A few months ago, I was talking to this guy. A typical guy’s guy who watches football to compensate for his metrosexuality. I drove 2 hours north for a weekend visit and tried my damnedest not to have expectations. He’s not great at communicating and I have a fear of confrontation, hence why we never discussed our intentions. I just tried to play it casual. I desperately wanted to be one of those cool girls who don’t overthink everything. But let’s face it, I’m not.
That evening he dragged me out to a bar with all his guy friends. These were people I hadn’t seen since high school–five years ago. These were people I had zero interest of befriending. I played nice for a little while, but eventually I got bored of the superficiality and started thinking too much. End result: uncontrollable sobbing in the bathroom of an irish pub. I didn’t know exactly why I was crying. At the time, all I knew was that I missed my cat and I was feeling confused. I was uncomfortable and lonely. After a while I didn’t know if my tears were a result of my circumstantial misery or that I was now feeling bad about about feeling bad. I was stuck in a vicious cycle that I didn’t know how to get out of it.
It wasn’t until I called my mother the next day that I realized exactly what I had experienced: an anxiety attack. Cue more tears.
I never thought I would be the girl with anxiety. Maybe it’s an ego thing. Maybe it’s the stigma that sometimes comes with mental illness. Either way, it took that night at the bar, a raw moment of hopelessness and vulnerability, for me to finally understand. I have anxiety, but my anxiety doesn’t define me.
Having a name for how I feel has helped me recognize that a lot of my words and actions are influenced by what is simply a chemical imbalance. My body craves serotonin and I have worn this deficiency like a heavy cloak, letting it weigh me down. Men I’ve dated have judged me for crying or yelling. They have belittled my feelings, instead of validating them. I always thought I was crazy–that there was something wrong with me. But my recent insights have led me to understand that my anxiety isn’t a flaw. My anxiety is also not part of my identity. All my tears, frustration, confusion, and over-analyzing are misunderstood, yet normal.
I am normal.