Whether I knew it or not, I’ve always been an anxious person.
Growing up, I always remember being worried about something. My weight, what my friends thought of me, doing well in school or if Nick Jonas would ever truly love me. All normal things young adolescents would worry about.
For so many years, I never acknowledged my anxiety in a healthy way or at all. At the baseline, I didn’t even recognize I had an anxiety disorder until I was hooked up to an EKG in my doctors office at 20 years old because I had a crippling feeling as if someone was sitting on my chest and felt as if I was on the edge of tears all the time. No matter how many times I meditated, took long deep breaths, or went for a run – I couldn’t escape an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.
I passed my EKG test but scored incredibly high on a written form given to me for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The questions on the form asked if am easy to feel on edge or become easily annoyed. It touched on overeating, not being able to relax and worrying about a lot of things at once. It was the first time seeing the way I had felt, in various degrees throughout my life, outlined on paper. I was relieved, horrified and hopeful. I was relieved to see I wasn’t going crazy, horrified that I had scored so high on these tests but then hopeful after a discussion about different medications I can take to help with my anxiety on a daily basis.
In order to give you a better understanding of how I came to be hooked on a machine in my doctors office, lets go back to high school. During those four years is when my anxiety first appeared as I had lost friendships and became aware of my place within high school society. I began to isolate myself as friends I once had shifted their into their new groups. I spent almost every weekend with my parents watching Dateline or in my room on the computer. At the time, I remember feeling comfortable in this isolation because I felt safe and free of the anxiety I felt at school.
Often times, when I remember specific events from high school I can feel just as low as I did then. Whether it’s small things like walking in the hallways feeling incredibly self conscious or during lunch my junior year when I didn’t know anyone well enough to sit with so I spent the hour in my beloved photography teachers classroom while she taught class. She gave me a space of relief when I felt the most self conscious and anxious about my identity. I’m not exaggerating when I say she was a beacon of comfort and reliance for me during high school and I don’t think I would have survived without her.
Transitioning into college, my social anxiety had gotten better with the promise of meeting new people and being able to start fresh. I came out of my shell, said “yes” to hanging out with new people and tried my hardest not to resort back into the comfort of my dorm room when I felt anxious. I also started taking anxiety medicine which has helped me more than I can ever put into words. That being said, it’s important to stress how hard a transition like that can be. It’s not an easy task to recognize, address and work on the way anxiety manifests itself in your life – both good and bad.
For the good, I’m very honest with my friends and family because I often worry about people being dishonest to me so I make an effort to be as transparent as possible. My mind is always wondering which has given me a sense of curiosity to seek out new ideas, concepts and viewpoints. I am also very self aware. I can see how my actions and words have a deep effect on the people I interact with because I remember the way people treat me and the words that have been said to me both negative and positive.
At the same time, I can be easily pushed on the edge, I always find something to worry about no matter how small and am fearful of a tragic event happening to me or someone I love. It has kept me from running outside in broad daylight because I am afraid I will get kidnapped or being afraid to be at home alone, at 22 years old, because something bad might happen. I’m always aware of my surroundings to a point that it becomes a mental burden on my daily life worrying something might happen to me.
At this stage in my journey, I have come to realize that anxiety doesn’t have a black and white cause or timeline. It varies for everyone in degrees, the way it manifests itself and how people cope with it. For me, I am fairly new in my journey in anxiety. Many people have been dealing with anxiety since their age was a single digit and to a higher degree than what I am dealing with. But that doesn’t invalidate what I have gone through due to anxiety. We are all dealing with something no matter how big or small. No matter what you are feeling, there is someone out there going through the same thing. If you resonated with anything I have gone through know I am right there with you. Having a community you can rely on is so important on this journey and I am here, among many others, as a community for you.