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10 Ways I'm Affected as a Young Person With Anxiety

Anxiety is extremely difficult to live with. Even the name has such a negative stigma attached to it. People don’t seem to take the diagnosis of “anxiety” seriously — they just assume you’re talking about the feeling you get before taking a test or going on your first date. Anxiety is worse than that. Anxiety is worse than just nervousness and it’s a lot worse than fear. Anxiety can happen without explanation. You can have panic attacks at random and not know why you’re having them. It’s absolutely terrifying. This mental illness is real.

I was diagnosed with anxiety as a very young child. I have always been very fearful and anxious. Throughout my life, I have become more aware of how my anxiety affects me. So, here are 10 things I do because of my anxiety.

1. I overthink everything.

I can get asked a simple question almost everyone knows the answer to. It can be a simple elementary school question that has been programmed into my head since I was a kid. I will still stumble over my answer and second guess myself. A few times. Sometimes, I won’t be able to even give an answer because I am too afraid of being wrong and I doubt myself constantly. I overthink the way people say things. If someone cancels plans for any reason, I automatically jump to the conclusion that they don’t actually want to hang out with me and/or there is something wrong with me.

2. I cry a lot. I mean a lot.

Anxiety itself makes me hypersensitive to almost everything. This means that any emotion can make me cry like a baby. I’m super happy? I cry. I’m really sad? I cry. Angry or frustrated? I. cry. It’s one of the most difficult things about anxiety for me. If someone even comes close to raising their voice or just using a stern tone of voice with me, I start crying. It makes me extremely embarrassed and I wish more than anything I could just tell me tear ducts to cut it out, but unfortunately, they never do seem to listen.

3. I isolate myself from everyone, including my family.

I like to be alone. My room is my comfort zone. I can be me with my thoughts and my feelings and not have to worry about screwing up a social interaction or my parents starting to yell at me for something I forgot to do. Sometimes I will cancel plans because I am too anxious to go. Sometimes I will drive all the way there, decide I can’t do it, turn around and go back home. I don’t do well in social situations and it’s like I can feel the awkwardness and disinterest as soon as I start talking. I can already tell they would much rather shave an elephant’s legs than sit here and listen to me talk. At least, that’s what my anxiety tells me. I don’t come out of my room very much when I am home. I prefer to be in my own space doing my own things. Being around people is just exhausting.

4. I hide my talents.

Although I will probably never admit this out loud, I have a few talents. I am creative and I love to do anything involving art or music. I have been playing piano since I was very little and have been drawing ever since I could hold a crayon. I went to an art school for one year and decided it was just too much for me. I didn’t like my artwork being put on display for everyone to criticize. I knew I wasn’t as good as everyone else. My anxiety had told me that a million times. My friends and family swear I have a good voice and play my instruments very well, but good luck trying to get me to do either in front of anyone. I don’t ever practice my instruments unless I am completely home alone. I don’t advertise that I have any of these talents, because I know plenty of people are way better than me, and I believe nobody cares about what I can or can’t do anyway. Anxiety makes me feel insignificant that way.

5. I stay away from certain places to avoid people I know.

Even when I was applying for jobs, I refused to work at places like the mall of the movies or any food place near a school. I was avoiding people I knew. I won’t go into certain stores by myself because it’s a popular store or I know someone that works there. I avoid people I know all the time, just because I feel awkwardly obligated to be an interesting person around them or I feel like they’re always judging me because they know me. If I need something from an isle in the grocery store and I see someone I know in that isle, I will pass it by and probably won’t even check it later. I will probably just get the rest of what I need or prioritize what I need, then leave without finishing my list to avoid confrontation with that person. I can’t explain why I do it. I just know it’s because of my anxiety.

6. I ask other people to talk for me.

This is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. I have gotten better at it, but I still do this quite a bit. When I am in a restaurant, sometimes I will ask someone else to order for me. I will tell them my drink and my food. I do this especially when the food has a different/weird name. Some restaurants have themes and so all of their food names fit with that theme; I feel weird saying them, so I ask someone else to do it for me. I have been shopping with my boyfriend before and have given him money and asked him to pay for my stuff for me so I didn’t have to talk to the cashier. He does try to convince me to do it myself and assures me he will be right there with me, but sometimes it’s just too much and he has to do it for me. This doesn’t happen too often, but it definitely still makes me pretty anxious.

7. I eat by myself.

I did this all throughout school — I would eat by myself, away from people. In junior high, I would skip lunch sometimes and just eat discretely during class or wait until I got home. In high school, I had a group of friends I ate with for a while but then I started getting more and more anxious about it and I started to eat by myself outside the band room. Eventually, I started eating lunch in classrooms with one other person. Even then, there were times where I couldn’t bring myself to eat. If I am out to eat, I can’t sit where I am facing people at another table. If I can make eye contact with someone who is not at the table I am sitting at, it takes me way longer to eat my food. I prefer to eat by myself.

8.  I assume the worst.

In every situation, there are multiple outcomes. I think of all of them and then focus on the worst one because my anxiety tells me one is most likely to happen. It will be my reality. When waiting for orders from the military to find out if we are moving, I assumed the worst and decided I was going to be leaving all of my friends behind and moving to a different state. In this case, it didn’t end up happening. I am now in that same position again. In social situations, I assume nobody is enjoying talking to me. I assume the group whispering is talking about me. The girl who just laughed behind me? She was definitely laughing at me. Her friend did not tell her a joke. People are judging the way I am walking. They’re judging my hair, my clothes, the way I look 12 when I’m actually 19. No matter what I am doing, someone is there judging me. That’s what my anxiety likes to tell me. I know she’s wrong, but sometimes she can be really convincing.

9. I get hurt really easily.

Having chronic illness, I understand keeping plans can be difficult. I understand having to cancel because you’re in too much pain mentally and/or physically. But when someone cancels on me, I automatically think they just didn’t want to see me in the first place. In these situations, my anxiety tells me I’m disposable. I’m their second choice. A sudden change in tone of voice during a conversation can hurt my feelings as well. I automatically think I have done something wrong and they are upset with me. If people don’t text me back, my anxiety tells me to just leave them alone because they obviously don’t want to talk to me. They’re not busy.

10. I throw away what I write/draw.

If it’s something I did, it will probably end up in the trash. I have tried to keep a journal countless times. They always end up in the trash sooner or later. I can’t stand looking back at what I wrote. I also don’t want anyone else to ever read what I write. This made turning in essays for school extremely difficult on me. I hardly ever proofread things. I never keep things I draw either — I will very rarely keep a drawing of mine. A lot of the time, I only draw when I’m doing it for someone else. If it’s not leaving to go to someone else, it will probably leave in a garbage bag. My anxiety tells me my art isn’t good enough and my writing is awful.

Although my anxiety tells me these things, I do know she’s wrong about me. Anxiety has this nasty habit of letting us believe we are unimportant — we are not worthy of love or friendship, or even a simple conversation. Anxiety is beyond difficult to live with. I am constantly reminding people to be patient with me. I’m constantly at war with myself, and sometimes I lose for the day and that’s OK. I will get back up and fight again tomorrow. I have anxiety, but it will never define me.

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Thinkstock photo via Hemera Technologies