I have always been a worrier. That has been true since I was small. However, my struggles with anxiety didn’t fully begin until seventh grade. My dad is a chaplain in the army, which means that growing up we moved every two or three years. I was constantly considered the “new kid.” The summer before my seventh grade year we moved to Severna Park, Maryland. What made this move slightly different is that we would be living off-post, which meant I would be going to a school populated with kids who had known each other since they were two. That in itself was scary for an introvert like me. And then the car crash happened.
My mom, my older brother, and I were driving to meet my dad on post for a Family Fun Day. I was in the passenger seat. We were turning left to go into the guard gate. I still don’t fully remember the impact. The other car slammed into the front of our car on the passenger’s side. It’s lucky we didn’t turn a little faster, because it could have hit the passenger seat directly. Our car was totaled. I remember crying almost immediately and turning around to make sure everyone in the car was okay. I remember struggling to undo my seatbelt. I don’t even remember getting out of the car. I just remember my brother hugging me while I cried as we waited for the police to ask all of their questions. I was sore the next day. I was also terrified to be away from my mom. For the rest of my seventh grade year I had intense separation anxiety. I would throw up almost every day before school. I would cry and ask to stay home. I was afraid that my mom would get in another car accident. I talked to a counselor, but I honestly have very little recollection. I ended up calling my mom from school everyday to make sure she was okay. By the end of my seventh grade year, I had finally been able to make it through a day without checking in, but the tightness in my chest that I felt with my anxiety lingered.
In the next few years my anxiety was better. I still used an imaginary brake when I was riding in a car and occasionally felt my chest tighten when I was away from my mom, but I was able to function. When junior year of high school came around, I was living in Harker Heights, Texas. Something I haven’t mentioned is that I have had a headache all day, everyday since the eighth grade. I have been to see countless doctors and have gotten all sorts of test, but no one has been able to find an exact cause. It was bad in the beginning and then over time medicine began to help and I was down to a 3 or a 4 on the 1-10 pain scale every day. That is until two weeks into my junior year. Suddenly my headaches flared up again and I was at a 7 or 8 every day. It got so bad that I was put on homebound status because I couldn’t read more than a page at a time before the pain got to be too much. During that time my anxiety came back, but in a different form. It was no longer separation anxiety. My anxiety became more about control or the lack of it. I suddenly was unsure of what the rest of my life was going to be like. Would my headaches get better again or was this the new normal? Would I be able to go to college? Thoughts like that swirled around in my head constantly. I started to control little things to make myself feel better. Even though my headaches became manageable again, the feeling of needing to control things persisted. For example, I can’t go to sleep if I haven’t taken a shower right before I get into bed. I have an entire bedtime routine that can’t be deviated from or I feel too anxious to fall asleep. This is an ongoing struggle for me.
One other way I feel anxiety is in social situations. I once read an article about what people with social anxiety think about and I related to 9/10 of those things. I think this anxiety came with the constant moving that happened growing up. I was constantly making friends and then having to say goodbye. I was constantly trying to figure out who acted like they wanted to be my friend. In some places, I struggled to make friends which increased my already present self consciousness. Even now, when I have an amazing group of friends, my anxiety will try and point out that they don’t really like me or that they are just tolerating me until after college when we all go our separate ways. Being tolerated and not actually liked is something my anxiety likes to focus on. I don’t have strong friendships with people from other places where I have lived. We grew apart when I left, until eventually we faded into memories. My anxiety likes to make me think these friendships will be the same. Even though I know logically that these things aren’t true, my anxiety can be very convincing.
This is only a condensed version of my anxiety journey. I could go into even more detail, but that post would be insanely long. I’ll save the long stories for my therapist. Side note: therapy is great. It really helps to have someone to work through all of these anxious thoughts with. Another thing that helps me deal with my anxiety is my faith. God says to cast our anxieties on Him and I try my best to do so. It doesn’t make it all go away, but it certainly gives me more peace to know that God is there for me. When I was tasked with creating a website, I decided I wanted to create a community where people could really talk about their struggles and be understood by those going through similar circumstances. I know it always feels like a relief when I meet someone else with anxiety who understands the feeling. Often that feeling is masked by a smile that tells the rest of the world that everything is fine. That’s where the name for this site came to be. I want this to be a place where you can be real and accepted. I’d love to hear from all of you, so comment below and tell me about your own journeys! Also, feel free to follow me on social media and continue conversations on those platforms! All the links can be found under the social media tab on the menu. I can’t wait to continue this adventure with you.