From pre-k to college, I have dealt with it.
First day of school? Too much change, too fast.
New haircut? Too scared because no one would recognize me.
Picture day? Too much pressure.
And then before I know it, I usually fall down.
Scared of the unknown, terrified of not having control, and obsessive about things not going exactly as planned: anxiety has been my biggest weakness (and strength) for as long as I can remember.
*If I can count to ten before I pass this stoplight I will ace my exam*
*If that runner in the distance doesn't stop moving before my alarm goes off nothing bad will happen to me today*
I would try to predict the outcome of my day by events I had no control over, but when I tried to explain this habit I had formed no one seemed to understand.
It comes in waves.
My senior year was when it reached its peak. I spent all four years of high school overloading my schedule with honors and Advanced Placement courses, community service, varsity track and cross country, a boyfriend, work - you name it I did it and it never felt like it was enough. I was yearning to get into a top tier college and in order to get there I fell to countless anxiety attacks and sleepless nights. Upon graduation all my hard work paid off I was enrolled in my dream university. After a messy break up with a high school fling and cutting off loose ties from hometown drama, I finally felt ready to start college. In my head that meant no more worries, no more stressing. Away from home I would be in control.
I started off my freshman year excited, but nervous. For once, I did not pass out on my first day or go numb when I had to introduce myself in class. I started off strong, I was making friends, going to parties, taking part in stupid decisions that I justified I would learn from them later. But what usually happens, with my anxiety, is that it comes tumbling in all at once.
One thing lead to another and my "dream" school did not end up being the palace I assumed it would be. After spending a year on its prestigious grounds, I left. Anxiety attacks, marginalization on campus, and lack of comfortably made my transition out of the university seem like the right choice, but it was hard saying goodbye to the place I felt I had worked my whole life to gain entry to.
Fast forward two years, new school, seemingly new life: new friends, boy friend, extracurriculars, even a goddamn new major. Junior year and my anxiety is right back to its highest point. Back to having my days dictated by a tightly-bound schedule and needing to plan weeks in advance to spend time with my friends, just as it had felt in high school.
Back to passing out after hours of staring at the same formulas on repeat or vocab words who's prefixes change their whole meaning. Instead of worrying about what college I will receive my undergrad I now find myself glued to my calculator before and after every exam, what score can I get to safeguard my gpa for law school? Will a law school want me? How will I pay?
From an outsider it may seem like I have it all figured out, resume overloaded, my schedule perfectly penciled in: each moment accounted for and past-time carefully jotted down. However, my anxiety demands perfection and perfection demands time - more time than I realistically have to spare. I don't fall down anymore like I used to, I've learned the signs of my attacks, but it has taken so much time to get to that point.
It frustrates me, people who joke about the severity of anxiety without realizing how debilitating it can be. Anyone hurting out there, I feel for you. When you feel your stomach knot while sitting in the center seat on an airplane, excessive worry that your loved one will leave you, or an unexplainable need to straighten out that picture on your desk, again and then one more time.
Try to talk to someone about it, or write/sing about how you feel. You may think your anxiety will destroy you, but you have the power to turn your weakness into your strength.