My Anxious Mind
By: Breeanne Di Giacomo (@BreeanneD)
As a child, I was always reserved, quick to shy away from any situation I deemed “dangerous." Things as simple as saying a quick hello to a classmate or greeting a teacher upon my arrival were a feat to me. During the rare occasions when I did decide to do these things, I felt as if I had just won a medal. No seriously. I felt great. Little did I know this might have been the start of something much more severe.
My early teen years were a buzz of preparing for the next stage in my life, and I didn’t put much thought into my emotional and mental state. Around the age of 15, I knew something was terribly wrong. I would refuse to leave the house for days at a time. It’s not that I didn’t want to be outside. In fact, most of the time I would want to be exploring the outside world, socializing with people. It’s that I couldn’t force myself actually to do it. It was like my house was a safe refuge from the lava that would engulf me if I even tried to step out that door.
The well-known children’s game of avoiding the hot liquid was my reality now. Except the lava was the people and the safe spot was my room. Occasionally I would force myself to go on walks even though it was probably the most uncomfortable thing in the world to me. People thought I was weird, and I didn’t blame them. I figured I was weird too.
Many times I had to turn down many opportunities because I couldn’t cope with the stress of pushing myself to do things any longer. The decision to avoid scary situations led a lot of people to dismiss me as rude or anti-social when in fact, the one thing I wanted to do was socialize.
I began questioning myself, wondering why a simple task could be so difficult for me. I didn’t understand why I was such a different person. I wanted to go to shopping, but I would flock away from the opportunity when it came to me. I wanted to see that place down the street but flinched at the idea of actually going. I just couldn’t comprehend how hard was it to do something you wanted. I mean most people when given the opportunity to do something they’ve been thinking about for weeks would jump for joy a the mere mention of it. But I was different. I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
As the days went by, my anxiety continued to peak. Not only was I afraid to go to the mall, but I also began worrying about almost everything. My spare time was filled with constant obsessions over the future. What am I going to do after high school? What college should I attend? Am I good enough to succeed in life? These questions haunted me, forcing me awake some nights, fearing what the future might have in store for me. Not to mention I hadn’t had the slightest idea about how financial things worked. The terminology that banks used scared me, and I would leave confused and unsure of how I would make it on my own in the real world.
My embarrassment and shame for my condition led me to push others away. My friend circle got a lot smaller, not that I minded, though, as I was so caught up in my thoughts that I didn’t have enough thinking space to occupy too many thoughts about other people. My mind was filled with contemplation about either what went wrong or what could go wrong. That was on good days. On bad days, well, my mind was filled with both. The best of both worlds. By best I mean the most annoying parts of both worlds smashed up together.
After a long time of avoiding my problems, I knew that this was not how I wanted my life to be like. By this time I knew that I was living with a generalized anxiety disorder. I had already sought out my doctor and had him explain to me different ways to cope. Despite having a nonexistent support system outside of doctors, I managed to ease some of the tension. I didn’t see my anxiety as something weird anymore.
This is not to say that I am perfectly fine now. I still struggle with anxiety. I am learning to accept it and not let it control my life. We are all on this journey of life together. We fall and make mistakes and get back up again. We are a community that is growing together. The best thing you can do for someone suffering from anxiety is just there.
We need to support each other as fellow human beings. I hope that by sharing my story, the stigma of mental health is felt less by those who read it.