When You've Grown Up With Anxiety

Kindergarten gym class is meant to be fun. It is meant as a time for kids to run around and have fun. However, for me, it meant feeling different. Feeling left out. I would feel sick to my stomach. I wouldn’t want to do the activities other kids were doing. I would tell the gym teacher I was sick. That I wanted to go lay down in the nurse’s office. As someone with motor skill delays, the thought of gym class was distressing for me. My 5-year-old self did not realize that this was anxiety.

Fast forward a few years. I was 8. I was reading at a middle to high school level. I thought it was fun to read my mom’s books about childhood illnesses. I had a fascination with the human body. I loved waking up early and sneaking in half an hour of Discovery Health Channel (which I was banned from watching due to my age). I was interested in learning everything about my brain and my body and what was going on with it. I would absorb everything I read, but it was not always taken positively. One day, I read something about “cat scratch fever” in one of the childhood illness books I was reading. Reading that small blurb about the illness was enough for me to develop a phobia of cats. I was terrified of my friend’s cats. I would avoid going to their homes and if their cats got near me, I would clam up. 8-year-old me did not understand that this was anxiety.

9 years old. I was in love with the “Babysitter’s Club” series. I would borrow the books from my local library as much as I could. I swear I read every one at least three times, if not more. I picked up one where Stacy and her family faced a house fire. My family had just moved into a new home. We had a fireplace. Having fires in the fireplace would set me over the edge. I would get upset. I would panic if an ash sparked out of the fireplace. To make it worse, the local channels would frequently play a commercial for the Creosote Sweeping Log. This had graphic images of a house fire. That set my brain on fire too. I would refuse to leave the house without my most prized possessions at that time. I would carry around the stuffed animal my grandma had bought me a couple years prior because I was terrified my house would burn down when I was not home. I was much too old for this.

By the time I was 10, I was trying to avoid going to school. My stomach hurt all the time. I would try to get my parents to let me stay home. I would start getting into fights with my parents. By the time I was 12, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression. I was put on medication at 13. It was the greatest decision of my life.

People ask me how I manage so well having such bad anxiety. They tell me things that they would never make it. The truth is, I have grown used to it. It’s always been a huge part of my life. I knew what it was before I understood that there was a label for it. The stomach pains and the avoidance became second nature for me. Now that I am older, I have had a lot of time to practice how to cope. I’m not saying that it’s easy, but I am able to live a successful life and take care of myself. Knowing that I have learned how to build these skills makes me feel accomplished.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty image via varandah

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Face and hair are on separate layers. Each hair strand is individual object. Cropped via clipping mask. Extra folder includes Illustrator CS2 AI and PDF files.

When Anxiety Feels Like You're Drowning Above Water

Have you ever felt the sensation of drowning? The water consuming your body? Your arms flailing, desperate to grasp on to something to help you up? You gasping for air as you try your hardest to keep your head above water? No one is there to help you. You have no life jacket. You’re just [...]

What Helps My Anxiety and Depression as a Parent of a Child With a Disability

As a parent of a child with a disability, I have a finite amount of time, patience, perseverance and ability to hang on. The last two days I’ve been realizing I’m at the end of my rope and I have nothing left. When this happens, I know I need to make my life smaller, at [...]
Rear view of friends hugging.

To the Friends Who Stay Alongside Me on My Journey With Anxiety

This is a letter to the friends who stayed. A year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). That moment was one that altered my life forever, irreversibly. I’ve had so many ups and downs that I’ve officially lost track. There have been weeks of peace, relief and joy, but [...]
people sitting with boxes over their head and smiles drawn onto the boxes

4 Relatable 'Anxious Moments' That Might Make You Feel Less Alone

The average person has 60,000 thoughts per day, according to the first link that popped up in a Google search for, “How many thoughts does the average person have in a day?” Since I have no idea of the validity behind that statement, I’m going to do what most people do when they find a [...]