I had anxiety before I knew I had anxiety

I am often asked when I first started dealing with my mental illnesses, and I generally go on a tangent of how it started when I dealt with conversion disorder and subsequently depression at the age of 19. Anxiety, however, is generally an after thought that I mostly considered an unsurprising side effect of my high-functioning personality, crippling depression and other mental health issues. Until now. A few weeks ago, I was transferring files from an old computer of mine to a new one. I stumbled upon my old high school papers and decided to read a few of them, just for fun. Nestled in the literary analysis and Shakespeare essays was a file simply labelled “anxiety.docx”. It was penned at 11:37pm in early 2012 – almost a year before I was officially diagnosed with a mental illness. I don’t have any memory of writing this, nor do I remember dealing with anxiety in high school. My mind had blocked it out. So here it is, my 17-year-old self’s take on anxiety, and also the first time I ever wrote about anything mental health related…six years ago.

Anxiety is an overwhelming feeling. It would be wrong to call it a feeling, rather it is a mix of horribly uncomfortable sensations and feelings that feed off one another and perpetuate into something horrendous from nothing. Whoever said it was impossible to make something from nothing was sorely mistaken. It can begin from something as small as a butterfly in my stomach, not even butterflies, but simply one lone butterfly, trying to find its way out but causing me the discomfort. It builds and builds until it suddenly isn’t alone and the butterflies are working into a frenzy causing a terrible knot inside my
stomach mixed with nausea. As if this isn’t weird enough, my mind begins to race, thinking thoughts that aren’t even really thoughts, but simply gibberish nonsense that I will never be able to understand or recall because it’s too busy trying to figure out why I now feel dizzy. My hands begin to tremble and I sweat profusely, trying to decide whether I’m shivering because I am freezing cold, yet feeling hot and claustrophobic all at the same time. Did someone just call my name? Probably, but how would I be able
to tell, I’m practically in a different universe. Words escape me and my mouth feels as if I’ve been chewing cotton and haven’t had water in days. I open my mouth to speak but all words desert me and I feel my lips begin to crack. I clear my throat and try my breathing exercises while trying to relax my tense muscles at the same time, becoming more and more frustrated as I get more and more tense and feel my fingers and toes lose feeling from the sheer coldness from the lack of fresh blood flow.

To say I get anxious would be an understatement. To say I feel as if I am dying of a heart attack would be a tragic overstatement. I lie somewhere in the middle, as usual. Never
too little and never too much, like the baby bear’s perfect porridge for goldilocks. Well, it was perfect for her, but how did the baby bear feel about it? How would he know if it was too much or too little if all he ever had was his size? What if he didn’t actually like that size but didn’t know any different, or worse, was never offered any different? It is possible he could have wanted something more but could never get it, because in the middle would be all he ever was. Is that a flaw? Is it wrong to want more than what
you have, to strive for something more? I always thought that’s what we we’re supposed to want. There are conflicting messages: one says to be content and accept yourself the way you are, while the other says keep trying to better yourself. Well, whatever it is, I clearly don’t know the answer. All I know is, I can’t this isn’t me. I’m not the kid who
gets these attacks about nothing, I don’t freak out over small stuff. So where did this anxiety start? I was the smart kid, straight A’s, very conscientious, a “natural born leader”. I was supposedly “gifted”, but never skipped a grade or anything so I wouldn’t be a weird genius kid. So I stayed on the normal path, finding a comfortable spot in the middle, until the middle began to close on me and I got stuck.
Sometimes I just want one day, one hour, one moment, where I’m completely free of worry. I don’t have to worry about if my eraser will work, if I will have a good future, if I will feel sick at lunch, if my worry will worry me further. Stupid, isn’t it? To worry about being worried; to have anxiety attacks about the possibility of a severe anxiety attack. It’s one of those positive feedback loops you learn about in biology, except those loops can either end in birth, or death; two options I am not in the mood to deal with at the age of 17. 17. It’s an odd age. Not quite an adult, not exactly a kid, somewhere in the middle.
I’m bored of being in the middle. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, I really am, I just strive for more. Why? Because if I think of my future, I’ll try to get good grades ,which will get me into a good university, which will allow me to gain a good education, so I can have a good graduation, and get a good job, and a good house with a good car, filled with a good husband and good kids, and life would be good. Good is a stupid word. How can you measure good? It’s too subjective. We need a better measure of these things, otherwise we are either settling or striving for better than good, or worse, we’re stuck in the stupid middle. I hate being stuck. You’re neither here nor there and there really isn’t any sort of direction you’re heading in. There’s only one scary part to being ahead: you can still move back if you lose sight of things for just a second.

Sometimes I move back, but mostly I move forward. I wrote a letter to myself at this age with all the things I wish I could have told the anxious girl who wrote this 6 years ago. It will be part of my next post, titled “Dear Past Me”. 

Keep Surviving by Living.


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