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When I Realized Anxiety Was No Longer My Friend

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I don’t remember when I first met him. Perhaps, it was when I was in sixth grade when I had to first give a speech in front of my class. Or maybe it was fourth grade on an elevator when my face turned white and my mom asked what I was so afraid of. Maybe it was when I was about 7 and was sure the parking garage was going to come down around us. Either way, Anxiety claims to be my advisor, my closest and oldest friend.

He comes to me and whispers worrying thoughts. He whispers about how absolutely everyone saw me slip in the dining hall and is laughing about it with their friends. He assures me my friend who isn’t texting back finds me annoying and hates me. He tells me that one failed test will ruin my entire life.

Sometimes he comes with a reason. Like when I’m in traffic, and someone tails me. Other times, he shows up without warning. I know he’s here when my heart races and my hands shake. He yells over my sobs and grips my hands so they sweat a cold and clammy sweat. He ties tight, inflexible knots in my stomach.

I thought he was everyone’s friend for a long time. I thought everyone worried like I do. A lot of people struggle with giving speeches or being in tight spaces, or meeting new people. But I was wrong. He singled me out, made me special. I only learned when the effects became apparent to others.

“That’s an irrational thought to think! You aren’t making any sense.”

“You know that’s not true. Stop being difficult.”

“Are you sick? You look so pale.”

But then, he came more and more. In the car on the way to school, he’d rant about how horrible today was inevitably going to be, so I ought to turn around and go back to bed. At night, he’d keep me up with his questioning. What is going to happen in the future? Well, you’ll probably fail. There’s no point in even trying. He could immobilize me, make me throw up and have me sobbing and shaking on the floor of my bathroom with the door locked.

I knew then I had to fight back. I got weapons and started defending myself against his slander. I grew stronger and separated myself from his toxic presence. Even still, he creeps back, however. He comes on the worst days. He comes when I’m alone and thinking too much. He makes me question all my success and all my relationships. I battle against him every day, and I have partners in my crusade. The clash will continue on forever; I know this. But I will never let him win. He is no longer my friend.

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Unsplash photo via Alexandru Zdrobau.

Originally published: May 31, 2017
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