Anxiety is something I’ve been dealing with since I was a teenager. It’s that overwhelming sense that things have gone wrong, are going wrong, and will go wrong and that I will suffer the terrible consequences. As a teenager, I was convinced that I was always making some grave social misstep when I interacted with people, and as a result, I felt that I was constantly being judged. I didn’t think anybody liked me and I isolated myself. I watched people’s interest in me dwindle, hemorrhaging friends every year. Devastating words like “failure” and “loser” and “alone” reverberated around my mind, chipping away at something inside me every time they collided with my insides. No one really called me these things to my face, but in my experience of anxiety, I was my own bully.
Fortunately, once high school was over and I went off to university, things slowly got better. I didn’t leave high school without scars and tattered self-esteem, but experiencing the freedom to take care of myself for the first time helped me begin to heal. If I was feeling overwhelmed, I could have alone time to get myself together. I could try to face social situations that intimidated me slowly, in a way that didn’t provoke a breakdown.
So when I left undergrad a few years ago, my anxiety came with me, but it was controlled. Instead of a wild, ravaging wolf, I had an unruly retriever on my hands. I could put it on a leash.
I thought that was the end of that, until last week, when I found myself awake at 5 am, on the verge of tears, and quickly spiralling. What?