As children, it can often be difficult to effectively communicate what we’re feeling. We might think whatever’s going on in our head is “normal,” so asking for help never even crosses our minds. Or maybe because we didn’t quite understand what was going on, we did the best we could in those moments of struggle to “reach out” in our own little ways.
Not until we’re older and looking back do we realize we’ve probably been trying to combat our anxiety for quite some time now, and that people — ourselves included — just didn’t really know what the “signs” were. That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share with us things they said as a kid others may not have realized were code for: “I’m anxious.”
Here is what the community had to say:
1. “What’s wrong with me?”
“I didn’t realize I had anxiety and my parents didn’t either. They just thought I was being dramatic when I would burst into tears crying, ‘What is wrong with me?’ I was a chatter box, so my silence was a sign my anxiety was in full swing.” — Kylie L.
2. “I’m tired.”
“When I was a kid, I experience sleep disturbances for a very long time. The whole process of going to school, getting through the day, trying not to be bullied and coming home was always mentally rehearsed the night before. It was around fourth grade that I started seeing the school’s social worker to create plans to self-soothe and keep the anxious thoughts under control, so sleep was one less thing to worry about.” — Julie A.
3. “I have a headache.”
“I used the excuse of feeling ill plenty of times to avoid going to school. I didn’t realize I had anxiety at the time, but everything makes sense when I look back on it now. I wasn’t just being ‘lazy’ back then.“ — Ada T.
“It was easier to explain that something physical was going on as opposed to something that was invisible.” — Joanna L.
4. “I’m sorry.”
“I constantly apologized for things that weren’t really an issue, or I just wouldn’t interact. I still have issues with constantly saying I’m sorry for non-issues and being very quiet in hard situations.” — Teresa R.
5. “Can’t we stay home?”
“I hated going out places because the noise bothered me. Now as an adult, I try to balance things, but it’s still a challenge.” — Elyse B.
6. “You do it.”
“I had such a hard time placing an order for food that I would tell whoever I was with what I wanted and have them place the order.”— Becky B.
7. “Is it time to leave yet?”
“I always said this because crowds of even more then two people would trigger my anxiety. I couldn’t wait till said events or functions were done.” — Shannon C.
8. “Don’t leave me.”
“I was very anxious about being abandoned as a child. I believed people would leave me if I wasn’t good enough, and it would be my fault.” — Jennifer P.
“Whenever my parents would want to leave me, I would beg them not to leave because I was too anxious. Or if they didn’t pick me up at the exact time they said they would from the babysitters, I would call them constantly until they answered.” — Riley S.
9. “I want to go home.”
“I used to tell my dad this every time he would take me to my mother’s and he would get extremely confused.” — Megan G.
10. “Can you turn on the hallway light for me at night?”
“I lived in fear for a few years that someone was going to come into my room and kidnap me. The light didn’t help. I would lie in bed for two hours just waiting. I still don’t sleep well.” — Laura R.
11. “Don’t make me.”
“I’d tell my parents this when I didn’t want to go to school in the morning.” — Josephine C.
12. “My body is uncomfortable.”
“I used to say, ‘My body is uncomfortable, my body is uncomfortable!’ I didn’t know what it was at the time. Years later, I finally figured it out!” — Barb S.
13. “I don’t feel well.”
“Or more specifically, ‘My stomach hurts.’ Even now, my gut and my feelings are still greatly connected.” — Carrie M.
“My stomach hurts. I remember being sent home several times because I was sick and no one ever knew what was wrong with me. Shortly after I’d get home my stomach pains would cease and I’d be fine. Of course I couldn’t have known on my own that I was just anxious.” — Rebecca R.
14. “I don’t want to!”
“My 10-year-old has anxiety and he is rarely up for anything new. He digs his heels in and thinks of every excuse in the book to attend a new event, activity, vacation spot, etc.” — Reba S.
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