[Editor’s Note: The following post is a submission. If you are interested in submitting, read till the end.]
This work of prose details what it’s like for me to live with my anxiety day after day. It goes on to address how I combat my anxiety on a daily basis. I also offer advice on how to deal with anxiety for others who live with it as well. I am always look for ways to inspire others and help them through situations I’ve already been through do that they can have an easier time than maybe I did. That’s my goal with telling my story on my mental health.
You know that feeling you get when you’re paranoid that someone around you is either judging you or talking about you without you knowing? It can either be someone you know, or it can be the most unknown stranger. But either way, you sense this, and your brain goes into high alert—working overtime to go over every single possibility of what that person could be saying or thinking. This is anxiety. This is my life.
I used to say that I don’t care what others think about me. To this day, there are still people, albeit, people who don’t know me all that well, who are under the impression that I do think that way. But those that know me best know that I worry all the time about what people’s opinions of me are. I overthink why a person only smiles at me in the elevator instead of saying hi. I overthink why I haven’t been re-invited to hang out with someone when I was invited to hang out with said person before.
This is my anxiety. Every day, the smallest thing sets it off. Then there are certain situations that just send it through the roof, taking over my stream of consciousness, causing me to miss things in the moment. From weird side-glances to networking and everything in-between, one small strike can set my anxiety ablaze.
Honestly, there are times when my anxiety borders on paralyzing. It’s caused me to cancel plans with people or back out of experiences. I overthink everything to the point that I begin to genuinely believe that I am either not going to enjoy my plans or that I wouldn’t be missed if I didn’t show up. It can be debilitating. It’s caused me to miss out on things, so I always tell myself that tomorrow will be better.
I’ve come to deal with my anxiety in my own unique way. First of all, I talk about it. I don’t hide the fact that anxiety is part of who I am. The last thing I would ever do is work to keep the stigma surrounding mental health in place. That stigma is one that needs to be gone—yesterday. I’ve gotten to the point where I can make jokes about my anxiety. I don’t make jokes about others’ mental health—just my own. But that leads me into how else I deal with my anxiety.
I use humor as a defense mechanism. Call me Chandler Bing. The second I start to feel something seep through that could potentially hurt me, I find a way to joke about it and laugh it off all in efforts to protect myself. I’ve been hurt before, and as a result, I do what I can to not feel that way again. For me, the most comfortable thing to do is to use humor and laugh it off.
My anxiety is part of my identity. I try to keep a good grip on it so that it doesn’t interfere with my friendships or my daily life, but I won’t lie—there have been times when it has. I just make sure to communicate with those that I’m closest to what’s going on so that they know what kind of advice or wisdom to give me when I need it.
I hope you don’t have to deal with anxiety. I hope you don’t live with it every day. I hope you don’t constantly wonder what people are thinking of you, because at the end of the day, you can only be the best version of yourself. You know what you want from life better than anyone else. You know your likes and your dislikes, your talents and your weaknesses, as well as your habits versus things you don’t often do better than any other person. But with that being said, if you do live with anxiety, don’t let it overwhelmingly interfere with your daily life. Don’t be afraid to admit that it’s part of who you are. One thing I’ve learned is that a lot more people deal with anxiety than we think. It’s one of the most common mental health battles. Embrace it. Develop your own way of thinking through things. Don’t let the mental health stigma scare you. Talk about it. Accept it. Live with it. We only get one chance at this crazy thing called life. You’re stronger than the anxiety.
words by Valerie, 21
Writer. Friend. Coffee addict. Binghamton University Bearcat. Daughter. Political science major. Loyal Swiftie. Sister. Follower of Jesus. Positivity seeker. Lover of adventures. People person. Canon photographer.