When you are young, everything in life seems simple. You run. You fall. You feel pain. For some of you, you cried, not necessarily because of the pain itself, but because you were shocked or scared. For others, you would stare at the injury, in pain or shocked, but too stubborn to let anyone know. For a select few, the pain only made you get up and run faster, as you were no longer fearful of falling.
As we grow older, we learn that pain doesn't work like a simple scratch or a bump. The answers aren't always put directly in front of you in the form of a band-aid or gauze, and in some cases, there may be no answers at all. Sometimes, you just feel broken. But as an adult, no one accepts your pain when your skin is pristine and your lips still curve into a gentle smile when someone laughs. They act as if your pain is a creation of your mind, which in some ways, it is. But how do we explain that this is a creation we can barely control?
My sophomore year of college I woke up from a nightmare, screaming as my heart rate dropped and sobs began breaking through my lips. I remember attempting to move from the position I was laying in, but as my mind instructed me to move my body refused, and I was paralyzed. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't speak, and when I could finally crawl onto two feet, I collapsed. My legs weren't strong enough to hold me up and I couldn't even form a long enough sentence to call for help. I gripped at my heart as I felt it grow tighter and tighter, beating harder with every breath I took. I texted my best friend and crawled to the elevator of my building. She helped me toward her car.
As I sat at the hospital I felt my body grow numb and my chest pain increase. After hours of waiting and testing, they diagnosed me with an infection, gave me an antibiotic, and sent me home. They provided me with a band-aid. A physical solution.
From that night on my chest pain only grew more extreme. It grew to the point where I could no longer walk to class without running out of breath, or collapsing. I scheduled weekly visits with a cardiologist, who after weeks of testing, determined I was, as they called it, an example of perfect health.
I remember that as I was leaving his office he suggested anxiety. He told me to take it easy, cut back on extracurriculars or my academic course load. He told me to take time to relax, and breathe. I laughed at him and asked him if he remembered what it was like to be a college student. He laughed with me and told me to have a wonderful day.
I ignored his comments and continued to search for answers on my own. My symptoms were far too painful to be caused by something as simple as an emotional weakness. I did not have anxiety. I was not stressed. I was not WEAK. My feelings were a creation of my own mind, and I would be fine. I just had to keep pushing. If I could do better, if I could BE better, all of my stress would go away.
The pain grew worse.
Three weeks ago, I was readmitted into the hospital. This time, the chest pain was more intense than ever before, and instead of weakness, the entire left side of my body had gone numb. When I would stand, my balance would shift, causing me to feel as if I was disconnected from my own body, watching myself from a distance. My stomach pain was enough to have me unable to move, and my head felt like it was exploding. Hours passed, and they told me I was an example of perfect health. They suggested anxiety.
I walked out of the hospital in denial. Anxiety meant that I was weak. I was unable to handle my emotions or stress. I know who I am, and I know I can handle my emotions, I can handle my stress. I, as a strong and independent female of the modern century, can HANDLE IT. I was fine on my own, and I didn't need assistance.
It wasn't until that night when I laid in bed sobbing that I realized they were right. I wasn't OK.
As adults, we convince ourselves that we have to be OK. We have to smile and be happy. We have to be social and pretend that we have our whole lives neatly put together. To the outside world, we don't want to be seen as weak or broken. But I will be the first to admit that as a 20-year-old student, I am a mess. I can wholeheartedly say that at least 3 out of the 7 days in a week, I have no idea what I am doing or why. I smile, and laugh and walk around talking to anyone who says hello. I post pictures of my "perfect" life on Instagram, and tweet about the things I know will get a giggle or two. But at the end of the day, I go home and contemplate everything.
Why am I here?
Why can't I just get it together?
Why am I never good enough?
So I have anxiety. I am lost. I'm struggling to find where I fit into this world, and I'm feeling like I may never have the answer. It took me years of college to realize that was OK. Not knowing is OK. Not understanding or believing or having your whole life together is OK. It just means I'm human, and for right now, taking on the world day by day is good enough for me.