A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Then and only then

I’ve suffered from anxiety for my whole life now. It can be tough and it’s a complete inconvenience at times, but it’s something that I’ve had to learn to accept and deal with.

One thing that really bothers me is that people do not believe that anxiety is a real mental illness. When I tell my friends about my anxiety they just say things like “ I get you” or “ it’s not that serious” or “you’re doing too much, you’re too dramatic.” These are possibly the worst things you can say to a person with anxiety or a person who’s in distress during a panic attack; it just makes them feel worse about their lack of control over the situation. It bothers me because deep down I know that it’s not a big deal, but it’s also not that simple to get over it.

Anxiety isn’t something that I can just get rid of. Although I have my good days and bad days, I’ve accepted that it’s probably going to be a part of my life forever.

Since I was in elementary school, I remember fretting constantly over little things, obsessing over what could go wrong, making myself sick with worry. These feelings were so normal to me that I didn’t even realize I had a problem. I thought everyone was like this, that everyone spent all their time and energy stressing about the outcome of everything they said or did.

It was only when I turned 16 that I realised anxiety was an actual illness. Mostly because that’s when I started having panic attacks and decided to inform myself more about it. The fact that this happened regularly made me even more anxious. I was so afraid of people looking at me and seeing me freak out. Every time before going out, I found myself go through every single bad thing that could happen, which would lead to a panic attack.

The same goes for school. School and work stressed me out to the point where I would have panic attacks just thinking about school. I am always anxious and on high alert in class just because I feel like all my classmates including my teachers make fun of me behind my back. It’s ironic how I am so concerned with school and grades, but I have very poor grades.

This fear was made even worse when it came to presentations or public speaking. I would start having panic attacks just thinking about standing up, mostly thinking about how bad my peers would judge me. When I hear laughs or someone talking while I present, I just assume that I am doing bad and instantly hate myself.

Many of my friends said that I was too dramatic, that I loved drama, just because I would talk about my panic attacks. I think that’s complete bull. I go out of my way to be undetected in school and in life. I don’t have beef with anyone. I never really speak up. I don’t have many friends. I don’t share my thoughts or opinions. I just share my stories so that I can vent and not have it in me until I one day explode.

I’m not writing this out of anger for what has happened in the past. I’m writing it because I want people to be aware of what a person with anxiety goes through before they decide to judge them, decide to talk badly about them and make presumptions, all things things that can make a person’s anxiety even worse.

I believe that, people need to take the time to actually listen and try to comprehend what it’s like to live with anxiety. Then and only then will we all get along and be less judgemental about each other. I want people to understand how hard it can be, or at least to try to understand. By being a little more accepting of somebody with anxiety, they could just make it a little easier for them to deal with it themselves.