This article is part of VocaLady Magazine’s ongoing series on mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month which takes place in May.
I have anxiety. I’m shy, I don’t like big parties, and I fidget all the time. I’m quiet when I meet new people, and sometimes it takes me a few times to be able to talk to them at all. I have anxiety and I am tired of it being branded as “cute.” This is why anxiety is exactly the opposite:
1. You are paranoid, even when you know you shouldn’t be.
I have to check that my car is locked five times before I can leave it to go where I need to. When I go out to eat with friends, I have to ask them to let me sit facing the door so that I can see an exit in order to feel safe, even though in my mind, I know that I would be safe facing either way.
2. Anxiety is time consuming.
All of these little fears, and everything I have to do to absolve them, adds up. They’ve made me late to important events. It takes me hours to do simple homework because I get it into my head that there’s no way I could have done it that fast, so it must be wrong.
3. Anxiety makes you feel out of place.
I am always afraid that the people that I consider to be my friends hate me. And I do mean hate. I’m scared that I annoy them and they just tolerate me. When I was prescribed medication, I was embarrassed. I felt like something was wrong with me. Anxiety is either stigmatized or portrayed as normal (shy, cute, etc.), so I figured that something must really be wrong with me if I had to take medication for it.
4. Anxiety can impede your success.
I never raised my hand in class because I was afraid of having the wrong answer and making a fool of myself. As a result, my test scores and my grades suffered. I failed classes because my anxiety about talking to the teacher was so high that I chose to stop attending instead. Now, you tell me if you still think anxiety is cute.
5. Anxiety does not go away.
It is not solved by forcing those that suffer from anxiety to do things that make them uncomfortable. It is not solved by telling them to get over it or telling them “just do it, you’ll be fine.” Anxiety is a mental illness, and should be treated as such. I would say it’s not “all in our heads,” except that is how mental illnesses work. Brains can get sick too.
For the readers who experience anxiety: You are valid, brave, and so strong. I am proud of you.