What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series click here. Today’s guest post is anonymous.
I want you to know that I hate it.
I want you to know that I don’t understand it either.
I want you to know that sometimes you make it worse.
When I was a freshman in high school I was diagnosed with anxiety. Not just butterflies in the stomach kind of anxiety. The kind of anxiety that made me miss three weeks of school. The kind that would make me physically sick every morning. The kind that scared me to my core. Every morning I would wake up for school and have a panic attack that would leave me on the bathroom floor crying and trying to explain to my father that I didn’t get it just as much as he didn’t.
Eventually I was able to go back to school and fight through the panic attacks. Facing my friends and explaining what was wrong with me was the hardest part of it all. I was in denial that I had anxiety. I thought I was above it. Many said I was lying about being sick. Others raised their eyebrows and shook their heads. What did I have to be anxious about? I had great parents, friends, and church family. Logically nothing was worth being anxious over.
But anxiety doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t follow logic.
It’s a monster that comes and goes as it pleases.
It came in the middle of Disney and left me pacing, constantly praying it would leave. It came in the middle of a concert with no way to get away from it. I came at a football game and left me crying to my mom “why?” It comes at the thought of entering a restaurant and leaves no hope of eating the food I came for. It comes in my relationships and results in overthinking and trust issues. It came in the middle of a bus ride in the middle of I-75 hours from home. It came and almost stopped me from going on a trip I had been dreaming about for eight months.
I’ve had panic attacks put me in danger, puke in front of friends and family, and embarrassed in front of hundreds.
I prefer to drive long distances myself to give me the illusion of control. I skip hanging out with friends if I know there will be more than five people there. I eat meals alone in my dorm room to avoid restaurants. And at all times, no matter what, I have anxiety medication on me.
It makes no sense. And the fear of having anxiety causes anxiety.
It is a dark place where it starts to define you and who you are. It defines what you do, who you hang out with, where you go. Daily life decisions are made surrounding anxiety. And anxiety isn’t something you can just get over.
And your questions and stares do not help.
When you ask your questions, I get more overwhelmed than when I already am. It is something I am trying to handle, and your pressing questions and curiosities just make it worse despite your good intentions. I will talk to you about it eventually if I feel the need, but not in the moment of anxiety. When I am at my lowest, I don’t want you to try to fix me. I just want you to be with me and to be in a relationship with me.
I have had anxiety for six years now and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. But that is okay. Slowly my close friends and family have learned how to help me. I have learned to help myself and not define myself by my monster.
My mom always told me that something positive would come out of this. I never believed her. This week, mom’s prediction came true. For the first time, I was able to help someone because of my experiences. I was able to comfort a child who was struggling and describe to the teacher and parent what would help and how. My experiences were benefiting someone else.
I may hate my anxiety, but seeing the hope in a parent’s eyes when they heard that their child could get help, almost made the panic attacks worth it.
I still don’t get my anxiety, it can be random and frustrating, but it is making me stronger.