I think it’s safe to say that everybody worries sometimes. It’s only human, but for some of us worry becomes a force that controls our lives. I know this first hand- I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve struggled with fear and anxiety. For a while I even allowed it to change who I was.
I can’t remember exactly when my fears started to creep up on me, it must have been sometime in ninth grade. I was experiencing real teenage ‘drama’ for the first time and all of a sudden I was feeling insecure about what other people thought of me. It was such an innocent thought, but I let it grow little by little.
Slowly but surely, I picked myself apart. Thoughts are powerful. Sometimes our thoughts can betray us; they control us instead of us controlling them. I became incredibly self-conscious of everything I did, the most trivial comment towards me was an attack- fuel for my constant stream of worry. The way I stood, the way I walked, the number of times I spoke: all of it was torture. I was terrified of being seen. At 15, I was scared to walk to class. I avoided my friends in the hallways- I could feel judgemental eyes watching me everywhere I went (even if they weren’t really there). I didn’t even know it then, but I was suffering with social anxiety. I had allowed my insecurities to control everything I did. I felt so trapped. It spread fast- soon I was obsessively anxious about my academic performance, eventually I became fearful of nearly every aspect of my life.
It was a vicious cycle- the more anxious I became, the more I isolated myself. The more alone I was, the more I believed my own irrational fears. I was truly a nervous wreck. The saddest part about it all was the change in myself. I am not a ‘quiet’ person. I am rarely shy, I’m the life of the party when I want to be. I love being around others- it’s essential to me and without it I suffered. I experienced a lot of derealization. I could hardly recognize myself anymore because I had changed so much. I had this ovewhelming panic in the back of my mind, this can’t be my life. This isn’t me. It was always there but I didn’t know what to do about it, everything I wanted seemed to be just out of my reach.
The truth is, I didn’t know anything about anxiety at first. Nobody wants to talk about it- nobody wants to admit they are the person that is petrified by things that should not be scary. It’s the elephant in the room that nobody will bring up. I didn’t know it was okay to struggle with it. I thought I was effectively alone, so I suffered. That’s why I’m writing this today- we all worry. It’s only human. It means we care, it just gets ahead of us sometimes. I suffered with anxiety, but over time I learned to manage it. Time and time again I stepped out of my comfort zone. Every time, I proved myself wrong.
The thing is, people have their own struggles. We’re not all that different- I’m sure the people around me were dealing with their own fears. I was waiting for somebody to save me, to validate me, but I already had everything I needed right in front of me. All I had to do was see that and set myself free.
Everything you want is on the other side of fear.