Growing up, I always thought I was just a shy person. I was afraid to talk to strangers, or any kind of adult figure. Teachers, cashiers, even older relatives who I didn’t see often. But in reality, “shy” truly wasn’t the word for it.
I never really knew what being anxious meant; I didn’t know it was a condition you could have. I just thought it was a feeling and always associated it with being nervous. And being nervous, in my head at least, equated to being shy. The thing is though, I had a lot of friends when I was a kid. Definitely not now, though. I doubt I ever initiated the friendships I did have as a kid, but still.
As I got older and started college in the fall of 2014, I realized my symptoms were more than just shyness. For example, walking to the front of class to turn in a paper? Forget it. I could not be the first person to get up in front of the class; just thinking about it even now makes me feel like my chest is going to explode. Presentations? You’re funny. Never gonna happen, unless my entire GPA depends on it.
Living like that all through school, I looked into it and realized those were all symptoms of anxiety. Add in my nail and skin biting, how easy it is for my face to flush red when talking to anyone, being afraid to ask for anything at a restaurant, my fear of driving in new places, or even just driving at night. I also used to have a couple of compulsive behaviors that took me years to “grow out of.” For instance, if I touched something with my ring finger, I had to make sure I touched it with the same finger of my other hand. I never told anyone about it, and I didn’t realize it could mean something more serious was going on. I just thought it meant I was a bit “weird.”
I’ve also never been able to initiate conversations with anyone I don’t know without feeling like my whole world is spinning, and the entire time I just keep wondering if they’re judging me. Which also confuses me, because I’m usually the person who doesn’t care what people think. I do what I want, and I can be a very blunt person. But when it comes to strangers, I just always feel so insecure.
Anxiety is not just constant worrying like I grew up believing it to be. It’s feeling like something bad is inevitably going to happen to you without having any reason to think that way. It’s wondering if your best friend didn’t answer your text because they’re mad at you, even though you know she probably is just busy. It’s believing you’re not good enough to chase your dreams, and you’ll never find love because everyone hates you. Or because you’re ugly and no one has the heart to tell you. It’s about feeling a weight on your chest and your shoulders and just being so tired — tired of your mind racing, tired of doubting yourself. Just being so tired.
Anxiety takes so much out of me some weeks that I just go to work, come home and chill on the couch. I won’t even really answer texts or go on social media — nothing. I just lie there, watch tv, maybe try to nap. But napping just makes me more tired, makes my mind race more with what-ifs.
I’ve never been to a doctor to see if I truly have an anxiety disorder, but I’m fairly positive I do. I want to go to a doctor to see what they say, but for some reason, I am so scared to tell my parents. I feel like I’ll just be judged, or they’ll tell me to just “suck it up.” Well, I have just been pushing on my whole life. For once, I just wanna feel OK.
I want to be able to have a conversation with a customer at work (side note: I am a cashier at a grocery store) and not feel like I might throw up at any moment. I’m tired of feeling so drained after having to interact in any kind of social environment. I just want to be me, all the time, in any situation. I want to finally, for once in my life, be free. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to truly live and let go, but hey, I’m gonna try.
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