My Anxiety, A friend, And a Foe
Before we begin, I understand my title may be slightly misleading. Many of you might be thinking that I am going to recount a traumatic and graphic experience in order to explain my position on mental health properly. As I’m writing this now, that is not my current intent.
But we all know nothing is set in stone, and nearly all things are susceptible to change. I’ve been rattling my brain for the past few days, trying to figure out the best way to go about advocating for mental health. So far, all of my attempts to write a jaw-dropping first column to get you, the readers, to enjoy but also appreciate my work have failed.
Then it hit me. It was a quote from a film that made me understand what it is I need to do. I was sitting on my bed working on homework, watching once again Reese Witherspoon’s “Legally Blonde 2” When I heard, “One honest voice is louder than a crowd.” I thought it was strange, I have seen that movie countless times, but for some reason, when I heard those words, every gear in my head began to turn.
I think it’s because that’s my goal, and it has been since my interest peaked in joining the Spectrum. To be an honest voice that can be heard even in the loudest of places. However, I can’t expect you all to understand the importance of what I am trying to convey.
This is why I’ve decided to make this first article as personal but transparent as possible. My hope is that after you read this, you will understand what someone who’s been diagnosed with something similar may feel, but also, if you are a person who’s been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, I hope this gives you the confidence you need to know you aren’t alone in the way that you feel. I feel it too.
I’ve dealt with my anxiety from a very young age, and I have also had to take care of my mother, who raised me but, unfortunately, also had mental illness and struggled heavily with addiction. This means I learned very young how to survive, how to utilize resources that I had available to me, and also how to understand the way my brain works.
Since I promised to be transparent, here’s a little more honesty. It’s kind of weird sometimes; there is a part of me that has this strong, vibrant confidence that allows me to do things like this.
But there’s another half, one I can feel is there; it’s almost like this emptiness. Its darkness, kind of like all of the lights are on up there, but there’s a part that can’t be lit. Almost like this empty canyon, no matter how much I yell at it to do what I want, it twists the words I yell at it, and it throws them back at me with some kind of vicious fury. And more times than not, that fury is powered by fear.
And like the title says, there are times when the way my brain works puts me at a huge disadvantage to the world, where it’s a foe.
I can’t be in large crowds, earbuds are a necessity for me as I am hypersensitive to sounds and other stimuli, and boy, you can forget trying to get me on certain amusement park rides. My anxiety gets one look at a ride and tries to find all the ways I could possibly die. I don’t enjoy grocery shopping alone, and half the time, I panic because I forget where I parked my car.
Those who do know me on a personal level know that what I deal with can be heavy for many people to experience, especially when one of those people has no experience dealing with mental health or when I’m in a void state, which is what I like to call the “breaking down over anything including spilled milk” type of state.
This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it can last for weeks. And before I go any further, let me disclose that I’ve tried everything short of an exorcism, such as medication, therapy, exercise, diet changes, and sleep changes.
These things haven’t worked for me. I’m not saying they don’t work at all; I know of many people who have excelled with the help of any number of the things I have listed. But for me, it’s unfortunately not been beneficial.
I do get asked by people in my personal life how I manage to deal with the war in my head, and sometimes, I’ll be honest, I can’t. But I have been able to see the positives in the way that my brain works. I am hyper-vigilant in a lot of situations due to my anxiety, but that also means I tend to be a little wary of people.
This is a good and bad thing because I don’t trust someone until they earn my trust. It is unfortunate in some cases, and in others, it may have very well saved my life. I think about a lot of different scenarios for many situations, and due to that, I’ve become extremely resourceful.
If faced with a problem, a majority of the time, I am able to figure out a feasible solution. I tend to have a lot of outside-the-box ideas; I have literally sewed my boyfriend’s glasses, and for those of you who know him, ask. My notes are always well done and handwritten. Apparently, my anxiety is a contributor to that perfectionism, even though I am in no way a perfectionist.
Do you want to know a secret? I don’t hate my anxiety, not even a little bit, not even at all.
I realized a long time ago that this is a part of me; it protects me and sometimes gets in my way.
Sometimes I want to hug it, and sometimes, I wish I could deck it. But ultimately, no matter how bad it gets, I am grateful for it. I think differently. I see the world differently, and ultimately, I do see myself differently.
That’s why my anxiety has become my friend. I chose for it to be that way. I accepted the burden of having a strong emotional connection to my disability. Even with the darkness and the thoughts and the overwhelming fear, I feel most of the time, even when I’m curled up in the shower, breaking down even when I doubt people or myself. Because without it, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t be proud of myself. I wouldn’t be an overcomer; I wouldn’t be me.
I’m not in a position to say that everyone feels this way because I’m not everyone else; every person deals with their own mental illness or disability in their own way. Some may hate it. Some might wish that they could be different.
But while I’m here, writing to you, telling you the importance of my mission and why it means so much to me, I’ll be here to remind you that you aren’t broken. You aren’t damaged, you are beautiful, and ultimately you are not alone. Just like how I’m not broken, just a little cracked.