I was diagnosed with anxiety problems when I was only three years old. I was having major panic attacks that consisted of me laying on the ground of wherever I was, locking my arms and legs, and just screaming. I don’t remember any of these fits, but I have been told countless times about them.
My anxiety is manageable on a good percentage of days. I have learned to deal with the continuous aching stress I feel. I don’t have panic attacks on a daily basis anymore, and I have never had to take medication to keep it under control. But sometimes I just wish that people would realize that the issue is still present in my life. I know I may seem like a crazy, outgoing, confident girl but some days I don’t feel like that.
Sometimes I have really bad days. Days where I have a huge knot in my stomach because I’m worrying about something that most of the times I can’t even identify. Days where I want to just stay in bed and not participate in my daily functions because it is simply just a bad day. Days where everything that is said to me is a big deal, even if it’s not even close to being a big deal. It is to me.
And I can’t help it.
My brain never stops thinking or processing. One part of my anxiety issues is that I overthink and analyze everything that happens around me. It’s not because I want to, it’s because my brain is programmed to constantly be considering every little detail. My body is always alert and aware of its surroundings, and my mind is consistently thinking about what my next step is going to be and whether or not I should take it.
And people don’t understand that.
All throughout high school I was that goody-two-shoes that never went to parties, never snuck out while my parents were asleep, and never did anything that my parents wouldn’t be proud of. But that wasn’t because I didn’t want to. It’s because I was afraid. It’s because my brain was telling me it was wrong, that I would get in trouble, that my grandma wouldn’t be proud of me if she found out about it. Some people in high school never understood why I wouldn’t do crazy things with them on the weekends. It’s not because I didn’t want to hang out with my friends and make those typical high school memories, it was because I just couldn’t physically or mentally get my body to want to participate.
This specific issue is a really big deal at college. During my first semester in the fall, I was a mess. Not only was I coping with the facts that my mother wasn’t two doors down from me at all times, that my work load nearly tripled, and that every decision I made was only made by me and not my parents, I was also dealing with the fact that I didn’t want to go out to parties every night of the weekend and get drunk like every other college student did.
I was a hermit. I laid in bed every night, watched Netflix, and ate an array of snacks. I just sat back and watched all my friends get ready, go out and have great times. But what most of them didn’t realize is that it’s not because I wanted to lay in bed and gain the freshman fifteen, it’s simply because my mind was telling me I wasn’t allowed to go out. I wasn’t allowed to go to that party at Henry because what if the cops came? What if I got arrested even if I wasn’t drinking? What if someone else that was drunk did something stupid that could jeopardize my safety?
My mind just naturally thinks of all the negative possibilities at all times, without me even prompting it to.
I worry about everything. Doesn’t matter how simple. The other day I went to NYC for a design trip. While I was sitting on the bus waiting to leave, I thought about how the driver driving my bus may get separated from the other bus that was part of our trip. I then thought that maybe the driver driving my bus wouldn’t know the way to NYC and would get us all lost. I thought that if we get lost and have to keep driving, we will eventually run out of gas. Then I thought about how if we get lost and run out of gas, we may have to camp out in the bus. I realized that although I had brought a lot of snacks, I didn’t have enough food to survive if we got lost for multiple days. And I was genuinely concerned about this happening.
I can guarantee that not a single other person on the trip had that flow of thoughts.
But I did. And that’s normal for me.
Something my mother and I joke about is the fact that I once told her I “brewed in anxiety juice for 9 months”. And it’s so true. I came out of the womb worrying about something.
I can also remember that as a child, I would ask my mom the most random questions at the most random times of the day, and before she would answer my question, she would ask “what made you think of that?” and I would reply “I don’t know”. The real answer to that question is that I most likely saw something that triggered an array of thoughts that eventually led to the question I asked.
So, to the people who don’t realize I have anxiety problems– please be patient and understanding with me. Know that I’m worried about our plans because I automatically think of all the bad things that could occur. Know that I don’t like taking risks. Know that I constantly process what you are saying and I get offended easily. Know that I need continual reassurance that I’m okay and I’ll get through it. And know that this is hard for me. Don’t feel sorry for me, or feel like you have to step around me, but just take it into account the next time you think I’m just being dramatic or dumb. I promise that I’m not purposely questioning everything. I promise I am not trying to be annoying. I promise that it’s just the way my mind is set to work, and it will be something I deal with for the rest of my life.