On Anxiety

What if I’m found out?

My friends won’t care, they support me. What if people think I’m doing this for attention? What if potential employers find out? My parents say to never talk about it. But it’s relatable, and it’s all true. Maybe this will help someone. That’s awfully arrogant. Stop caring about what others think, you care too much. But I do care. I’ve come so far

It’s been nearly three years since I found out about myself. It was obvious to my psychiatrist within five minutes of meeting me. To me it was the ordinary state of being that I had lived for 24 years

The wheels continuously turn and don’t take breaks. Every scenario is analyzed. Every past action scrutinized. Every email re-read and re-phrased multiple times before being sent an hour later. It takes me an hour to finalize the mental script before I cold call any business. Every bus that is missed, calculations are made to see how late I might possibly be and the ten different ways I can apologize. What is actually bothering me? Can I name it, and is it real?

Sometimes, it’s not real. It could be an imbalance of the 5.5 different psychiatric medications I regularly consume. Only one missed dose means withdrawal lightheadedness for hours. Too much of another means lethargy that caffeine cannot counter. And when a hormonal shift occurs, I need more to counter the effects – if I successfully remember which week it is. Three years of treatment and I still can’t always get it right.

When I get it right, my brain is silenced. It’s a peaceful state, if empty. Is this what it’s like to be most people? At first I didn’t want the drugs because I didn’t want to be what they represented to me. Defective. Weak. Mentally ill.

But when there is activity to fill the mental space created by suppressing the anxiety, I can just be. Words are spoken without rehearsal. Tasks are methodically completed; paralysis is no longer a common state. Stress is short-lived: I know most problems will not matter tomorrow. And I can laugh all the time.

Having generalized anxiety disorder explained everything I didn’t like about myself in high school: lonely, shy (a self-diagnosis), selectively intense. Taking steps to confront it made it possible to become the person I wanted to be in time for my arrival at Stern.

I’m not too nervous to speak in class anymore. I can go to parties without worrying about who I’ll know. I’m confident enough to take leadership roles on campus. I know I have friends who want to spend time with me. At the end of last year, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I finally did everything right, and I can just be happy.

Until it all came crashing down. When I got badly hurt in more ways than one.

Rationally, I know my recent problems are temporary. It will pass. But anxiety is not rational. The old thought patterns are dying to break their way back into my brain when there is mental room to spare.

The daily routine is physically painful. I sleep all the time and yet am constantly exhausted. I don’t want to be at beer blast anymore, but I’m afraid of being forgotten if I go home alone. No one needs to see me cry, let it out only when no one can hear.

And it’s not Stern’s fault – not even remotely. In fact, being here has kept me sufficiently busy and stimulated to the optimal level that keeps me happy, at least previously.

 I don’t want to be a victim. But I don’t feel strong anymore.

My body will heal, and I’ll be back to normal. But that doesn’t make it any easier right now.

You’re better this week that you were last week. But I’m not my best self anymore. What if the person I was last year isn’t who I really am?

What scares me is the constant struggle inside my head. Anxiety is what scares me, but the fear just keeps the cycle turning.

I’m afraid to admit that I’ve been struggling with depression since school started; I don’t know whether it’s better to put on a brave face. I’m afraid of the long road to recovery. I’m afraid that my anxiety will get the best of me. Specifically, the part that’s screaming inside at me because I can’t get over it.

I’m afraid to sign my name to this piece. I’m afraid I’ll be recognized anyway, but I’m also afraid that I won’t be.

Most of all, I’m afraid that I may have lost my spark. And worse, that it won’t come back.

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