Written on October 12, 2015
I wrote this blog as my eyes were filled with tears and pure anger. I treated it as a venting journal prompt, but afterwards when i read it i was surprised by how powerful it was. It is one of my proudest pieces of writing, and i am going to share it again.
To those of you who say "Anxiety isn't even that bad." It can cause more damage than you think.
At first, i published this privately. It’s long. It’s my story. It’s for me. Only me. But, a part of me felt I needed to share it.
It’s my fault. It’s my fault for letting you control me. It’s my fault for letting you affect me. You sure are one pain in the ass, but I have let you defeat me. Well Anxiety, I don’t want you to defeat me anymore.
A question is often asked. “What was your earliest childhood memory?” My answer. Vague, yet truthful, Fear.
I was a scared preschooler. I enjoyed my life at home, smiling and laughing with Mommy and Daddy. Home was my sanctuary. At home, I was fearless. One day, at age 4 I was going to placed in a new environment. An environment of numbers, letters, dress-up, a smiley teacher, and kids my own age. I did not accept this change. Mommy smiled and waved to me, hugged me one last time, and told me I was going to have fun and that she would see me very soon. The moment I saw her back away and leave the room, I became very scared. I cried and cried. I did not want her to leave. I did not feel safe. My teacher picked me up and had me wave to her out the window through glossy eyes and puffy cheeks. It was always painful the first few weeks of school, and then i adjusted. Kindergarten was the same scenario. Soon I would have a new experience, the school bus. I waited at the end of the driveway with Mommy. Crying and crying, she tried her best to calm me down. Once she learned my pattern, she found ways to help me. Mommy had me blow bubbles in the driveway to relax my breathing. She told me, “Smell the flowers, okay Haley, now blow bubbles!” At ages 4 and 5 I experienced my first anxiety. Separation Anxiety.
I wish that was the end, but of course it wasn’t. Soon there was show-and-tell where I would have to speak out loud and share why my pink care bear was so special to me. We were taught young to raise our hands when we had a question. I had many questions. I trained myself young to keep all of my questions inside, and maybe just maybe if I went with the flow, it would save me from having to speak out loud. Soon there would be tests, presentations, and the teacher calling on you when checking your homework. My first experience with sharing a wrong answer to my math homework was negative- a boy laughed at me and questioned how I could have possibly gotten that wrong. That taught me that I should never share my answers- because they could be wrong, and I will embarrass myself in front of everyone. That also taught me that I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t good enough. In Elementary School I was second guessing myself. I was put in a math group of students who needed extra help. Even with correct answers I would always respond with a question. “7?” My teacher had me stand on a chair with a beat red face and exclaim, “i am positive the answer is 7!” Of course, I stumbled on those words too. I worried about a lot of things, but my biggest fear was making mistakes. I drove myself into a dark hole of low self esteem, always convincing myself of what could go wrong. Anxiety, this was because of you. Because of you, I sat in music class with a runny nose staring at the box of tissues on the other end of the room. I was too petrified to get out of my seat and walk over to grab one. What if the teacher asks where i’m going? What if the students all stare at me? I just sat there. Wiping my nose on the sleeve of my shirt. I remember being scared to ask questions, scared to speak in front of people, hating myself when kids looked at me differently. This was my Social Anxiety.
Anxiety, you always gave me these bad habits. I got in trouble in Elementary School gym class for picking a part the foam balls and leaving bits and pieces of them over the gym floor. I don’t think I was aware of what I was doing, but it distracted me from what was going on around me. In Middle School it was biting my nails, and picking off my nail polish and panicking when there wasn’t any left to scrape off in anxious situations. In my early high school years it was picking my face. Until i was left with scabs and scars. My mom told me to stop. That it was unattractive and it would scar my face when I got older. I knew that. I couldn’t stop. I just let myself bleed and scar- for some reason it calmed me.
I was the kid who was extremely loud and obnoxiously silly when at home with my family or with a close-knit group of friends. However, my mom heard at almost every parent-teacher conference how I was a “quiet girl” and she would laugh in confusion. I would sing in the shower and dream of being famous, but if I ever knew someone was listening I stopped immediately. The idea of becoming an actress excited me at age 10. When my mom told me I would need experience in plays before considering starting a career, I changed my mind. Auditioning?? No way. I can’t tell you how many years I planned on doing the Middle School talent show and prepared songs, and then never continued with my plan.
Anxiety, without certain people in my life you would have driven me to be in a worse position. In my early school years when kids were bossy to me, my mom told me to put my hands on my hips and to not let anyone talk to me that way. It was my mother who encouraged me to stand up for myself, when you would have encouraged me to go along with the bossy kids out of fear of holding my own. For that reason, you haven’t defeated me. I am told by my family that they don’t have to worry about me in the future, because I don’t take crap from anyone.
I don’t hold grudges, Anxiety, I do not hate people, even the ones that have done me wrong. But Anxiety, I’m angry with YOU. Damn you, Anxiety for causing me to feel like I was dying for a good month or 2. You made me dizzy, and weak to the point where I was consuming gatorade and protein bars to try and get my energy back. You made me sick, to the point where I lost 4 pounds in one week. I could barely make it up the stairs, you had me so sick. I missed almost a month of school. I love school, I hate missing it. Anxiety, when I was in school you made it impossible for me to be myself. I could not relax, I was constantly leaving the class in a panic of dizziness and heart palpitations. The school nurses saw me almost every day. You had me sick, every day. When I was too embarrassed to return to class, or even go to the nurse, I would go to the bathroom stall and cry. Anxiety, you made me want to die. You made me hate myself, and be ashamed that I had no control. At the time I did not know it was you doing this to me. I was convinced I was ill. I had my mom take me for numerous blood tests, doctors appointments, etc. My doctor had said it was a virus, but mom demanded more tests because i was frequently blacking out. I thought it was diabetes, cancer, my heart condition causing me problems. Now that I learned it was you all along, Anxiety, I’m angry.
My friends did not know how to help me. I felt crazy compared to them so I did everything to distance myself from them so they wouldn’t think I was seeking attention. You made it impossible for me to recognize myself. I was always positive, and happy-go-lucky. When I reached out to my mom that I could not do it-I could NOT be in school "right now" and that I was having an anxiety attack and that I needed help- she told me to keep my chin up and to find my friends to make me laugh. Nobody realized that what I needed was serious help. I did not need advice on being optimistic. I was suffering a mental illness, and Anxiety you did this to me. You gave me attacks at the dentist, the grocery store, school, ANYWHERE public. ANYWHERE I COULD FEEL LIKE AN ACTUAL HUMAN BEING.
So now here I am anxiety, I am 17. I have hopes and dreams and a life ahead of me. I don’t want to die.
but sometimes…you make me want to die. You make me feel hopeless, and that I have no control over myself. This is my time. I am planning to apply to colleges soon. I have to take the SATs and try my best not just to do well on the test, but because of you I am praying I can sit through the test without having an anxiety attack. I get to send in my transcript to colleges. My transcript which represents average grades. All my life I told myself I wasn’t smart enough, and let it wreck my self-esteem. When really, most of the tests I have ever taken were me knowing the answers but panicking just to finish the test- so I hurried up, or changed my answers while second guessing my knowledge. I am NOT average. Anxiety, you limit my academic potential. I quit my job because of you, I broke off a relationship with a perfectly nice guy because of you. I could not be myself. You prevent me from succeeding, from working, from laughing, from loving.
I know my problem. My problem is you. My problem is that I let you control me. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder with bits of Social Anxiety Disorder. You. You have been there all along. Ever since the first day of pre-k. You are my constant irrational worries that seem too powerful in my mind and prevent me from doing all that I love. I am taking medication to stabilize you, I am getting extra therapy to control you. I am STILL struggling. I have a good life, with many things to feel grateful for. I am a good person, with many things ahead in life for me. I want to be here to see them happen. I want to be here physically and mentally.
I am accepting the fact that you will be with me forever. You will never truly detach yourself from me. Though, my goal is to make you weak. In order to make you weak, I am going to be stronger. I’m starting out my journey to mental strength. It will be a long road ahead, but a journey I am willing to take.
Anxiety, I am angry with you for a lot of bumps and halts you have caused in my life. At the same time, Anxiety I thank you. You are showing me the hard way, of who I am and what my strengths are. Because of you, you can prepare yourself..
Soon you will be on the sidelines..
watching me kick some serious ass.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.