A note on anxiety

By Jenny Ochu

Around two months ago, my leadership class embarked on a journey together for three weeks. It began relatively easily. We took turns presenting for seven minutes on our personal leadership journeys, which meant opening up about the experiences in our lives that make us us. We quickly founded our close knit community built by 26 complete strangers who discovered commonalities in each others lives during these presentations, and it has without a doubt been one of the best classroom experiences in my college career.

 

However, what followed was probably the most difficult essay during my time here. Due to procrastination, I holed up in my room one Friday night analyzing everything about myself for an eleven page reflection on what makes me me. The first section was relatively easy writing about my childhood and the role models in my life, but then I hit a point where I had to explain my anxiety and its effects in my challenges, success, fears and dreams. I thought it would be simple; I was wrong. As much as I hate to admit it, my anxiety has played a much larger role in my life than previously thought.

But this got me thinking. How do we as a society recognize and explain mental health? How do those stereotypes hinder us? What can I do to change that? Well, I can attempt to explain that battle, and while no single person’s anxiety is the same as the next, it’s okay. This is one explanation of what anxiety is, not the “worry” or the “overthinking”.

My anxiety is struggling to concentrate while in class, while doing homework, while in large group settings, even while walking (almost got hit by a car the other day thanks to this, yay).

My anxiety is putting on a smile and keeping my head held high because it’s often easier than trying to explain the millions of irrelevant and illogical thoughts racing through my mind.

My anxiety is control. A desire to control anything and everything in my life when I can’t control a part of myself.

My anxiety is falling asleep at one, two or even three in the morning waiting for my brain to take a time out. It’s surviving off of melatonin for a week and learning to live as an insomniac when you’re not supposed to have caffeine.

My anxiety is the need for routine despite the fact that the real me, the carefree me, gets bored and distracted on day two of constant routine.

My anxiety is having to consciously track my alcohol intake because that extra drink or shot is too tempting. Yes, it takes away the anxiety for a moment, but it wreaks havoc over the next few days.

My anxiety is a perfectionist. It’s a fear of failing at anything in life, despite the fact I know everything will be okay after the smallest and even the largest failures.

My anxiety is caring. It’s wanting to please everyone. It’s holding onto things, to people past their expiration date. It’s still allowing toxic things in your life after you know you should be done.

And when it all starts to add up, when I can’t pinpoint or control the trigger, my anxiety is the short, shallow breaths. The shakiness. The lack of appetite. The muscle tension. The blurry vision. The migraines. The moment I curl up into a ball in the corner of my room trying to focus on anything but my anxiety.

Most importantly though, my anxiety is not me. Yes, my anxiety controls me on my good days and weeks, but for the majority of any given year my anxiety is non-existent. Anxiety does not limit me; every time I go through an anxiety phase, months of anxiety, I come out a stronger and better person. My anxiety is not an excuse to pity me or anyone else for that matter because at the end of the day, my anxiety does not define me; I define me.

Scott MeyerComment