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Her Story: My Journey With Anxiety

Before I jump into this thing, I’d like to clarify the difference between depression and anxiety. Depression, according to Medical Daily, is characterized by “emotions of helplessness, despair, and anger that interfere in everyday activities.” Anxiety, on the other hand, manifests in symptoms such as “overwhelming feelings of fear, panic, and obsession” particularly concerned with the future. Many people suffer from both anxiety and depression, but a lot of us suffer from only one. It’s hard to distinguish between the two, but it’s absolutely imperative to do so at times in order to solve the issue. 

Having said that, I’m not depressed. I’ve never felt suicidal, I’ve never felt as if there was no point to life, I’ve never experienced those long, drawn-out moments of hopeless, stand-still time. Many people like to group me into the “depressed” category because they see my tears and tendency to be alone as perpetual sadness, but that’s just not the case. My brain is not inactive and depressed; it’s entirely too active, and that’s the problem. 

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve had anxiety. As a child, I would obsess over certain situations such as school meet-the-teacher nights, what time my mom would be home, how to talk to strangers, etc. I was a good student and extremely quiet; many people mistook my quietness as shyness, when in fact, I just froze when people spoke to me. I blanked, stared straight ahead, and pretended that they didn’t exist. No matter how many times they spoke to me or tried to get me to speak, I felt too overwhelmed to reply. Looking back, now knowing the meaning behind my silence, I wish I could tell myself that it’s okay to tell the babysitter what kind of sandwich you want for lunch, and it’s okay if Mom is a few minutes late, and it’s perfectly fine if you take over half-hour naps. 

My anxiety burgeoned from many things: a rocky childhood, a severely distressed relationship with my father, a lot of family drama, and never being told it was alright to show my true self. All of this manifested to me feeling out of control, all the time, in a highly unpredictable environment. So, I became controlling, obsessive, and I had to know what was going to happen the next day or so help me, I would break down.

My anxiety became worse in my teenage years, accompanied with some compulsive behaviors. I ran numbers in my head, had to read texts repeatedly before I could reply, rehearsed normal, everyday conversations in my head before I actually had them, and I shut everyone out. There were moments where an inexplicable distress would come over me, a wave of panic, and I had to block out the world. Many times, my mother thought I was ignoring her. Many times, my friends thought I was being arrogant and haughty when really, I could not longer deal with my surroundings. After the wave passed, I would feel guilty, so, so guilty, as if I’d purposely ignored the world around me. I felt like I had to apologize- for what, I didn’t know- to everyone around me for being a burden. I’m sorry I didn’t reply right away. I’m sorry I had to turn my head. I’m sorry I had to ask you the same question repeatedly. 

One of my many trademarks became my compulsive assurance-seeking from my friends and my family alike. I needed someone to answer the same question about five or more times in order to truly feel at peace. And then, I would feel bad that I asked so many times, and then I would assume the person was upset with me which would lead to more questions, and ultimately them actually becoming upset with me and on and on and on…Nothing anyone said or did was enough for my chaotic mind. I don’t know how many times I’ve researched health questions on Google, or how many ways I’ve convinced myself I’m infertile, or even how many plane rides I’ve spent wondering if it would be my last day on earth.

The worst part about all of it was that I didn’t know my thoughts were abnormal. In my case, I didn’t tell anyone about the musings in my head; they built up and up and up until one day, I would break. I’d become highly sensitive to one thing, one stupid little thing someone said to me, and I would explode. I’m not an angry person at heart, but when I’ve swallowed my worries and fears for so long, I reach my limit. And all of my friends will tell you that once I get angry… there’s no going back. 

It was my breakdowns that led me to actually being diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. In a time where the future was becoming more unclear and more uncertain day by day (no one can ever be prepared to move across the country to attend medical school), I knew I had to get a grip on my mind before it overtook me. My thoughts were not normal or called for yet they ruled my life. My fears- of dying, of failing, of never being enough- had become so potent that they were slowly destroying my being. I had tried therapy to no avail, so the next step was a simple one: go to the doctor. Surprisingly enough, I’d broken myself to a point where I went easily because I craved normalcy and peace more than anything in the world.

That was about a year ago. I’m on medication now, and I’m doing so, so much better. I still suffer from moments of silence and anger; I still want to be alone a good majority of the time. I like knowing what’s going to happen in the future, but I’ve now learned to deal with uncertainty. Somehow you won’t be able to convince me a plane won’t be my end, but the fear of dying young is no longer there. I will still go blank, and I will still need time by myself in the middle of a random, seemingly normal conversation. But I’m so much better, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made.

If you suffer from anxiety, you’re not alone. No matter why or how long you’ve had it, you are justified in your feelings- even if they seem outlandish to others around you. Not many people can or will understand where you’re coming from; I get it. They’ll look at you like you’re crazy and you might actually feel a little crazy, too, but it’s not your fault. You’ve learned to deal with your surroundings so you were in control, and being in control is not a bad thing. You just need to be at peace when you’re not, and that’s where therapy and medication can help. 

It may never all go away, and you may never feel completely okay. It’s who you are, it’s in your blood- but, just like you want, you have the power to take control of it and change it for the better. Please don’t be afraid to seek help, because everyone deserves serenity in their lives. The world will never stop spinning; you just have to learn how to spin with it. 

Orooj Syed is a senior at the University of North Texas, majoring in Biology and minoring in Criminal Justice. Between balancing her academics and extracurricular activities, she enjoys finding new places to travel and new foods to eat. Writing has always been one of her greatest passions and, next to sleeping, she considers it a form of free therapy.
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