If you know me well, you probably know that I have anxiety. No, it is not a life-threatening disease that will kill me, but it affects me way more than I would like it to. You know how it feels to have butterflies in your stomach before a big exam? Well, can you picture experiencing those feelings almost every day? That is what anxiety feels like, and if you think it does not sound fun, you are absolutely right.
You might ask how I live like this. Truth is: it is not easy. But, the one thing that inspires me when I feel overwhelmed by anxiety is my friends and family. And that is why I write this letter. If you are my friend, family member, or any person who has spent a significant amount of time around me—this is for you, and it still cannot describe how thankful I actually am for you.
Thank you for being my friends, no matter what. Believe me, I absolutely do know how exhausting it is to be friends with someone who has anxiety. I get exhausted with myself all the time—I cannot even picture how hard it must be to try to constantly support someone whose feelings you are not even experiencing. Yet, you do anyway. You never become tired of hanging around me, or think any less of me, no matter how much I cry out of feeling overwhelmed or how crazy my fears are. You are all the reason I push through my anxiety when I have to, and I cannot thank you enough for that.
Thank you for not judging my worries, no matter how irrational they are. Yes, I am completely aware of how dumb I sound when I say that I fear that a burglar will break into our dorm, or that I will fail out of school because of one test I did badly on. And I recognize that you probably think my worries are dumb. However, thank you for realizing I am not an alien, and that I experience fears to a greater extent than you do.
Thank you for not simply telling me to stop worrying, no matter how hard it is for you, and actually trying to help me work through my worries. Thank you for listening to me vent for hours about how that cute guy didn’t say hi to me when I walked past him (let’s be real, he probably just didn’t see me). Thank you for your patience while I check for the 100,000th time that I have everything I need before we leave. I know it is hard to picture how I could worry so much—I wonder that myself sometimes. But you just accept it and help me through it.
Thank you for making me feel better when I am panicking. Occasionally, my stress worsens to the point where I panic. While it does not happen to a colossal degree, this usually means that my palms start to sweat. It becomes harder to breathe, my heart starts beating to the point where it feels like it will pop out of my chest, and I start to cry profusely because there is nothing else I can do.
Yes, it is not fun at all, and I know that I look like a five-year-old child having a temper tantrum, which just makes me feel worse. If you have ever seen me experiencing any symptoms of panic, it has probably been very awkward for you. You probably were not aware what was making me feel this way, and maybe you did not know how to deal. But, you tried your absolute best to make me feel better, and that is more than I could ever ask for.
That time that you offered me a chair to sit down in when my knees were shaking uncontrollably, got me a glass of water when I was heavily panting, or even saw me crying out of stress and gave me a big hug—you did not only help me feel better physically. You assured me that you realized what I was going through, and that you wanted to help me. That is one of the greatest gifts I could ever receive.
Thank you for helping me build up my self-esteem, and not judging me for my perfectionism. A lot of my anxiety involves feelings of insecurity, or me feeling, well, not good enough. I do not want to think that I am a worthless person and that everyone hates me, but those thoughts uncontrollably run through my mind anyway. Well, thank you for understanding these thoughts, and doing everything you can to make me feel better. Although it may not seem like a lot, every time you give me a compliment, tell me that I am good at something, or assure me what a great person I am—it brightens my day to a whole new level, and reassures me that people actually do appreciate me.
In addition, thank you for not trying to change me, no matter how much of a perfectionist I am. Thanks for arriving an hour late to that party so you could wait with me while I made sure my makeup was perfect, and staying with me while I spend an extra two hours on that project. Although I appreciate you telling me that I have nothing to be insecure about, I appreciate your love for me—even with all of my insecurities—even more.
Above all, thank you for treating me like a human being. I know that I am different. I recognize that I worry to a much larger extent than most people do, that I overthink everything to the point where I just create more problems, that I am way more sensitive than I should be, and that I overreact to minor things. There are definitely times when I do not feel like a normal person, and there are times when other people make me feel that way too.
But you have never done that. You have realized that although my anxiety can dominate my identity, it is not who I am, and I am just like everyone else. You never judge me or treat me differently because of it, and do everything you can to make me feel just as important as everyone else. You are truly the reason I exist beyond my anxiety, and I do not know where I would be today with any of you.