As mental health becomes more socially acceptable to talk about, I think there has also become a "standard" of what anxiety is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to manifest itself in a person.
The truth is that like most things, mental health is a spectrum.
How my anxiety presents itself will be different than the way it does in someone else and from what I've experienced not many people are willing to accept it. I understand how far we have grown as a society when it comes to mental health, but there is still more work to do.
Anxiety is complex and it is okay to admit it.
I want to be clear I am in no way a medical professional. I also want to clarify I am only referencing my own experience with anxiety. Please remember that anxiety is not the same experience for everyone.
Growing up, I often struggled in school, particularly in math and science. My strong suit was always English by far, and I often had high grades. Math and science kicked my butt every time.
The most common assumption for a case like this is that the students just don't like math or science, so therefore refuse to try. I think my parents even believed that for a while until they found out I would often skip recess in elementary school to get tutoring from my math teacher.
I think it was only then that most people realized how hard I was trying.
But, more often than not my grades did not improve. I do believe my anxiety started to grow from here. It would later begin to grow into other aspects of my life.
School felt like a battle most of the time. I had an overly ambitious nature that often fought with anxiety. I pushed myself to do harder classes, but had daily nervous breakdowns due to the pressure that I put on myself.
Eventually, anxiety spread into all portions of my life. I was a mess mentally, but I was determined to mask it with my happy-go-lucky facade.
So, I did. I did it well.
I made sure everyone in my life never saw the tears, the pain, or the frustration. I didn't want pity, I just wanted to feel normal.
As time went on, I was able to hide the fact that anything was wrong. I was able to have anxiety attacks in public without anyone suspecting a thing. It became my normal and I accepted it.
I doubted myself and the people around me. I doubted I would be nothing more than a disappointment. I doubted my friends truly liked me. I doubted the world had a place for people like me.
It was a never ending spiral, and I just accepted it. I was a freak, a disappointment and a loner and that was that.
Now, I know you probably want some miraculous happy ending. Probably some story about how I went to therapy and actually talked out my feelings. But, the truth is I didn't. I went to a college where I knew nobody.
But, dang did it feel therapeutic.
It was new and exciting! I felt adrenaline everyday, I felt alive. All because for the first time, I was truly alone. I know you're thinking that I sound absolutely crazy, but for the first time no one had an assumption or expectation because they didn't know who I was.
I could finally have the chance to start over and to make my own expectations. I felt free.
I want to be clear that therapy and medication are very helpful to so many people! I am a huge supporter of people finding ways to make their lives better while struggling with mental health. It also needs to be acknowledged that therapy and medication are not the only ways to help because mental health is a giant spectrum.
There is no "standard" of what it is supposed to look like. There is no "right-way" to make it all better.
The only thing that we can do is support everyone who struggles with anxiety.
My journey with my mental health is far from over. There are still days where my brain is filled with thoughts of doubts and times where I have an anxiety attack. It's all a little more bearable knowing that at the end of the day knowing I am exactly where I need to be.