anxiety · family · life · social anxiety

Dear Brother

Dear Brother,

Although I wish I could confide in you instead of writing a letter so public that other people halfway across the world will have the chance to read it instead of you, the reality is I probably never will. Let me start by saying that, if there ever comes a day you do somehow stumble upon this post and recognize who wrote all this, please know that I don’t hate you, but that I don’t long for a close sibling bond with you which so many other siblings have. That ship already sailed a long time ago. Maybe there’s something broken inside me due to my lifelong anxiety problems that keep me from establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.

I don’t know. All I know is I have had anxiety issues since childhood. You were there to witness some of it but I know that if you looked back on those memories from your point of view, you probably wouldn’t recognize my behavior or reactions were due to anxiety. You also may have never known about my social anxiety if I hadn’t told you about it that one time last year. In a way, it was a relief to finally verbalize to you (albeit in the most painstaking and awkward way as I wept) that I have social anxiety. It was hard enough for me to admit this to you in person. The aftermath of you trying to help me in some ways, such as buying me books on building confidence and coping with social anxiety, was something I appreciated. I am grateful for your attempts to help even though you won’t ever fully understand social anxiety and how intense my anxiety can get in even the simplest of situations.

Behind the anxiety, I feel when I am around you, I am also resentful of you at times. It’s this resentment building inside me that I am aware is both rational and irrational. I know you are not perfect and have done a lot to get so far in life right now, including with your job success, your salary, and now your new shared apartment with your girlfriend. But I can’t help but draw stark comparisons between you and me, particularly since I spend everyday feeling like a complete failure despite trying to be grateful for what I do have. I think you would be shocked to know I occasionally still feel depressed at brief intervals and sometimes think about suicide. You’ve never felt so depressed that it was hard to get up out of bed or step outside your room. You’ve never showed up for an interview only to have such intense panic the closer you get to the job site that you forget all your memorized interview answers and feel as if you are going to die on the spot from anxiety unless you cancel the interview. You have no idea what it’s like to have the automatic response of verbally freezing up and being both terrified and desperate to get your words out to the point you are close to tears but your whole mind and body is pulling and pulling you from saying anything because it’s telling you that the other person is going to judge you for whatever you say. The last example here is exactly how I felt this evening when you asked me why I hadn’t picked out a phone case yet for the new phone you recently bought for me. Days earlier during a phone call, you told me to choose a phone case online. Believe me, I was going to do it but I had a lot going on with my anxiety as I usually do. I perceived your tone to be accusatory and sarcastic when you said, “Have you really been too busy to pick a phone case?” What would you have said had I told you the truth and said I felt too depressed on some days to even be motivated about getting certain things done?

This letter isn’t a cry for help. Honestly, I think if you knew the full extent of what I go through, it would only give you added stress and reason to worry about me constantly. A piece of me wants you to know but also doesn’t want you to know. Just like the temporary relief, I felt when I first told you I have social anxiety, it was quickly replaced by my obsessive and persistent paranoia regarding what you actually think of me now that you know something so personal about me. And the reality is I know I’m unwilling to be so open with you. So if you are reading this, brother, do me a favor and don’t mention any of this to me in real life. Try as you might, you can’t fix me. You are not responsible for my wellness.

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