This is pretty personal, and I'm definitely stepping out of my comfort zone writing this, so I hope someone out there who might be reading this can relate and take comfort in the fact that they are not alone.
Let me start by saying that I've been staring at a blank Microsoft Word document for much longer than I care to admit, because I have never felt more at a loss for words on how to write an article.
But it's time I be open about this, because if I hear one more person tell me, "anxiety isn't real," "your problems aren't valid," or – God forbid – "just get over it," I'm going to lose my damn mind.
See, I've had the idea for and/or have been trying to write this article for over three months now. You read that right; three months.
For three months, I've been trying to figure out how to string together the words that can accurately describe the absolute hell that dealing with anxiety can and has been for me over these last few years. And, in that writing process, I've given up, erased, redrafted, and started over more than a few times because I felt it wasn't right or got nervous that no one would get it.
Here's the thing; no one expects me to have this problem. It seems like very few people can comprehend that someone like me would ever have to deal with panic attacks.
I am a near-constantly positive person; I'm outgoing and loud and one of the last people you would expect to have to deal with this problem. But some days, I have.
Dear God, some days, I have. Those have been some of the worst days, and I've dealt with this problem for a while now. Through that time, I've come to learn that anxiety comes in a lot of ways.
Just to name a few...
There have been moments when I have been alone, and the silence around me terrified me so much, I would start to panic just because I was afraid that I was alone.
There have been days when I have skipped class out of fear that I would be called upon to answer a question in front of everyone, and the possibility of getting the answer wrong was far too consuming to get out of bed and face the day.
There have been nights I've spent lying wide awake in bed crying over things in the past that were irrelevant or trivial things coming in the future that I didn't need to stress about.
There have been times when I have been so nervous to do anything, like drive my car to the store or write a paper, that the fear of screwing up in any way, I couldn't even force myself to leave my house. And not leaving the house only made me feel worse.
And what does anxiety feel like?
Just to name a few...
Sometimes it feels like your chest is completely empty. You feel hallow and you know that it's impossible, and acknowledging that feeling should be invalid only makes it 10 times worse.
Other times, it feels like you're drowning. You can't breathe enough to make it better. So, you hyperventilate and try to catch your breath, but it doesn't go away and you can't stop.
And then there are times when I have felt so afraid of absolutely nothing, I had convinced myself I was worthless, because who gets so freaked out over nothing? Not someone who could possibly be useful, that's for sure.
If you haven't gotten the general theme here by now, I'll explain it: I know most of these problems stem from things that don't matter and that these are things I don't need to worry about. Believe me, I know.
But here's the thing: I can't help it.
If I could convince myself that I would be okay and that I just didn't need to worry, then this wouldn't be the problem. But I can't stop it.
So, don't ever tell me to get over it. Don't tell me I shouldn't act like things are so bad. Don't tell me my anxiety isn't real.
The nights I've spent crying in bed unable to fall asleep because I was beyond nervous are more than enough proof that this is serious.
Please understand that I am not the only one who deals with this type of thing. Please know that there around countless other people in this world who fight this same anxiety that I do.
It can happen to anyone, and believe me, it's hell.
And it is survivable, no matter how hopeless it seems; sometimes it's just harder to remember than others.