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Meet Anxiety: My Very Real Imaginary Friend

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It’s 3:45 in the morning. I absent-mindedly pick at the skin around my nails as I stare at my laptop’s screen and think about what I have to say. The countless minimized documents on my taskbar stare back at me, judging; a reminder of all the work I just can’t get done, and all the self-hatred that’ll probably consume me as the assignment’s due date approaches.

I know what you’re possibly thinking: Just pull it together and get some work done while you’re up, or go to sleep and get the rest you need. Two very logical options; I agree. For some reason, though, my brain does not. For some reason, I find myself every single night unable to shut off – consumed by thoughts of things that matter and things that, to a ridiculous extent, just don’t. So here I am.

It is only fitting now to introduce the main character in my story. Meet Anxiety: my very much real, very much petrifying imaginary friend. My bully, always keeping me in a fight-or-flight mode. My very own out-of-Hogwarts Dementor, always trying to suck the life out of me. Anxiety has always been there in my life. Until recently, though, I’d look the other way and pretend I didn’t see it. Can you blame me? I didn’t know its name – didn’t know what exactly it is. No one else saw it following me around, so I couldn’t really tell anyone.

But for the life of me, I knew it was real.

It was the panic attacks in lectures that always made me escape before time was up: the racing heart, the countless little pebbles clogging my lungs, the upset stomach and the weak, shaky legs.

It was the uncalled-for dread of sitting anywhere but the last row because I’d feel people’s eyes burning on my back.

It was the silly fear, at 23 years old, of going to the doctor or answering the phone when I didn’t know who was calling.

It was the nervousness of walking alone even to merely take out the garbage, and the last-minute cancellation of plans with friends for no justifiable reason.

It was being a professional procrastinator and then diving into a sea of disappointment and self-worthlessness.

It was, and still is, all of this and everything in between that I’m embarrassed to share.

But you know what? For the first time, I shared something. I spoke out – reached out for help when my nerves couldn’t take it anymore. Now I have a name for my bully and the knowledge I’m not its only victim. I am finally able to look Anxiety in the eye, acknowledge its existence, and let it know I won’t let it bully me for long.

You shouldn’t either.

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Thinkstock photo viajoegolby

Originally published: June 5, 2017
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