Many of my friends and family members have probably heard me mention my anxiety disorder, but don’t fully understand what that means. I mean how could they? It’s different for everyone. For me, it’s mostly fear of everything. I also have social anxiety, which is at the top of my fears. This isn’t me being “dramatic” or “sensitive.” It’s an actual diagnosis – Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’m not desperate for attention or looking for sympathy. I just wanted explain how I’m living with anxiety and why I do the things I do.
I’m not 100% sure on how to put any of this in to words to where people will understand but I guess I’ll just start talking about what anxiety is like on daily basis.
Waking up is usually the hardest part because I fear irrational things like, what if I drop my plate of food in the dining hall and everyone sees me? Sounds funny, right? But I can picture this and several other irrational scenarios so clearly and stress about them so much that I have to drag myself out of bed. If I could just “not worry about it,” trust me, I would, but living with anxiety is like Netflix rolling right into the next episode, except instead of another 40 minutes of Grey’s Anatomy, it’s “Morgan falls down the stairs in front of everyone,” or “Morgan can’t stop crying and everyone laughs at her,” and my mind refuses to quit watching.
At night, I worry about terrible things that usually have nothing to do with me right now. I think things like “what if me and my boyfriend break up?” or “what if I’m told I can’t have kids?” And don’t even get me started on ISIS. I sometimes cry, but mostly just get super sad. I used to pull my hair out, little strands, until I fall asleep. I’m aware this sounds bizarre, but that’s how I coped. Please never tell me that I sound “crazy.” That word is dismissive and dangerous because it implies I have something to be ashamed of. I don’t. And that’s why I’m writing this.
Going to school/class has always been super hard for me because being around a lot of people stresses me out. Living with anxiety makes me constantly think that people are judging me if they look at me for longer than a few seconds. It’s crippling and I missed a TON of school and said I was “sick” … but that was a lie. Most of my absences were because I just couldn’t handle going through 8 hours of dealing with people, or something happened to cause me to have a panic attack.
Oh yeah, panic attacks. Those are especially bad. Usually when I’m too stressed or something is upsetting me and giving me anxiety, I cry and cry and fall into the fetal position, or at least lay on the floor or bed. I feel like I can’t breathe, I gasp for air, pull my hair out more, and I feel as though this attack is never going to end. After it’s slowed down, I lay wherever I’m at for another ten or fifteen minutes with literally nothing running through my head. I’m just limp. Luckily I’ve only had them at home, and I had one at school once but it was in the bathroom and it was a small one.
The fear of having a panic attack in public is enough to make me want to hide at home so another thing I did quite regularly was cancel plans with people for various reasons or lies. I apologize to my friends for this. It’s not because of you guys. If my anxiety was too bad I would literally lay in the dark for hours either crying or binge eating, then throwing up my food later or wishing I could. I have gained more control over that now. But like everything related to anxiety, it’s a work in progress.
Living with anxiety, for me at least, is like being trapped in your own mind. Everything in my life could be perfectly fine and going well, but my mind tricks itself into thinking that something is terribly wrong and that my life is completely falling apart. This is why I get depressed easily because it takes a toll on my life, and I isolate myself from everyone when that happens. It’s a never-ending battle, however. I was too scared to tell my friends because of how they would react, but at the same time I really needed them because I felt so alone.
My aunt plays a prominent role in that part of my life because I knew when I couldn’t tell anyone about this, I could tell her. Anxiety, like depression runs in families and I didn’t just inherit her love of writing and Kristen Bell. Sure, sometimes she’d give me some tough (and I mean REALLY tough) love, but that was her trying to make sure that I didn’t get back into a toxic relationship or I didn’t get behind in school. When it came to actually living with anxiety, however, she was always there. I could text or call her at anytime and she’d always know which pep talk to use to help me stop spiraling or make me feel better even for a second. She and my grandfather helped me find a therapist during my junior year in high school and while it’s helped a lot, I still get upset that I have this disorder. It’s affected my daily life and even though I seek help, some days, getting better seems very bleak and unreachable. Plenty of times I have been led to that horrible place where you don’t want to wake up the next morning. Thankfully, I have a great support group from my family so I have gotten better about that, though it still happens every now and again. My semicolon tattoo is a reminder that my story is not over.
Like I said, work in progress.
I guess what I’d really want my friends and family to get from this is that people who suffer from anxiety cannot help it. We are not “crazy” or “overreacting.” After an attack ends, we will be back to normal for a while, but we are not “cured.” Anxiety is something we live with, like some people live with diabetes. There is so much I’m going to do to try and better cope with my anxiety – more therapy, consistent exercise, maybe even medication. I appreciate the love and support from the people who do know what I struggle with. I did not write this to make anyone sad, or feel bad for me. I don’t need that. I just need support, compassion and kindness. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that?
If you or someone you know is living with anxiety, see your primary care physician or a mental health professional to seek treatment. You can also visit ulifeline, an online resource for college mental health.
They have an anonymous screener that screens for thirteen of the most common mental health conditions that college students and young adults face.