girl looking at the Niagara Falls

An Open Letter To My Anxiety

Content warning: This letter discusses the topic of anxiety and its effects.

Dear Anxiety,

You are my enemy. Your nonchalant whispers didn’t become yelling until my junior year of high school. The whispers of not being enough had turned into a deafening mantra repeated throughout the day. You let me hear it at night as I tossed and turned to fall asleep. Every negative word someone had uttered to me was echoing in my head. That’s when I experienced my first panic attack. Your voice drowned my body in a never-ending loop of trying to keep my head above a body of water. I was gasping for air but my lungs were struggling to breathe. It was like no one could hear my inner screams, but in reality, I was drowning in my own tears with sweat dripping down my back. 

You never appeared at the right time. I would be in class minding my own business, about to stand up to turn in an assignment, and you would reappear. Your voice was whispering how everyone would stare at me if I walked up to turn in the paper at that exact moment, so I waited. I waited until another student walked up. You prevented me from participating in class when I had all the right answers. The same shaky voice echoed in the back of my head telling me “What if it isn’t the right answer, though?” 

You gave me unrealistic expectations to be perfect, comparing my standardized test scores to my classmates. You made me feel worthless as I struggled to get high scores on my practice tests. You gave me a mental disability to not function, to not socialize, to not feel comfortable with new situations. 

I had this unhealthy crutch and attachment to your words. I was told by “friends” that this was just a phase, that everyone had anxiety. You weren’t a personality trait, you were the inability for me to function in any social situation and in general. They didn’t understand that you didn’t just become a disability; you became a constant in my life, earning traits that made you more of a humanized version of that toxic friend who always crept up with bad advice and negative judgments. 

you are enough sign Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

It wasn’t until I had a friend who silenced you that I felt better. That friend's name was Lexapro. They replaced your negative comments with a calming positive mantra of “Don’t worry.” When asked to present in class, Lexapro was there to calm my nerves. They reassured me that it would be over soon and that, with more practice, it would just become a natural ability to speak publicly. They encouraged me even through my shaky breaths and words. They were my helping hand any time I felt like I was drowning. 

So, I actually want to thank you, anxiety. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t feel so empowered. Because I don’t need your validation anymore.