I have anxiety.
More specifically, I have Panic Disorder, meaning I experience frequent panic attacks with no identifiable trigger. I also have Generalised Anxiety Disorder in the sense that I am frequently anxious about any number of things without any real understanding as to why. Although I didn’t receive a diagnosis until after I started having Panic Attacks at 18, it’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I’ve been thinking about all this a lot recently. I go through periods whereby I am too afraid to open facebook messenger, to send important text messages, or to ask harmless questions. I end up trapped in a pathetic cycle of stress and fear. There are conversations that I need to have in order to move forward with life and that are literally of no inconvenience to anyone else, yet I refuse to have them because something sits in my head and tells me otherwise.
As a child I was constantly in trouble for being rude to my mother’s friends. For not looking adults in the eyes or saying hallo. Constantly waiting for conversations to be started first, always short responses, never asking questions, simply because I was too terrified that I was an inconvenience and scared to stumble over my words. There were of course occasions where I actively chose to be rude, but I always had a reason for doing so and was aware of it. In every other other situation I believed that my silence was polite, that shrinking into the background was my life calling. As an adult I recognise this now, but as it happened it just felt like life.
Truly understanding what anxiety does in my life has been a very gradual process. A series of small wakeup calls, tiny pokes, cracks in my reality.
I have a lot of thoughts, but I rarely speak up. I’ve been a youth leader for around two years now at two different youth groups, yet I could probably count on my fingers how many times I’ve spoken up during debriefs. I would sit in english classes bursting at the seams because I just had so much to say but was too afraid to get the words out. I’m not scared to be wrong, I don’t really care what people think of me, so long as I’m doing my best to be a good person, but I am constantly terrified of some unknown thing. This is my reality, and I’m becoming more and more aware of just how limiting it is.
It is perfectly normal to be anxious from time to time. It’s what keeps the human race alive. Without an amount of anxiety and fear we’d have died out thousands of years ago thanks to pure stupidity. It’s when you find that you’re trying to shrink your entire existence into a tiny, invisible speck of dust just to exist that it becomes a problem.
I refuse to let anxiety ruin me. I accept that it is a disorder and that there are many aspects of it that sheer willpower will not overcome. This is what separates a disorder from simple human emotion and survival mechanisms, but I refuse to just accept that I have a mental illness and therefor continue to hide. I am deeply sadden for young people who are told that they have an anxiety disorder and therefor continue to hide and believe there is no hope. I am dedicating myself, a small amount of my energy, to practicing life, whatever that means. Sometimes it will take a whole day to respond to an email, but I will do it. That is a success, and I believe that if I continue working, one day I will be able to tell myself that I do not deserve to be a tiny, invisible thing. I am a human being who has every right to take up the space I am placed in. I wasn’t born to be a skeleton.
Sometimes days are bad. Sometimes I feel as if my entire life is on a chair tilting backwards, moments from a fall, a terrifying tightness in my chest, and hands that shake with every movement, but there is surprisingly always hope. In a vlogbrothers video On Mental Illness (and the end of Pizzamas) John Green says the following
“I’ve learned that there is hope and that when I feel that there isn’t hope my brain is lying to me.”
I leave you with this: Do not ever let an illness become you. Do not let anxiety be the end of you. Beauty and value comes in a vivid assortment, and you will never be hollow or unreal. I am learning this, and I hope you can believe this too.
All my love.