I can't tell you exactly how, when, or what led me to hypothesize that I may suffer from anxiety, all I know is I was aware of something being "off" based on my mental and physical reactions to certain external situations. My body would respond to situations (many of which were social and required presenting a topic or talking with new peers) in a "grotesque" way, the thoughts in my mind would race at a mile a minute, my legs began to feel wobbly as my chest tightened and my hands grew damp from sweat. Each symptom I experienced impeded me from actively partaking in basic social interactions bestowed upon me and even led to me hyperactively avoiding such situations. I profoundly remember one such instance in high school, a repeated instance that took me months to "conquer"; it occurred in the same place, at the same time, 5 days a week... the cafeteria at my high school during my sophomore year.
Every school day, during my lunch hour I would sit with my closest friends as we gushed about our days and plans for the weekend.
All of which I was more than capable and rather excited to handle. However, as lunch came to a close, a daunting task appeared and called on me to come face to face with it... throwing my trash away. Now I know you're probably confused or perhaps even stifling a giggle now, because how can getting up to throw trash away possibly cause someone so much stress that their hands get clammy?
The truth is, until recently I didn't have an explicit or reliable reason behind it, all I knew was I had to force one of my friends to go to the trash with me every day because my mind convinced me that I "threw trash away wrong", "walked weird", or "someone will approach me if I'm alone and say something to me to which I won't be able to respond".
My mind was clouded with these thoughts and they seem paralyzed me from completing a simple task without an added crutch. After this instance and many more instances that left my body shaking and filled my eyes with tears, I began thinking that something was seriously wrong with me- by the looks of it no one else around me experienced the same things that I did so it must not be healthy.
Even though I recognized these discrepancies in my mental health, I didn't truly act upon this knowledge until recently during the beginning of my spring semester of freshman year.
While in high school, I routinely pushed my mental health to the side, arguing that my mental health was fine and I was exaggerating the situation. I blame this partly to myself, I always want to come off as someone who is a put-together day in and day out, but also partly to those around me, namely my school system who never once discussed mental health with us (an age group where many began to become diagnosed with various mental illnesses). Upon reaching college, my mental health was pushed to the foreground and I quickly found myself seeking treatment: first, in the comfort of my dorm room in the shape of breathing and grounding exercises, then in the comfort of my friends who allowed me to cry to them about anything and everything, and finally in the form of an actual therapy group that meets once a week.
Up until I joined my therapy group, I never truly believed that what I was feeling would be heard or understood, rather they would be quickly sympathized with before being shoved to the side in order to spare someone else's emotions Up until I joined my therapy group, I led myself to believe that my anxiety was an exaggeration and I was making something out of nothing. Up until I joined my therapy group, I never set aside time to check in with myself mentally in the way I do when I check my physicality. Up until I joined my therapy group, I believed I would have to suffer in silence.
My battle with anxiety has been one that has lasted many years and likely won't stop soon, however, I am not afraid to admit that fact. After struggling for many years and trying my hardest to bottle my emotions as well as any other evidence of anxiety, I have finally come to terms with my diagnosis and have realized there is truth in the statement "it's ok to not be ok". This realization has garnered me more confidence in myself and has led me to be more willing to speak openly and honestly about my mental health as well as those around me who suffer from the same problems.
To those who remain unconvinced, my anxiety is, never was nor will be an exaggeration and I urge you to find that understanding somewhere inside you.
One of my biggest barriers as a result of my anxiety is constantly overthinking every word, every action, etc made by those around me and often misjudging them to be done out of anger, frustration or annoyance. By having more people that understand or strive to understand what I suffer from, I not only create a larger team of supporters, but I also am able to avoid awkward situations that involve being repeatedly asking the other individual what I did wrong before constantly apologizing for what I did and for my mental health always getting in the way of normal situations.
To those who remain unconvinced, I ask that you please keep harsh and judgmental comments to yourself. I have placed enough of those on myself to last me at least three lifetimes and I truly don't need any more from anyone. I ask that if you have comments that want to minimize my sufferings or involve any negative comments about my anxiety, so please keep them to yourself and share them with no one else but your mind. Hearing these hurtful comments not only pushes me back in my fight to reach a point of 100% acceptance of my mental health but also reverts me to the girl that suffered alone through the majority of high school- a place I never want to be again
To those who remain unconvinced, too bad. I know the severity and seriousness of my mental health and I have taken the steps needed to better it. I don't need your approval for it and I will continue to treat myself and bring light to every type of mental illness out there.