One aspect of my life which feels never-ending is the conflict between my heart and my mind. Daily, I find myself in situations where I have a desire to say or do something, but my brain says, “No.” But, it’s more than just a quick rejection of my own wishes. It comes along with fear, stress, feeling stuck, and wanting to escape. However, these things are invisible to the naked eye and only I can feel them, though I wish I didn’t.
From elementary school to the beginning of my first year in college, I had the assumption that I was “strange” and not in the hipster sense of being different and cool, but because I could not handle social situations as well as the people around me. Was it normal that I would occasionally cry before I had to go somewhere and then continue to cry because my anxiety stopped me from going to places I had wanted to go? The fear of leaving my house would sometimes be strong enough to hold me back and I would stay in – does that happen to any regular person? My anxiety symptoms include: rapid heart beats, sweaty palms, trembling hands, my throat closing up, not being able to talk, and my face heating up. When I was younger, this felt like impending doom, now, I know it’s just my anxiety acting up.
I recall a specific memory from middle school, I was not yet 14, perhaps 12 or 13, and I was walking home one afternoon. I lived in this complex that was near the school and there would sometimes be people from my school who’d play in the playground, which was right in front of my apartment. When I approached the gate, I saw at least ten people I had recognized from my middle school and this wave of fear took over. I couldn’t go home. I didn’t want to see them and I definitely did not want them to see me. What I did was walk around my complex, spent time in another area far away from my home, and waited it out until everyone was gone. That was just in middle school. In high school, I remember I had so much anxiety about a competition that I flaked out on it, disappointing my coach and former teammates. Now, it’s not as easy to just wait it out or to run away.
Whenever I’m entering a new environment, or a place I’ve deemed uncomfortable, my anxiety goes through the roof. New work places and social situations I did not intend to attend are a couple of examples. I remember at one of my internships, at the beginning, I found myself with my words stuck in my throat, struggling to say the simplest greetings, and couldn’t even ask for the smallest favors. I felt as if my words were always on the tip of my tongue yet there’s a blockage so I never spoke when I so desired to. It took me a few months to get comfortable at my internship and before I knew it, it was time to leave. I wish I wasn’t so rigid and could have let down my walls faster, but it’s complicated when my anxiety doesn’t allow me to make the first move.
I’ve been tied to these chains of worry that never go away. My constant paranoia is a sidekick I’ve never wanted. But, I am stuck with my anxiety for what feels like the rest of my life. My anxiety masks who I am and because of this, I can be seen as standoffish, anti-social, or rude (all of which I completely accept). When you’re me and you’re mentally fighting against yourself, it’s not surprising when my face is full of frowns and there are no smiles to be found. Strangely, I must admit I find comfort in not having to be forced to smile and look delighted at all times.
However, one lesson I’ve learned is being comfortable means being stagnant. If I stay in the same place for the rest of my life, socially, career-wise, or academically, would I ever rise to be the woman I wish to be? The answer is no. Stepping out of my comfort zone is what spikes up my anxiety: meeting new people, going to somewhere unknown, having to bond with strangers, and so on. But nothing great comes from standing still in calm water. Overcoming the angst means traveling into treacherous tides. Is anything safe ever worth the drive? As someone who loves the rush of adrenaline, I have to stop taking flight and fight.