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Mental Health

Go Easy on Yourself: Living with Anxiety

Having a mental illness is a weird thing. Most times, you are aware that something is wrong, but finding the resources to get diagnosed can be difficult. This was my case with anxiety.

Although I had an inkling my whole life that there was something wrong, I did not have an “official” diagnosis until now. This doesn’t invalidate my previous experience. If this is also your case, your experience is valid. Anxiety is a turbulent and complex disorder to deal with. Despite how horrendous it makes me feel at times, I had to learn to live with it. Even now, after doing cognitive behavioral therapy, I am still struggling with anxiety. I hope to give an insight into my journey and give details about what I have learned along the way.

It’s quite an exciting thing to find out a lot of the causes of your behaviors have been the result of something you didn’t know you had. In the past four years of college, my anxiety became very apparent. It manifested itself in different forms. Sometimes I would be invited to hang out with friends, and I would back out even though I wanted to go. I would be plagued by thoughts of ways the event could go wrong. For instance, I would convince myself that I would somehow embarrass myself or end up having a bad time. It had nothing to do with my friends and everything to do with my overthinking. Anxiety is such a frustrating thing because you end up in a perpetual cycle. I would say no to going out and then get anxious about NOT going out. It would feel like my world was ending because I didn’t want to feel anxious about going out, but I would end up paranoid that my friends would hate me for canceling. 

One of the most important things I have learned that comforts me is that I am not psychic. Anxiety can make you feel like you are omniscient. However, there is no way to know that you will have a miserable time when you go out. There is also no way for you to know if something will go horrendously wrong. It is difficult to turn off these kinds of thoughts, but understanding that your thoughts are not facts can be comforting. Often, when I find myself in this hurtful mindset, I just remind myself that I am not a superhero. I cannot tell the future. It helps me to push through and try to conquer my fears. Therefore, if I am scared to go out, I make it my goal to go out. This doesn’t get easier, but dealing with anxiety is not a downhill slope.

Another important thing is realizing that you are not crazy. Many people with anxiety battle physiological symptoms. For instance, my heart races and I find it hard to breathe. These symptoms make people feel like they are crazy. They may go to the doctor and be told nothing is wrong. However, physiological symptoms are real and can be a normal part of your anxiety. It took me a long time to accept that I was not making up my physiological symptoms. It is normal to feel like something is wrong when your mind is in overdrive!

While my anxiety is a part of my life that I am dealing with every day, it does not define me. This is something I am learning to accept little by little. I have learned that it is okay to struggle with anxiety, and I hope you can too.

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Graciela is a senior at FSU currently majoring in behavioral neuroscience. She is striving to become a forensic pathologist after completing medical school in the future. She loves to read and watch movies in her free time!
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