Anxiety was the first thing I learned belonged to me. Even before my voice or body, or a killer DVD collection (including every season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Anxiety made her presence known. She was mine, and I was hers – some sick symbiotic relationship. There were days I wasn’t even sure I’d know who I was without her.
Anxiety was the girl I hung out with on the blacktop. She’d wait for me at the bottom of the slide, hung around on the monkey bars while I was goofing around with my peers. She made sure I knew she wasn’t going anywhere.
She found cracks in every building, imperfections in every foundation. During class, she’d whisper facts about earthquakes – like how more than 80% of San Francisco was destroyed as a result of the 1902 quake. She’d toy with me, distracting me from the tasks at hand. She thought it much better I focus on other things, like fear.
The first time I had a panic attack, I thought I was dying.
And I don’t mean that to be hyperbolic. I literally thought I was dying.
Anxiety likes to do that. She doesn’t ever want you settling in. She doesn’t want you to feel comfortable for too long.
The older I got, the more I learned the way I felt wasn’t normal. But that didn’t mean I was abnormal either. Nearly 18% of the U.S. population suffer from anxiety disorders. So, I wasn’t alone. Even if, growing up, I was convinced I was.
I thought Anxiety had picked me, specifically me. It was my burden to bear. I thought I was the only kid who felt stressed out when no immediate danger was present.
Mental illnesses do a good job at convincing you that you’ll never be understood. When the reality is, so, so many people out there are struggling just like you are. You just can’t always see it.
To any young person (or really, any age) feeling alone with their anxiety right now, I promise, you’re not. It may seem like Anxiety belongs to you, and only you, but there are people out there who are going through the same thing.
Anxiety is not easy. It’s not a characteristic of a one-dimensional sitcom character. It’s not something that makes sense. But when we share our experiences, we grow together.
Anxiety may have been the first thing I learned belonged to me, but I now know it’s not all. It’s just a facet. It’s just a tiny part.