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To Everything Anxiety Stole From Me

When I was younger, I used to get so caught up in my fear-driven thoughts that I would quite literally forget to breathe. Full seconds would pass before I found myself gulping for air, a thin sheen of cold sweat coating my hands. And these fear-driven thoughts would come about at the worst, most inopportune times. The first day of school, the first day of a new dance class, the first day of soccer practice with a new team—notice a theme here? Firsts. I was utterly terrified of firsts. And to some degree, it made sense. Lots of people get nervous before their first time doing something new or participating in an activity with a new group of people. But for me it was different because my fear-driven thoughts—the very basis of my severe anxiety—could completely stop me from trying out these “firsts.” So this is an ode, or maybe a twisted kind of eulogy, to all those things that anxiety stole from me.

To the cute boy that smiled at me every day in my first period geometry class, I’m sorry that my fear of rejection kept me from saying hi to you.

To that jazz dance class with the tough but wonderful teacher, I’m sorry that I was too scared of not being good enough to even go to the first class, even though all my friends told me it was their favorite.

To my first "B" grade in college, I’m sorry that my participation grade dropped because I was always too afraid to speak up, even though my answers in my head were almost always correct.

To my first love, I’m sorry that my anxiety over the possibility of losing you led to my paranoia and accusatory behavior that lost you.

To my mother, I’m sorry that so many years of our relationship were spent in turmoil and seeped in anger because my anxiety was ripping me apart as a person and you, as my mother, couldn’t save me.

And finally, to myself: I am so, so sorry that my anxiety has prevented me from partaking in so many opportunities, from having constant fulfilling relationships, and from being my full and whole self. 

But lastly, and most importantly, I am thankful for the progress I have made and for the strength I have gained in terms of defeating my anxiety. It’s a work in progress—I’m a work in progress—but I know that I will no longer let my anxiety control me, and I will not let it steal yet another thing from me. I am strong. I am worthy and my anxiety does not define me.

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