Anxiety is tricky. It’s a hidden sickness, often hiding even from those who have it. I will think “this is great, I’ve completely learned how to effectively manage my anxiety levels and I never have issues anymore.” Then I have a panic attack, crash for two days, and have to pick myself back up again.
I confuse people. I’m easily social and clearly enjoy the company of others, and yet only have a few close friends that I open up to. I’m outgoing and often speak up in a crowd, and yet the act of doing so can flood me with embarrassment for hours afterward. I often act without thinking to the point where outsiders classify me as an extrovert, then I isolate and am hopelessly introspective for weeks at a time. My own anxiety turns my personality into a series of contradictions that make it difficult to sustain the relationships needed for personal or professional development.
Dating is laughable. I have a stubborn independent streak that attracts mature independent men, but if things get serious I drive them away with what seems to be a jealous, insecure edge. I’m neither jealous nor insecure, but my hours of thinking cause thoughts to spin in my head to the point where I need to say them out loud. I ask about a girl you added on Facebook, not because I care that you’re friends with some girl, but because the thought will spin around and come to the forefront of my brain about 20 times in a minute and it seems to be a casual conversation topic to my over-active mind.
There are many self-diagnosed anxiety disorders floating around our society right now. There are a lot of people who thrive off of the attention that being sick can get them, and mental disorders conveniently lack physical proof. Because of this, there is also a lot of skepticism if one claims to have an anxiety disorder. When my anxiety levels build, I am always aware of it. In my head, I tell myself to tell someone. Explain that I need time to go and calm down, explain why I am acting differently. Instead, I am so afraid of eye-rolling and judgement that I pretend I’m ok, even when it is obvious that I am not. I’m already prone to isolating myself, prone to pushing away help in situations where I should accept it. It doesn’t help that anxiety will make me think I am always disliked, even by those I know enjoy my company. When I actually have a panic attack, I’m terrified. It feels like I’m dying. Before I knew what they were, I honestly believed I was going to die. My only focus should be on recovering from the attack. Instead, I focus on making sure that no one will find out that I had a panic attack that day.
It’s not all bad. The same force that keeps me thinking that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not good enough, also pushes me to succeed. My motivation and drive are off the charts. My current career also stems from my anxiety – I have a skill to see 4 or 5 possible pathways where others only see one, just because of my natural tendency to over-think. Friends rely on me for advice and insight into moral matters, because they know I spend so many hours of my life just…thinking.
Remember there is strength in admitting weakness. Remember it is always ok to accept help when you need it, and to give yourself a break from personal condemnation when you fall down. Remember to let go of shame and move forward. Remember that you always have permission to love yourself. Recovery isn’t an uphill path, and your symptoms will likely be exacerbated while you are young and trying to find your path, or through periods of great stress in your life.
The world is still beautiful, and you will find happiness.