I’m not unique, I know that. Millions of people have anxiety. Millions of people go to therapy and take medication, as I do. Some people prefer to go down the natural path. Some people are too afraid to say anything, so they hide, stuck in their mind. But, this is how it’s like to be me with anxiety. This is what it’s like to be a 24 year old single girl who wants love but is petrified of love. And this is how I cope and fall apart and get up again and again.
My anxiety began as a child. I literally had to go to therapy in third grade and switch classes entirely because my teacher made me cry every day. I remember fretting over getting a C in math. I remember thinking I was weird because no one else seemed to care. I remember shaking whenever a plane flew over my house. I remember hiding in the bushes when a white van drove down the street. Of course at that time, I thought nothing of it. As a third grader, I had no idea what my future would look like.
In high school I went home sick because I thought I had an ulcer. Turns out, all I did was walk by my crush and BAM, it hit me. Still oblivious to me and everyone else, I was just being ‘Lauren’. But then things progressed and worsened. In my senior year of high school I got an official diagnosis, was put on meds, and went to a therapist once a week.
I thought everything would be fine after that. The pills would fix everything. And then my brain would be good as new! Right? Wrong.
I’m now 24, and the past few months with anxiety has been almost debilitating. It has effected my self esteem, my friendships, my work ethic and what I think of myself. It is out of my control, despite doing everything necessary for this illness.
It is out of my control. And all I want — is to have control.
Having anxiety at this age isn’t a taboo topic. I have friends who struggle too. I have people in my life who struggle with every mental illness under the sun. But at this point in my life, I no longer think of myself as a victim. Yes, it sucks. Yes, sometimes I just want to sleep just in order to not feel it anymore. But it will always, always pass. And that’s what I need to keep telling myself. And right now in this moment, I feel back like I’m coming back to myself and back to me. My heart isn’t racing. I can breathe. I feel free. I feel good.
But here comes the even harder part of dealing with anxiety. Because on top of this crippling mental illness, I have to deal with: DATING. MEN. RELATIONSHIPS. BREAKUPS. ALL THAT JAZZ. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve canceled dates just because I got too anxious (let’s pray that doesn’t happen on my wedding day.)
In the past year I’ve been on dates with people I hardly knew and people I was hardcore crushing on. Most went okay. Some went terribly. And each time, my hands shook like they were being electrocuted. It’s almost pathetic how a meeting with another human being of the opposite sex effects me, but it’s just how I am.
For me, dating is an entire world of anxiety. What do I wear? What if he takes me home and I change my mind? What if he kills me? What if I have nothing to say? Do I write notes in my phone for discussion topics? What if I choke and I die while he’s talking about his cute dogs to me?
I think it’s so scary to me, because it’s new. Because it’s unknown. Because there’s no back up plan.
Funnily enough, once I get past the first date or two, I relax. It’s like my brain decided to bathe itself in valium. I feel so calm, and giddy. I feel like a new me. Like perhaps how a ‘normal’ person would feel.
Maybe that’s the thing about anxiety. It creeps up fast enough just as it slows down in the blink of an eye. It heightens you to 150% and then brings you back down to your normal state. It comes and goes in waves, without warning and without regret.
My therapist told me to expose myself. That in order to get over my fears, I needed to go through with a date. To not cancel. To not back down or blame it on being sick. So I went home and downloaded Tinder and Bumble. I swiped on a few guys. I just said yes to a date next week because he talked about Harry Potter in his bio (and he’s cute AF).
So, to the guy who I go on a date with next — excuse my shaking hands, my stutters, and my sweaty palms. It’s not you. It’s me.