Anxiety and Me

Biting my nails, my left leg shakes uncontrollably under the table. I tap a beat out on my textbook, fidgeting to escape the thoughts in my head. Staring at the words before me, I struggle to read the same paragraph, reading it over and over and over again, unable to concentrate on the page. This is one of the ways my anxiety manifests itself- creeping, slowly, waiting to pounce the moment I start to feel overwhelmed. The moments where I can’t catch my breath, pulsating with rage and sadness and utter numbness. Going from uncontrollable laughter to barely being able to speak through a cluttered mess of tears. Talking so much I feel like a nuisance, rambling on and on to hold the attention of a friend, afraid that if I stop speaking, they’ll see the mess underneath. This is my reality. This is anxiety.

 

The last 4 months have been a turning point. I have never experienced anxiety like I did during my first semester of college. I often felt both full of emotion and numb at the same time, going through the motions, afraid to tip the scales to keep the balance perfect. Dealing with millions of thoughts of “what if” became a daily ritual, feeling like the balance had been shifted and my world would come crashing down at any instant. I became worried that my best effort was no longer my best, that I had given up even though I was working my butt off every day. I pushed myself closer and closer to what felt like the edge of the sea- where I would just drop off and float in space, suspended by mediocracy. I couldn’t let myself be anything less than the smart student I had been in high school, even though the classes had become much harder. I was convinced that one bad grade would be the end of my scholarship and therefore my college career, even though that was far from the truth. I dug myself in a deep hole, and instead of looking up at the light above, my anxiety forced my head to stay focused on the endless darkness below me.

 

One night in November, I remember feeling like I had been hit by a truck. I couldn’t breathe, I felt that pulsating sadness come crawling up my throat, unrelenting, and hit me at full force. Sitting alone in my room, I called my dad. When he picked up, I just cried. I couldn’t stop. Once he had calmed me down, I explained to him how this wasn’t the first anxiety attack of this caliber I had while away at school. At this point, it was maybe my third or fourth. He helped me rationalize the situation, and I hung up maybe twenty minutes later, feeling calmer but still on edge.

 

That on edge feeling stayed with me until I got home for break. A feeling of numbness draped itself over me, leaving me feeling emotionally drained. Being away from the stresses of school helped me come to realize that my thoughts were nothing more than that- thoughts. In all the work and projects and groups I poured myself into, I had forgotten the most important thing, myself. I needed to remember that I was more than my grades- as important as they are, they do not define who I am as a person. I promised myself that I would keep working hard, but not only in school, but in bettering myself as a person as well. I scheduled my first therapy appointment in months. This year, I’m making an effort to separate my anxiety from myself. While it will still continue to be a part of who I am and present itself now and then, what is important is understanding that thoughts come and go. You are more than mediocre and deserve more credit than what you give yourself. This year is the year of me, embracing my flaws and my detriments and working to improve as a person and no longer allow my anxiety to define me.