Like many people who haven't experienced anxiety, I used to think of it as just a kind of nervousness about certain situations. Something that the person who was experiencing it would eventually 'get over'.
Ever since it was made clear to me what anxiety actually was, and that it was causing a lot of my negative emotions, I realise how wrong that opinion was.
Anxiety is both relentless and exhausting. It's with you when you wake up and it's there when you go to sleep. It's there when you're engrossed in conversation and it rears its ugly head when you're relaxing.
It fills your head with imaginary disasters, playing on memories of social embarrassment from the past to craft new and terrifying ways for the same thing to happen again.
It brings with it a sense of dread as if something disastrous is about to happen, even in the most nondescript and dull environments. I used to feel dread simply going to work and greeting my colleagues to the point that I just wouldn't greet them. To me, it was the safer option. I even used to feel it when I did something I actually enjoyed like going to the cinema with a mate. All the time I would be thinking of what my next line would be, like I was in a live-action play of my life. It affected me so much that eventually I would just choose not to go to do these things anymore.
It took me a long time to break out of that cycle and it still takes a lot of mental effort to not fall into the same negative outlook on life. I learned to spot the warning signs and interject before anything spiralled out of control. For those of you struggling with something similar, keep trying to enforce a healthy thought process. With enough practice, it becomes second nature.