I have been battling anxiety ever since I can remember. I missed out on a lot in high school because I was too anxious to do a lot of the typical things my friends were doing. I lost friends because they just thought I was flaking. I stopped playing sports my freshman year. I skipped out on several opportunities to travel, to volunteer, to explore the things I am so passionate about.
It wasn’t really my anxiety that held me back. It was the fact that I was ashamed of it. I had made it this secret that I protected with my life at the hands of the people and things that I loved. I always assumed that if I told my friends why I was flaking, they wouldn’t understand or accept me anymore. It wasn’t until I began being honest with the people I love and myself about my anxiety that I began to realize that I could do all of those things I had missed out on before.
Now, at 21, a senior in college, I still have anxiety. That hasn’t changed. The same things still scare me and send me into a panic at times. The greatest difference is that I began to talk about it. I know, how cliché. (Yes, I am a Psychology major.)
I began to treat my anxiety as it was: a fact. My eyes are green, my hair is brown, dogs are my life, I love to laugh and I have anxiety. Yes, I check the time constantly. I depend on routine, on re-checking my alarms and calendar five times, on consistency. If you make plans with me, expect me to almost back out ten to fifteen times. If you break our plans, show up early, or show up late: expect me to be anxious. Anything less than a 45 minute warning will make me break out into hives. That reminds me, I will probably be broken out in hives 85 percent of the time we go out in public.
But now, I will go out. I will make new friends, I will do spontaneous things, I will head into the unknown (not fearlessly, but I’ll do it.) I will still flake sometimes because that’s just how it works. Some days the anxiety will win a battle or two, but I will always win the war as long as I have people who are willing to fight the battle beside me.
To those who are afraid of talking about their anxiety: I am not going to sugarcoat this. You will lose people you thought were your friends. Some people just won’t understand. Some just won’t be willing to stick around and that’s okay. By talking about your anxiety, you will learn who your true friends are. You will be able to live freely and more closely to your true self. You will still be anxious and scared, but you won’t have to be anxious and scared on your own.