Sometimes we have to face things that we already know, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Especially when it’s so hard to explain to someone what you’re going through because “everyone is anxious.” “An anxiety disorder not specified” was listed toward the bottom of the summary of my evaluation — I’ve just entered my senior year of college and after failing two semesters of a foreign language despite every effort, it was time to face that maybe I cannot learn one. I cannot.
I have always been a painfully shy child, and I’ve always been a loner — so I think that, often, my shyness was just mistaken as introversion. However, I was so shy that if I knew I had a presentation coming up in school, I would dread it and be sick to my stomach all week — my body would swell with heat when my teacher would mention the presentation. I was often too shy to speak in conversations that were happening around me, even though I could have, and I dreaded being called on in class. A lot of those things I seemed to grow out of, so maybe it was just shyness.
But I do have a confession to make: I have always been painfully aware of how I look to other people — and yes, that makes me anxious. I remember that the first few minutes before or after the presentation in school were the worst for me, the moments in which I was walking to the front of the class or back to my seat — everyone can see how I walk with a limp, or how long it takes me to get there; they can see the extra space I take up with my walker. All that made it hard for me, when I was a much younger child, to remember my presentation.
Flash forward to where we are now — I am a senior in college, eight years ago my father ended his own life and sleep became a mystery to me. My mother and I deal with this in different ways and become different people. Six years ago I got through a health crisis, returned to using a walker before being forced into a wheelchair, and then was diagnosed with chronic pain — all before I graduated high school. So even though my anxiety disorder was “not specified,” and I just later went on to identify that I had issues with myself — I could fill in the places in which I could see myself falling short.
Yesterday, when I got my test results, I was four days into my senior year of college — and in those four days experienced more stress than I had during my entire three-month summer vacation. I endured enough stress to last several weeks. All of these are transitions, piling on top of each other, one thing after the other.
It is no surprise to me why sleep is a mystery — my heart is often racing, and sometimes I find it hard to focus on subjects, like math or a foreign language, where I faced extreme difficulty and was terrified of being called on, for example, because I definitely did not know the answer. I am just surprised that so many of my symptoms were mistaken, I’m sad that I kept quiet about my struggle for so long, and I’m sad that my suspicions turned out to be right — but I’m glad that I opened up.
Many people have told me now that they see in themselves a link between their chronic pain and the anxiety that they have, saying that they have fears about their future health, relationships because of their health, financial life, etc. I hear their voices loud and clear — to be honest, I’m so proud of them for finding their triggers, because I have yet to identify mine. But I hope that we can move forward on this next journey together.
You are not alone.
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