Everyone struggles. Whether it’s a “rough patch”, stress, or temporary sadness. Anxiety is so much more than that. Although I can try to put it into words, I’m not sure anxiety could be understood by someone who can’t relate.
I’ve had anxiety since I was about 10. To me, it feels like I was born with it. Friends, parents, and extended family members would say I was going through a phase or it was my hormones. But it never went away. When I was 17, I was formally diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD).
Already being an extremely emotional and empathic person, anxiety ruined a lot of things for me. School was hard. Tears from being overwhelmed would start to surface and I would go to the bathroom to pull myself together. I would hear something I didn’t want to hear and the same thing would happen but times 10. My stomach would drop in sync with my heart and I knew if I didn’t get to the bathroom to calm myself, I would start hyperventilating. I would hear gossip about myself and that would lead me to think every single student in a school of 4,000 were talking behind my back constantly.
I had two or three distasteful, horrible close friends and it made me afraid to ever get close to anyone again. Someone could say something to me and it would be all I think about for the rest of the day. It made me be an angry version of myself to a boy I loved. I would say things I didn’t mean and constantly need re-assurance of his honesty and love. I rarely look at myself in a mirror. I repressed memories that weren’t even regretful or bad. I would cry over the smallest things for years because to me, they were big things. To this day, I can’t hear a sad song or watch an upsetting movie without crying. Sometimes I just cry at how beautiful life is. How beautiful love is. And people who think I can help it are seriously mistaking.
When I graduated it had almost vanished, I figured maybe high school was just a toxic environment for me. I still had so much fun socially, some of the best times I think I’ll ever have. To anyone looking at me on the outside, they don’t know the pain inside my head and I’m glad.
It’s not funny to joke about anxiety. It isn’t “cool” to romanticize it and it isn’t appropriate to say you’re having an anxiety attack when you are simply stressed. Mental illness is not a permissible reason to call someone crazy. I have been fiercely bawling because I couldn’t catch my breath. Your chest locks up and you don’t know what you’re scared of but fear runs through your veins.
I would get happy and well-rested again and then freak out because I thought, “Well what if I’m never going to be as happy as I am right now?” Getting older really drove me crazy. I feared the inability to control my future.
Sometimes I get anxious about having anxiety. I thought a lot about how I don’t want to get help because I don’t know who I am without it. It’s what makes me, me. Despite that, I went to therapy for a few months my last semester of high school. I would tell a nice guy about my regrets, fears, and what I worried about most. Once I realized i didn’t need help from someone but only myself, I stopped going. I was better because I realized my anxious thoughts would never completely go away. I was coping with the crippling disorder.
So how do I continue to cope with it? Easy. I find the silver lining in everything. When negative thoughts gradually waltz into my brain, I find the positive. I look at the good things I have right there in that moment. I remember all the fun memories I’ve made. I think about solutions for whatever I’m facing but I don’t set unrealistic expectations. I cry. I take every emotion as it comes to me, and I just let it sink into my soul. I go with the flow.
I accept anxiety.