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Anxiety Is a Part of Who I Am, but It Isn't All of Me

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I’ve spent many days and nights editing what I wanted to be perfect paragraphs. Searching for the right words and hoping it made sense to people not like me. I wanted to express what some people are afraid to open up about. But I needed to be brave, and I decided maybe my paragraphs don’t need to be perfect. The truth is, nothing is perfect, and that’s OK.

My name is Alizabeth Stachlinski, and I’m nervous about sharing my thoughts. I’m 20 years old, and I have an anxiety disorder.

I have spent more days and nights wondering what it’s like to be “normal” (or what I thought was “normal”). I can’t remember what it feels like to be anxiety-free. Sure, everyone gets nervous sometimes, but it’s not the same as an anxiety disorder. Some people are scared of talking in front of large groups, but the moment it’s over, their anxiety leaves. That’s not what it’s like for me. When my task is over, I spend nights thinking about ways I could’ve made it better. As if I could go back in time and change it.

Anxiety isn’t glamorous, and it’s not for seeking attention. My thoughts may be irrational, but my symptoms are there. You can feel it building up in you, and at any moment, you could burst. Your mind spins in circles, and you can’t focus on anything but your anxiety. You tell yourself over and over again, just breathe; breathe, please don’t do this. The worst feeling in the world is holding back an anxiety attack in public. You want to isolate yourself and run away.

I spent most of high school in the nurse’s office or bathroom. My teachers thought I didn’t care, but I wanted to be that A student who seemingly had no flaws. That wasn’t who I was. I was the girl everyone thought was “trouble.” I spoke my mind and cared way too much about others instead of myself. If only my teachers understood that I’m not unmotivated, and I did want to learn. I learned to watch people’s emotions. I could see the fake laughs and the pain in other people’s eyes, but I wondered why no one saw it in me. I really did try, and that’s what makes it harder. Those nurse trips were because I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Sometimes the room started to spin and I needed to close my eyes and be at peace. The bathroom trips were me calming myself down right before I had an attack.

If only my family and friends knew that I didn’t mean to push them away. I made excuses why I couldn’t do things. Sometimes they thought I was being “lazy,” but it was my anxiety. I wanted to be alone where no one could judge me. If you asked my family and friends to describe me, they would probably say I’m a social butterfly. I don’t look sick, and I could hide my pain with a simple smile.

I’m stuck between feeling too much or feeling nothing at all. There is so much anxiety has taken from me. I would love to say it hasn’t, but it has.

Anxiety for me is staring out your window into the dark night at 3 a.m., wondering what it would feel like if everything went black.

Anxiety for me is staring out your front door, looking into the bright sun, wondering what it would be like if you felt safe in the world.

Anxiety for me is being strong and pushing yourself, wondering how much longer you have to push.

I’ve spent a lot of time wishing I could be different, but I should have been accepting who I was and that anxiety was a part of me.

If you’re reading this because you have anxiety, I want you to know you’re brave. Anxiety takes a lot out of you, but don’t let anxiety take your happiness. Buckle up for a bumpy road, because it’s not easy and I won’t lie and say it is. Be easy on yourself, because I’m sure you’re doing the best you can.

If you’re reading this because you know someone with anxiety, please don’t give up on them. They are already pushing themselves and probably already feel like a failure some days. Please remind them they are loved and that no one is perfect, but they are enough. Please do no get tired of helping them.

Anxiety is a part of who I am, but anxiety isn’t all of me. Someone once told me, “Your worst enemy to your success is you.” For me, anxiety is my enemy, and it won’t get in the way of my success.

Do not let anything get in the way of your success. Know you are brave, and know you are enough.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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