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I Drew How Anxiety Affects Me

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Whenever the phone rang, I’d stare at it with dread and trepidation. I’d let it ring off the hook until the person calling left a message on the voicemail. Then I’d stare at the voicemail notification for hours before I could finally muster up the courage to listen to it.

Whenever someone asked me out for a social gathering, I’d say yes immediately without thinking. And then I’d promptly regret it as a surge of nervousness and dread filled my mind.

My mind would go into overtime thinking of ways to get out of the promise I made to attend. I’d also think of all the things people would talk about during the gathering and how I’d fit into their conversations. Most of the time, I’d imagine myself feeling lost and that the participants of the gathering would deem that I didn’t belong.

Whenever I do any kind of creative work, whether it’s a drawing or a piece of writing, I’d tell myself that I’m just not good enough and that no one would ever appreciate the work I did. I’d look at other artists’ work and berate my own, since I believed my work looked sub-par compared to theirs.

I’m often filled with dread and worry as others peruse my work. I’ll imagine they’re thinking the most negative things because, after all, it isn’t that great of a piece. This happens to me every single time I draw or write. Most of the time, my mind is filled with thoughts, coming at me a hundred miles a minute.

Earlier this year, I finally found out why I felt the way I did. My husband, who had noticed my behavior over the years, suggested that I get tested for attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I ended up being diagnosed not only with ADHD but also with anxiety and depression. I was somewhat surprised with the diagnosis, but the feeling of relief was even greater. For once in my life, I knew why I felt the way I did.

Julianne Leow the mighty

I told my therapist I felt like my anxiety was a huge and almost Atlas-like burden I had to carry around. When I got home, I sat in my studio and illustrated what I had told him. When I finished a few hours later, I cried. And it was then that I felt a surge of relief. My thoughts flowed out through the ink and onto the paper, and I felt better.

I now look at my drawing, which I titled “The Daily Struggle,” and feel a sense of peace. I’ve been drawing a lot more since I drew it. And every time I do, I feel just a little bit better. I showed it to my friends, and those who suffer from anxiety said the piece helped them.

When I read the articles on The Mighty about anxiety and mental health, I feel better just knowing there are people out there who understand. So in that spirit, I wanted to share this drawing to show others who might need some encouragement. There are others who understand. You aren’t alone.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one unexpected source of comfort when it comes to your (or a loved one’s) disability and/or disease? Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 3, 2015
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