For the longest time, I suffered silently with anxiety until I finally got a diagnosis: "generalized anxiety disorder." In that moment, it all became real. I could feel a wave of tension come over me as I realized that what I was feeling wasn't "normal". From that moment on, I have been acutely aware of how my anxiety likes to lie to me in every day situations. From tasks as basic as grocery shopping to things as stressful as going to an interview, my anxiety likes to rear is its ugly head time and time again.
I cannot count the times that I have called those close to me and expressed irrational worries as I burst into tears. Yet, as I hold the phone in my hand, prepared to call, my brain is flooded with the idea that I might be irritating them with my call. My anxiety like to tell me that those around me don't care about what I have to say, even though it is the same anxiety that gives me those irrational fears that buzz around in my head like a swarm of bees. When my family goes out to dinner, I will often shake until I can interrupt dinner and tell my family, "Make sure you chew your food; I don't want you to choke."
I applied for a job recently, and, to my surprise, was offered the position. I accepted, and as soon as I hung up the phone, my anxiety began to fill my head with thoughts of unworthiness. "You just got this position because they are desperate for people," it would say. "You aren't good enough, you only got it because everyone else they offered it to turned it down. You were a consolation prize."
Another lie that my anxiety loves to tell me is that I am in over my head. My anxiety likes to call me "stupid," and say that I can't handle my life because I am weak. I am very sensitive to this part of my anxiety, because I place so much importance on my schoolwork. My anxiety tells me that I am not doing well enough academically to get into my dream graduate program. It tells me that I am not capable of pursuing a future that is bright and happy. It tells me that I am not worthy, and, unfortunately, I fall victim to this particular lie a lot.
Yet, though my anxiety likes to make me feel this way, my anxiety is also the thing that keeps me from reaching out. Anxiety says, "Your friends are only there because they feel sorry for you. They don't want to hang out with you because you're weird." Even the people closest to me that have known me for years are not exempt from anxiety's lies. I will distance myself from them, and then they wonder why they haven't heard from me in a while. I want to say, "My anxiety convinces me that you hate me, so I didn't want to bother you with my presence." Unfortunately, most people don't understand, so I usually just say, "Oh, sorry, I've been feeling sick lately."
My anxiety sits and watches every second of every day. Some days, my anxiety follows far behind me, and I feel almost normal. Other days, my anxiety breaths down my neck and whispers to my insecurities. Some days, I can go to the grocery store alone, other days, I lay in bed and try to fight of anxiety attack after anxiety attack. My diagnosis helped me understand why I feel the way I do, but I know now that I am more than any diagnosis. The lies that I was fed for years are all because of a chemical imbalance in my brain, and not because I am a horrible person.
It took me so long to realize that anxiety is not like a terminal disease. While only 3.1% of the US population are diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it is manageable with the correct support. Does that mean that it will cure you of your anxiety completely? No, it won't, but it will provide support to help facilitate positive coping mechanisms. I am one of the millions of people that fight with anxiety daily, but it will not defeat me. I am stronger than my anxiety, and I am learning how to manage more and more every day.