I am just a girl. A girl with dreams. A girl with worries. A girl with so much love in her heart sometimes it hurts.
I am a girl that gets frustrated but not sad. A girl who complains a lot but is so grateful. A girl who loves creating inside jokes with complete strangers almost as much as the pursuit of making eye contact with every soul that passes by.
So it surprises people when I am physically unable to dial a simple seven-digit number and make a phone call. When I am physically unable to concentrate on anything important until I hear my teacher make it to my name at the bottom of the attendance list, as I rehearse in my mind whether or not I will say "here" or simply raise my hand. When I am physically unable to ask a store employee where to find an item I'm looking for because I'd rather waste 20 minutes trying to find it myself.
There are times where I feel totally alone. Don't get me wrong, I am surrounded by so many communities that play a role in my overall happiness as they support me in every area of my life. I have my home family, my home-friends family, my school-friends family, my education department family, and my diabetes family. As grateful as I am to have so many families that draw on my strengths and help me overcome my weaknesses, none of them specialize in anxiety. They find a way to help me through every other struggle in the whole wide universe except for this one. And that is what makes this so incredibly lonely. So incredibly lonely.
I feel like there's something wrong with me. I feel like I'm always overreacting when I find a task to be daunting because others don't even bat an eyelash. I feel like I'm making excuses and justifications and my reasons are almost never good enough, or at least not understood. It is exhausting to pretend you're okay with something that gives you anxiety, which you have to do often because you're afraid of the judgement you may receive as a consequence.
It is my biggest insecurity.
It's confusing, you know? I have worked so hard to build an empire of self-confidence. It started as a little box that looked like this [ ] and over the last couple of years I have filled it with leadership skills, perseverance, dedication, and courage. If you read one of my latest articles, you know I am an ambivert. Being an ambivert with anxiety is like a double whammy- my heart faces a lot of inner conflict as these aspects of my personality overlap, contradict and reinforce one another. I am just beginning to put the complicated pieces together.
But here's the thing. When I looked up "high functioning anxiety" online, I found so many things that do not apply to me. I am not a workaholic. I am a perfectionist but not in a Type A kind of way. I do not struggle with depression or have a hard time getting through each day. I don’t have any abnormal nervous habits. I do not avoid eye contact (remember, it's one of my favorite things), I do not hate making small talk, and I do not isolate myself (unless I'm introverting;).
But I worry. A lot. More than I should. About the future, things I can’t change, the unknown. I can’t fall asleep at night because my brain doesn't know how to shut off (apparently). I put too much pressure on myself to exceed expectations. I overthink I overthink I overthink. I don’t let little things go. I analyze conversations. I have trouble concentrating so I procrastinate. I have a crippling fear of letting people down. I am always thinking three steps ahead. I hate calling for take-out, going to the pharmacy, and navigating huge crowds. I hate driving on the highway, driving to anywhere I've never been, driving in the snow, and driving in the dark. I hate public speaking, I hate taking tests, and I hate when there is too much waiting time because I will think and worry and think some more.
This is what I tell people: if I don't have enough time to let myself think or worry about something and I just have to do it, then I'll do it. Sometimes I'm able to flip the switch and pretend I can do it until BABAM, see it wasn't that hard. But it was hard. I just have to pretend it's not.
I know that to get through life, there are times where that is my only option. Just pretend, persevere, and get it over with. And everybody gets nervous about things they've never done before, but then it gets better for them with time. Since I have high functioning anxiety, though, just because I prove I can do something once doesn't mean I'm suddenly cured of all my fears and next time will be an anxiety-free experience. It doesn't work like that. I don't work like that. I just have to keep pretending. It's not about the final product for me; it's all about the process.
I will have you know that I am quite the badass and I am very aware of how capable I am of accomplishing anything I want to- that part of my confident box is at an all-time high. But it's how I get there that matters to me. I know I am capable of reading a paragraph out loud in class. I know that I am very capable of putting gas in a car. I know that I am capable of driving to a nearby place that I've never been to before. But once I begin to overthink it- and I really can't help it when this happens- it's over. The anxiety may lessen in certain situations over time, but I'm beginning to accept that it's not something I will "outgrow" or that will just stop happening to me.
My anxiety is simultaneously the most inconsistent, confusing, constant, and pressing aspect of my life. It has made a nest at the top of my brain and contains wispy vines that laugh as they tie around my ankles. Every single day.
If I matched the descriptions and characteristics online, I suppose I could try medication or therapy. But the reality of accepting that as my fate is absolutely terrifying. Because that's not me. Textual evidence guys, it's not. But then where does that leave me? I'm like in between everything, always, for the rest of my life.
Then I came across the words, "develop a new relationship with your high functioning anxiety". Anyone that knows me knows how much I love developing relationships. I love to invest in, upkeep, and maintain healthy relationships with other people. And all those families I mentioned earlier? They allow me to maintain a healthy relationship with myself. But as you know, anxiety is the exception. This one I have to do on my own.
It's time for me to develop a new relationship with my high functioning anxiety. One that is accepting. One that is kind.
I'm done pretending it doesn't exist when it does. I'm done treating it as a lighthearted joke because I'm embarrassed when people don't understand. I'm done feeling bad about myself when I feel like I can't do something as simple as asking the waiter to give separate checks. I'm done telling myself I won't succeed at something as important as my MTEL tests because I'm letting my anxiety take over. I'm done. I'm done. I'm done.
It's time for me to develop a new relationship with my high functioning anxiety. One that is understanding. One that is productive.
I'm going to start accepting that sometimes things are harder for me overcome. I'm going to recognize the things that trigger my anxiety and focus on how to set myself up for success in every situation I'm faced with. I'm going to focus on my breathing and not on my thoughts. And everyday when I wake I'm going to tell myself: You are a badass warrior and you can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
I've tried to write this article countless times over the past two years, and we all know I've shared some deep and personal stories with the Odyssey Online. But I can literally write about my diagnosis, my guardian angel, my heartbreaks, and my inner core all day every day. This insecurity of having anxiety has suffocated me in ways that nothing else ever has.
But now I am developing a new relationship with my high functioning anxiety. One that will allow me to breathe. One that will allow me to thrive. Into the confidence box it goes [ ]. The first step for me is being able to write about it.
In case nobody has told today that you that you are a badass warrior, know that I think that you are. And I always will.
P.S. You can do this. <3