“I am not my anxiety”

Project Description:

Only a few of my friends and family members know that I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder in high school after going to psychotherapy to deal with physical manifestations of my anxiety. The first time I can remember feeling so anxious that I lost control was in fifth grade. I failed a math test and hid it from my parents for a week. My dad kept asking me about the grade and for that entire week I could only think about that test. My days turned into blurs as I become obsessed with my grade and how my parents would eventually react. The week ended with my dad asking to see my test and me locking myself in my bathroom, screaming and shaking uncontrollably as he threatened to break the door.

My dad didn’t care that I had failed the test; he was scared by my reaction and wanted to comfort me. My parents have never been overbearing, pushy, or insensitive. They’re open minded, caring, and willing to do absolutely anything to ensure my mental, emotional, and physical health. I was extremely lucky to grow up in this type of environment, and for that I feel guilty. There is no reason I should have an anxiety disorder because I always had an incredibly stable support system. If I was given every opportunity to be happy and calm, why could I not feel those things? And do I even have a right to be upset and anxious when others don’t even have roofs over their heads or food in their stomachs? This guilt has haunted me forever, and only perpetuates my anxiety attacks.

After therapy, I began to gain some control by implementing certain coping mechanisms, but I still deal with it daily. My anxiety causes me to overanalyze until I’m thinking about things that don’t exist. It has created jealousy, extremely low self- esteem, body image issues, trust issues, and hopelessness. I hate my body because I obsess over its flaws. I hate meeting new people because I’m constantly worried that they’ll think I’m weird, fat, ugly, or annoying; that no one will want me, because I have a problem.

Most people don’t understand what goes on in my head, and for that reason I am often told to ‘calm down’, ‘breathe’, ‘relax’, or ‘stop’. What no one comprehends is that I literally cannot control my anxiety. I can recognize it as irrational, but I cannot change the way my mind works. So when someone I loved and trusted told me to ‘fix myself’, I was devastated, because there was nothing I could do, and they didn’t believe that. It’s taken years, but I’ve gained acceptance regarding my anxiety. While life would be undoubtedly easier without it, it makes me me. Anxiety forces me to expect the worst, hate my body, trust no one, feel lonely, and act jealous. But it also makes me caring, honest, quirky, open-minded, loyal, relatable, and understanding. So no, I will not ‘fix myself’.