Every morning I wake up before my alarm and my thoughts start to flood my brain before I’ve even stepped out of bed. I don’t wake up early on purpose– it’s just this automatic freak out that I have as soon as the first ray of sunlight creeps in through my window. Instantly, I jolt awake and my mind starts to race.
What if I didn’t do an assignment?
Of course, I did all my assignments, I’d never let something like that slip by.
What if people hate my article this week?
Who cares? You have over 120 of them, you can’t please everyone.
What if I can’t finish that paper that’s due in three weeks?
Chill. You have three weeks.
What if I’m forgetting that I’m supposed to be doing something right now?
That’s why you have a planner and it’s 6 AM. Calm down.
This is a typical conversation that I have with my self every. single. day.
Sometimes the things I worry about are even more ridiculous. They never stop though. I replay conversations in my head from years ago, still stressing over saying the wrong thing. The intrusive thoughts are always in my head and they often are far more terrifying than the thoughts I’ve shared above. I can argue with them, but even my logical side cannot fend them off for good. This is what life with anxiety is like. It’s waking up every morning with your chest caving in, your pupils dilated, your hands shaking, your balance unsteady, and your heart racing. Sometimes I don’t even know why I’m having an anxiety attack. It just hits me and I can’t figure out what’s causing it. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night freaking out over an assignment or essay that is nonexistent.
I’ve had anxiety for my entire life.
My earliest memories include these intrusive thoughts and ridiculous fears. I remember lying in my bed at night as a preschooler and worrying over whether or not I might have accidentally put a plastic bag over my head earlier that day and waiting for my impending death. Obviously, as a four-year-old, I didn’t understand the concept of suffocation or how that worked. Needless to say, I was terrified of plastic bags, the soap under the sink, bugs, birds, dirt– you name it, I had an irrational fear of it. Even today, I’m afraid of the most bizarre things and I’d rather not disclose them all on the internet.
I’m not writing this to get you to pity me.
Please don’t pity me. Right now I have anxiety over what you will think of me. I don’t want you to think I’m just another blogger starving for attention. That’s not the case at all. I’m very highly functional and pretty successful overall. So, although my anxiety disorder is something that I have to battle every day, I’m not letting it defeat me. I won’t let my thoughts and fears hold me back. I’m writing this so the people who are like me know they are not alone. Sometimes it feels like you’re losing your mind when anxiety strikes, but anxiety is a very common thing, even severe anxiety, like mine, is common.
If you have an anxiety disorder, you’re not crazy.
I’ve found that talking to other people with really bad anxiety and reading about other people’s experiences with it has helped me a lot. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person with these intrusive thoughts. Sometimes I learn that the people that I perceive to have it all together are the people who have the same kind of anxiety as me. You don’t see an anxiety disorder from the outside. It’s not like chicken pox or pneumonia. There aren’t super obviously visible symptoms. Most of it happens inside someone’s head.
So many successful people struggle with anxiety disorders.
I bet you didn’t know that Justin Timberlake, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Megan Fox all have OCD. It is also believed that Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Samuel Johnson, and Charles Darwin all also suffered from OCD. Abraham Lincoln also had a very severe generalized anxiety disorder. And you’d probably never guess that Jennifer Lawrence had social anxiety. You never know who might be struggling with anxiety because the symptoms aren’t so obvious and they don’t necessarily hinder achievement. In fact, sometimes my anxiety has propelled me academically, as much as I hate to say it. The fear of failure has driven me to ensure my success, and I think that in a way, that is a positive attribute (that comes at a very high price).
When I meet someone who has experienced this same struggle, I instantly feel a weight come off my shoulders as I discover that I’m really not insane. Anxiety is something that a lot of successful people struggle with. If you have an anxiety disorder, you can make it through. I think if more people are aware of how common anxiety like this is, then hopefully, we can help tear down the stigma surrounding mental illness. It’s OK to not be OK.