I was a timid child. When I wasn't sleeping, twirling my hair, reading the Berenstein Bears or gorging on Fruity (or Cocoa) Pebbles you could find me desperately clinging to my mom (sorry for nearly cutting off your circulation that one time, Mom). I'd survey my surroundings much like a deer in an open field during hunting season. I even resembled a deer; wide-eyed, overtly alert and always ready to flee from any situation I deemed dangerous.
Little things scared me like the car wash. Every time we drove through one I felt like our car was being attacked by a salivating Snuffaluffagus. I was also petrified of my math tutor. He'd come over to my house every Tuesday to help me with my homework. He wore a tragic brown suit and black velcro shoes. I'm not sure if it was my strong aversion to fractions, his eerily menacing laugh or rancid halitosis; whatever it was shook me to my very core.
As a kid I didn't know why I was wired that way. I didn't understand why I always had to have a friend walk with me to the bus stop or down the hallway at school. I didn't know why I had to sleep with 4 nightlights. I figured my feelings were normal and it was all part of being a little girl blindly trying to gain footing and navigate through this perplexing thing they called life. Now of course I know there's a word for what I have: anxiety. Only now as an adult my fears evolved from being scared of the car wash to being scared of flying, intimacy or walking into a party alone.
"You must be loving it," people would say.
"Yeah, it's super fun and interesting to be around all these creative people - and like, they have all this awesome food and a huge common area where everyone gathers around to drink beer, play video games and shoot the shit at the end of the day."
I told people what I thought they wanted to hear. I didn't dare tell them that I never visited the cool common area, I never played the video games or ate the food with the creative people and Christ - come to think of it, I very rarely left my desk. Every day I'd walk into the office and my heart would race to the point of near protrusion from my
People in the office noticed my uneasiness. "You're not all there, are you?" one guy asked me as he walked past my desk. I felt my face turn red as I looked up to him and laughed nervously. What. a. dick., I thought to myself. Then I realized he was a dick who had a point. I wasn't all there. Because that's what anxiety does; it robs you of your ability and right to be in the present moment - to be all there. In your head you're elsewhere, whether it be worrying about something completely arbitrary that happened in the past or something that has .000002% chance of happening in the future.
At that point in my life I hadn't educated myself on what it meant to be anxious, what caused anxiety and what I could do to release it. I simply felt alone and like there was something extraordinarily wrong with me. After all, a lot of my friends seemed to be adjusting to adulthood well - and I could barely even cope with being a receptionist. I felt like there was this omnipresent cloud of distress looming overhead - and it followed me wherever I went, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep. There were days I couldn't even leave my apartment to go to the supermarket and pick up food. The simplest tasks became unimaginably daunting.
Now, years later - I have accepted my anxiety as a part of who I am but I no longer let it define me. I'm easier on myself and I've found ways to cope when I become anxious. It's made me more constructive (writing) and at times destructive (drinking). It's definitely still a very real, very present motherfucker in my life, but I'm better equipped to deal with it now because I understand what it is. Having anxiety has toughened me up in a lot of ways - I have developed a strong desire not to let it defeat me.
Perhaps the best thing that has come from my struggle is the fact that I am acutely aware of how important it is to always strive to be kind and empathetic. No one on this earth is perfect; we all get sad, we all have problems - we are all freaks, we are all human. Sometimes I think about that insensitive coworker from years ago and I find myself getting upset about how he treated me, then I remind myself that he likely wouldn't have been so brash had he been aware of the painful battle I was fighting internally.
I've been grappling with whether or not to write about this for a long time because A) It's extremely personal, B) This is essentially a comedy blog and there's not really anything funny about this subject matter and C) Would writing about my anxiety and putting it out there cause me more anxiety?
Then I thought about how scared I felt 7 years ago. I thought about how desperately I needed someone there to tell me I was going to be okay, to tell me that statistically speaking, 40 million people in the US suffer from some form of anxiety. I needed someone to tell me I wasn't alone, not even close.
So to anyone reading this who, in this very moment, is struggling like I was, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you what I wish someone had told me:
You are going to be okay.
You are not alone.
Not even close.