*This article is not meant to belittle anyone with anxiety disorder. This article is just a small piece of something that people who identify with anxiety can feel. Anxiety is much more than being too nervous to wear a shirt out. This is just a piece trying to make people understand those with anxiety on a smaller scale.*
“My coffee cup is empty. I really should throw it out.” You think as you’re sitting down in your afternoon class.
“It will disturb the class. Everyone will look at me. My professor will think I’m rude. My heels make really loud noises when I walk," you think, staring at the cup which is starting to sweat little droplets of water down the side. A puddle forms on your table, threatening to engulf your notebook in its mini wave. You don’t get up.
Suddenly a classmate gets up and throws out the wrapper from their sandwich. You breathe out a sigh of relief.
“Okay he got up and threw it out. I can do it. But, now I have to wait a few minutes so people don’t think I was copying him.”
You sit for an agonizing three minutes. Your hands become as sweaty as your coffee cup of melting ice and you have tuned out the professor since class started because you are worried about the coffee cup. Finally you stand up, very abruptly and walk to the edge of the room. You throw your coffee in the trash, all too in tune to the fact that your shoes are as loud as you thought they would be. You slam yourself back into your desk and take a deep breath. You can sit through the rest of class without disturbance now.
Until you realize you have to pee.
You ask your roommate for the tenth time, “Are you sure this outfit looks good on me?”
“Yes it looks great,” they reply enthusiastically,
They sound too enthusiastic. They are definitely very annoyed that you’ve asked so many times. You forgot to put your dish in the sink earlier so they are probably even more annoyed with you now. You’ll have to be extra fun and nice tonight to make up for it.
You offer to straighten your roommate’s hair for her since you know she hates doing it herself and you don’t want her to stay mad at you for asking about your outfit and forgetting about the dish. You’ll probably buy her a bottle of wine for next weekend. You’re a lot to handle and she deserves something for putting up with you.
Despite your roommate telling you that you look great in your outfit you decide to change. It’s too low cut, people will probably think it’s too risqué. Your roommates beg you to keep it on.
“It is perfect for your body.”
You smile politely and put on a different shirt.
This boy asks, “Would you maybe want to grab dinner sometime?”
You stare at the text on your phone. He is definitely too cute for you. This must be some kind of joke that he’s playing. Take the quirky girl out on a date and laugh about it with his friends later.
“I’m really busy this week. Maybe some other time.”
Going home for Thanksgiving is hard. You have to see people you have known your whole life. The Thanksgiving football game is as painful as walking through a field of tacks, each step taken with precaution; trying not to make eye contact with anyone you are acquaintances with.
Your mom asks, “Isn’t that Erin? Why aren’t you going to say hi?”
You knead your hands together. You make up some bullshit excuse about how you’ll talk to her later; she’s too far away right now. You wish you didn’t wear so many layers because you are starting to sweat.
“You were so well liked in high school, I don’t know why you act like this,” says your Mom who looks at you as if she doesn’t recognize you. The little girl she had raised went up to everyone and anyone to say hi. This one was scared of her own shadow.
To be honest, you don’t know what happened to that girl either. One day you had no fear, the next day, you feared everything. Maybe it was the loss of a friendship you valued or maybe it was the pressure you put on yourself to achieve perfection. Perhaps it was a broken heart or a broken family or just a broken brain that lead you here. Either way, this is the path you were set on and despite the unknown ahead, it was a road you’d have to travel.
I hope one day you find the strength to walk that road, not with timid steps, peering around your shoulder for something to go wrong, but that you run full speed ahead. Embrace every curve in the road, run the path less taken and breathe in everything the world has to offer.
Life is too precious to let one word define you; life is too short to be held back by a disorder.