Growing up, I was always pretty anxious. So anxious, in fact, that it felt normal; I thought everybody felt the same way I did.
In high school, when others were faced with the same stresses as me, however, I began to notice different responses. Some people seemed perfectly put together, like they had everything planned out. On the other hand, I felt inwardly terrible and outwardly expressed my anxieties and worries to my friends and family and my teachers and advisors.
No matter what response I got, no matter who it was from, and no matter what they said, I still felt like something was wrong with me. Anxiety was displayed as something that needed to be “taken care of” and “controlled," which is partially true. But, many times, it isn’t that simple.
Everyone experiences a little anxiety; it is a natural response to situations that may appear as threatening or unfamiliar. There are biological explanations as well that can predispose anyone to high-levels of anxiety in certain scenarios.
For example, when you’re growing up as a teenager and moving into adulthood with added biological predispositions, you have a formula for intense anxiety. Despite my continued, heightened anxiety I maintained my success in academics, so my anxiety became a comfort and part of my every day life. When faced with a problem, becoming intensely anxious was normal for me even though it caused me such distress.
In college, this pattern didn’t work as well for me. Without the safety net of my parents and siblings, I spiraled out of control mentally and physically. It was a mess, but I made it through by seeking other forms of support at school and not being afraid to ask for support from my home base even while being away.
However, this does not mean that I found a magical fix for my anxiety – that’s not how mental illness works. Instead, I took personal steps, including seeing a therapist, a psychiatrist, trial and error with medications, interacting more regularly with friends and family, and participating in self talk and personal coping mechanisms.
The biggest thing I realized was very simple yet extremely life-changing: It is okay not to be okay!
Not every second of every day is going to be perfect. Sometimes we will have good days, and sometimes we will have bad days. We are not always going to be able to overcome our mental illness alone. All of this is perfectly fine.