“The cold hand that grabs you in the middle of the night.”
“Feeling like a caged animal is inside your chest trying to claw its way out.”
“..that jittery feeling when you drink WAY too much coffee.”
This is what anxiety feels like, according to hundreds of people who have responded to a Twitter hashtag started by Sarah Fader, 37, of Brooklyn.
Fader, founder and CEO of the health non-profit Stigma Fighters, said she created the #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike hashtag to vent about her own anxiety. Wanting to reach out to the Stigma Fighters community, she used the hashtag as a way to both reach out and to help herself feel less alone.
The response was overwhelming. #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike has received a steady stream of responses since Fader first tweeted a prompt in February.
"Ironically, I was anxious when I saw the responses to the hashtag," said Fader. "I am thrilled that people resonated with it. It makes me happy to destigmatize mental illness."
The responses show how a brief conversation can require countless rehearsals, how the thought of going out can lead to debilitating panic or how easy it is to second-guess lifelong friendships.
"We are not dramatic; we are humans," she said.
"Anxiety is not who you are. It is a conglomeration of symptoms that impact you," said Fader, who hopes those with the illness will "feel less isolated and like they matter."
While many with anxiety have found solace in sharing their experiences, Fader said there are important lessons to learn for those who do not live with the illness.
"Listen, learn and be empathetic to anxious people."
Here are some of the responses Fader has received so far.