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On a good day, I wake up like everyone else, and after laying around for a few minutes, I can get up and start my day. On a bad day, I wake up shaking with an irregular heartbeat. It hurts to open my eyes because they are sensitive to light. Going back to sleep is impossible, but waking up seems too hard. I squeeze my eyes shut, curl into a tight ball, and breathe until the feeling goes away. 

Before starting medication for my anxiety, the disorder consumed my body and mind all day, every day. I was on the brink of vomiting almost every time I had to go somewhere. I would find myself zoned out and stuck inside my head in most group situations. There was not a second of the day that I didn’t feel unsettled or afraid, even if it was just the smallest amount. 

Since starting my medication, I have far more control over the way my anxiety makes me feel. The physical effects take a lot longer to start, so I am able to calm my mind down before my body starts spiraling. However, even though I no longer feel consumed by fear all day, anxiety still takes a toll on my everyday life. 

Sometimes, I can’t convince myself to leave the house. It just doesn’t feel right. I can feel the nausea creeping in and I have to decide if I want to push through it or cancel my plans. 

Sometimes, I have to leave early. I get overwhelmed by the amount of people or noise. Maybe a scary thought popped into my head for just a second, and now I can’t get rid of it and I no longer feel safe. 

Sometimes, I think everyone hates me. A relaxing day by myself that I have been waiting on all week suddenly turns into wondering why no one is reaching out. Why don’t I have plans? What am I missing out on? Are all the people in my life just pretending to care about me?

Sometimes, I panic. I start to lose my breath and feel tears fill my eyes. My body shakes and I can’t think straight. My heart beats too fast and I can’t calm down. It doesn’t happen often anymore, but it will always be a possibility. 

For me, living with generalized anxiety disorder means that I am on edge most of the time. It is easy to push me over that line and for the anxious thoughts to roll in. It means that I spend a lot of time reassuring myself and asking loved ones to reassure me as well. It means that I overthink everything that happens to me and am constantly expecting and preparing for the worst. 

Living with anxiety also means that I am sensitive to other people’s feelings. It means that I care more about others because I know how it feels to think you’re alone. It means that I am cautious and safe, and while sometimes that goes too far, it also often keeps me from getting hurt. When you look deeper, the silver linings shine through.

Vivian Barrett is a student at Michigan State University majoring in journalism with a concentration in writing, reporting and editing and minoring in media photography and women's and gender studies. She is passionate about women's rights and mental health.
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