This post makes me anxious. Every post before this one has made me anxious. Are people even going to read what I write? Does anyone even care what I have to say? What if I post this and my peers judge me or just dismiss my thoughts and feelings entirely? This post is going to be my most personal and vulnerable yet, so buckle up and please know that I’m still working through this myself.
Something that almost no one knows about me is that, back in the fall of 2016, I was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder coupled with a pretty severe case of social anxiety disorder. It’s not something I talk about; I’ve never even told anyone that I saw a psychologist. Now, I’m not ashamed that I sought treatment. On the contrary! I’m proud of myself for actually taking the time to work on my mental health.
So, why haven’t I talked about it, been open, worked toward ending the stigma? Three reasons: the things I’m struggling with are no one else’s business, this realization and diagnosis came at an especially stressful time in my life, and, quite frankly, I just wasn’t ready to talk about it openly before.
One thing that I don’t understand about society today is why everyone has to be in each other’s business ALL THE TIME. I know, with absolute certainty, that a great deal of people wouldn’t have believed that I have anxiety if I had been open about it from the beginning (Some people still won’t believe it.). Around the same time that I sought help, I had several friends mention something along the lines of, “Why does everyone have anxiety these days? They didn’t have anxiety in high school!” Statements and conversations like this are part of the reason I’ve kept this to myself for over 2 years; I didn’t want people to be saying those types of things behind my back. Even though, I can guarantee that I 100% did have anxiety back in school. I’ve struggled with anxious tendencies and nervous ticks for as long as I can remember.
When I first realized that I was struggling harder than usual, I had just moved away from home for the first time, started a new school, and was living in a very toxic environment for my mental health.
I didn’t move out of my mom’s house until I was 20, and when I did move out, it was fairly abrupt. I had originally been planning on moving early to mid-August. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I ended up moving over a month earlier than anticipated. Within a week, I had packed, moved, and transferred to the Salt Lake branch of my workplace. Suddenly, I found myself in an unfamiliar home in an unfamiliar city surrounded by unfamiliar people.
A friend’s family had agreed to let me live with them while I was attending classes at the University of Utah. At the time, I was planning on majoring in history with a minor in politics. I eventually wanted to go on to attend law school (lol). Once August came around, I officially started classes. Unfortunately, I immediately got sick with my first ever case of the stomach flu and missed the entire second week of classes, setting me pretty far behind and causing immense strain on my academics. I also learned, the hard way of course, that my American history professor didn’t allow students into their class late. If you were even a minute late to the lecture, the doors would be locked. As someone who used public transportation to get to and from campus, it was nearly impossible to arrive on time if I missed the train after work. Not to mention the campus was more than three times the size of the local university I had previously attended.
To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement.
Topping off this stressful situation, the family I was staying with were… unwelcoming. The only place I felt even close to comfortable in the house was in “my room,” but even that never felt like my own space. I was just borrowing that room from them, after all. This ended up causing me to isolate myself in that room, and I was more unhappy than I had ever been before.
ANYWAY: I ended up having an anxiety attack in my American sign language class in early September. So, I made an appointment with the free counseling center at the university. In total, I ended up going to one appointment per month for the duration of my time attending the U of U. Those hour long sessions with the most wonderful psychologist were 100% what I needed to get my mental health in check. My eyes were definitely opened to the indicators of my own anxiety.
Some of my nervous ticks include: hand fidgeting, scratching, jaw clenching (this one is happening as I write), finger chewing… Thankfully, therapy taught me healthy coping mechanisms like breathing exercises and mindfulness. So far, these techniques have been working for me and I’m a lot more confident and comfortable being who I am. Therapy also helped me decide that I needed a break from school and that I wanted to move back to my home town, which I will be forever grateful for.
Anxiety definitely prevents me from doing a lot of things at times, especially when strangers or general acquaintances are involved. I rarely start conversations, have difficulty going new places alone, and don’t often try new things. However, since learning how to deal with these disorders, I’ve been able to narrow down the issues and work through a lot of situations. The one I still struggle with the most is starting conversations with people I want to talk to. Do they want to hear from me? What if I’m annoying them?
I’ve been “awkward” my whole life, and finally having a name for the way I am definitely helped me understand why I am the way I am. Does that make me any less anxious and awkward? Not really. But does that mean there’s room for improvement? Absolutely. I don’t think I’ll ever be anxiety free, but I can ensure that I don’t let it control my life. I am enough, just the way I am.