I have been extremely anxious since I was born.
My earliest childhood memories involve having a nervous stomach nearly 24/7, playing by myself at daycare because I was terrified of talking to the other kids, and excessive crying and panic attacks to the point of vomiting.
I didn't really begin to form close relationships until adolescence because my childhood anxiety prevented me from forming bonds with others.
I clung to my mom for dear life, even as a baby.
Change has always been extremely difficult for me as I worry excessively about the unknown. I like to be in control of my own life, so situations where I don't know the who, what, where, when, why will cause me to panic.
I had severely crippling irrational fears in childhood, such as my parents forgetting to pick me up at daycare, everyone secretly hating me, losing loved ones even if they were in perfect health, etc.
These things never happened, but my brain fully convinced me that one day they would.
My life was a living nightmare in childhood. I was never happy because my brain never allowed me to be.
However, this is only half of my lived experiences.
I am now a fairly decent high-functioning adult. I'm a Senior in college majoring in Communication Studies.
I've been described as a social butterfly by most people I know.
I love public speaking as well as any other type of performance.
I'm not afraid of being in front of crowds. In fact, that's where I am most confident.
I bet you weren't expecting that from someone with anxiety, were you?
That's because I have high-functioning anxiety.
Anxiety is different for every person, but for me it means the following:
I am the definition of a perfectionist. I would consider myself high-achieving because I won't let myself be anything less than amazing. Being busy and focused keeps my thoughts from getting out of control.
I have certain bad habits that I can't control, such as nail biting, peeling off the skin around my nails and biting the skin on the inside of my mouth.
I rarely use the word "no" because I don't want to disappoint anyone. Letting others down is my absolute biggest fear.
I'm a hardcore people-pleaser. I will light myself on fire to keep others warm.
I do for others what I wish they would do for me, but that rarely ever happens.
High-functioning anxiety has turned me into a walking paradox. For me, it makes the hard things easy and the easy things hard.
I can deliver a speech in front of thousands of people without getting nervous, but I can't make a phone call.
I can perform spoken word poetry in front of others, but I can't ask the Walmart employee where something is located.
Most people don't believe that I suffer from anxiety.
Maybe it's because it's an invisible disorder that makes itself visible in a million subtle ways.