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I Was a Teenager Who Ran Away From Her Anxiety

I’ve struggled with anxiety for the majority of my life, but I didn’t realize until a few years ago that I was actually experiencing anxiety. I didn’t know I did the things I did because I had developed a mental illness. I remember my anxiety slowly forming over the years and the more it went unchecked, the more intense it got. When I was a teenager, my anxiety really took off and started to affect me negatively.

For all my parents knew, I was simply being a typically moody teenager, but it was so much more than that — more than I could ever put into words that would make someone understand. How do you explain what’s happening inside your head when you’re not even sure yourself?

I didn’t feel comfortable sharing the war that was being waged inside me, for fear of judgment and ridicule. I grew up in suburbia, where keeping up with the Joneses was a real thing and that pressure didn’t allow me to express my imperfections. I constantly felt like I had to wear a mask to hide my true identity and stuff away my conflicted emotions so no one could see what I was actually going through.

Although I desperately tried to hide my anxiety, it would constantly creep up on me and I didn’t know how to deal with it. This would often build up until I was flying off the handle in a full-on panic attack no one understood, over the smallest things. I started to keep really busy to distract myself from what was going on inside. Every part of my day had to be filled with something that served as a diversion, trying to cancel out the noise in my head. My constant anxious thoughts felt like an annoying song stuck on repeat.

It wasn’t until I was well into college when I realized that I was actually experiencing anxiety and it all happened in one life-changing meltdown. I had become so wound up over all these years of running from myself. I didn’t know my anxiety was keeping pace with me as I tried to flee from it. I realized there was no hiding from this and it was time to get help.

I am still trying to undo all of the damage I have unknowingly done to myself over the years. I wish I had gotten help sooner, but I didn’t know any better. I wish I had an outlet when I felt confused and alone as I grew up trapped inside my own head. Part of me feels cheated because I didn’t have anyone or anything to turn to in order to help me understand myself. I know now though, that telling my story will hopefully help others write theirs.

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Thinkstock photo via Olarty