You know that feeling when…

You miss a step while going down the stairs, and your stomach lurches, your heart flutters and you feel a little uneasy, just for a split second. By the time you’ve registered that you’re even feeling any of it your feet are already planted firmly on the floor. This is what having anxiety feels like. I spend most of my days hovering in that split second that your foot is in the air when your brain thinks it’s on the ground.

There are moments when I feel like I’m overreacting. After all, I’ve found ways to dull the shaking hands and the crying jags and the little voice in the back of my head that criticizes and worries over every single thing I do. But then I remember that sometimes I can’t get out of bed to go to school, I have spent too many weekends waking up crying and falling asleep crying and feeling like the world is crashing around me and the only thing that’s ahead of me is impending doom. Going to the airport or walking into a room full of strangers feels overwhelming most of the time. If someone doesn’t reply to my text or a couple of my friends hang out without me, my immediate conclusions is that they hate me, or are plotting against me or something equally as ridiculous. My thoughts become my worries, and my worries become my thoughts and there’s no way to escape them. Living life hoping you won’t be knocked down by your own thoughts is not a way to live. Diminishing the shaking and the tears and my constant self-criticizing only accomplishes what shoving things under your bed accomplishes (i.e. nothing).

It’s not easy to accept that I won’t always be in control of my anxiety, it’s not easy to accept help and it’s not easy to know that sometimes there is no real reason behind the anxiety. But I will learn how to overcome it. It will take time. I will take one step forward and three steps backward, and I’m learning, with the help of therapy, that that’s okay. Anxiety is scary and heavy and big and people don’t always understand what it’s really like. I’m lucky that my parents and my friends always try to support me, even when they don’t understand, but not everyone who suffers from anxiety has that luxury. I decided to speak out about my own anxiety disorder for the most cliché reason—to let others know that they’re not alone in the feelings they have and that sometimes anxiety isn’t explainable. Realizing that I can live a life filled with love, joy and accomplishment despite my anxiety disorder is the most valuable thing I’ve learned, and others who struggle with anxiety deserve to know the same thing.

– By Ava Johnson