To My Past Self and Anyone Else Struggling With Anxiety

Dear past self,

I know you think something is wrong with you.

I know you feel like you’re leading two lives, a physical one and a mental one. In your physical life, you know you’re happy. You have a great family, lots of friends, good grades, passions, an awesome job and a hopeful future. You have every reason to be happy, and you know it.

In your mental life, you’re not happy. You’re stressed all the time, and it’s not the “normal” kind of stress. You’re worried about everything. You think you’re going to fail that next test. You think that friend is going to replace you, and you fear being lonely.

You think that guy is going to wake up one day and not like you anymore. You fear heartbreak is going to kill you. You think something bad is going to happen to your family. You think you’re not going to be there to say goodbye because you’re too busy staring at the mirror wondering why you can’t look your reflection in the eye.

I know your mental life is starting to seep into your physical life, but no one else can see it. I know most days you feel like you’re underwater, moving through life in slow motion while the rest of the world continues at a normal pace. I know most nights you’re scared to fall asleep because you think you’ll wake up to find your life moved on without you.

You’ll tell yourself you’re losing it. You’ll call yourself “crazy.” You’ll beat yourself up for it every night, and you’ll tell yourself you just need to get over it. Other people will tell you the same things. You’ll keep them close because you think they’re being supportive.

I know you refuse to use the word “anxiety.” I know you think saying it will make you ungrateful. I know you think saying it will change how others see you. I know memes and social media posts aren’t enough to convince you otherwise. I know it needs to be a real person, and I also know she’ll be there soon.

I know once you start talking about it, things will start to get better. You’ll go to therapy, and you’ll learn how to breathe again, something you didn’t even know you’d forgotten. You’ll do poorly on a few tests, but it’s OK because you’ll do better on the next one. Then, you’ll cry when you get that acceptance letter.

That friend is going to replace you. So is that other friend, but it’s OK because you’re about to meet some wonderful people who will make it impossible to feel alone. That guy really is going to wake up one day and tell you he never truly cared about you. It’s OK because you’re able to look your reflection in the eye, and this will make it hard to be sad. You’re going to be there when bad things happen to your family, but it’s OK because you’ll all be together. This will make it easier to pull through.

I know you’ll always have anxiety, and I know you’ll learn to be OK with that. I know you’ll have hard days, but I know you’ll pull through. I know it’s too late to save you, but I also know it’s never too late to save someone else.

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