world and we have no freaking clue how to do that on the spot. So if you are friends with an anxious introvert, do not call them unless a limb has fallen off or you are on your death bed. Text messages were absolutely created by someone with resting bitch face and anxiety.
8. Don't get us started on doorbells. I am going to take this one on from my perspective. When my doorbell rings, the first thing I do is drop to the ground like I've been lit on fire. Stop, drop and fucking roll. If it takes me 10 minutes to open the door, it is because I am spying on you from the attic window, trying to remember if my garage door is open and you can see my car and know I am home, and of course, reminding myself how to speak words. I might even do some voice exercises to prepare. Isn't it illegal to knock on someone's door these days? This is my freaking safe harbor man, why are you here?
9. If you want to know our real thoughts, ask us. Anxiety, resting-bitch-face and introverted-ness has given us one gift and that is HONESTY. If you ever want to know what we are thinking, ask us. We are incapable of holding in our emotions for too long and word vomit (mixed with brutal honesty) is our specialty.
10. Because I was too anxious to stop at 9 (odd numbers suck). So, 10 it is.