From a young age I’ve been a worrier: for months leading up to my first day at secondary school I would quiz my older friends about the prevalence of bullying and exactly how I should act in order to prevent it happening. I became so fixated on the idea of high school and how terrible an experience it was going to be that I tried to mentally prepare myself for every possible disaster that could occur on my first day, no matter how unrealistic my theories happened to be. I have to tell you, that’s a lot for a 10 year old to deal with.
14 years later and everyday tasks such introducing myself to people I don’t know or having to confront someone who has wronged me still fill me with the same dread I felt on the first day of high school. When I’m feeling anxious I can’t recognise the difference between rational and irrational worries, so I assume that every small issue will result in worldwide disaster, which manifests in the form of panic attacks.
Whilst it’s something I’d rather not have to deal with, what’s even worse is people who make assumptions about my issues with anxiety. Just today someone asked whether I’d tried to to “calm down” in situations where I feel anxious – I wish I’d thought of that! If only I’d grabbed a pina colada and chilled out with the latest issue of Marie Claire – all of my problems would be solved!
I understand that anxiety isn’t something you can see and perhaps it is all in my head, but pointing that out really doesn’t help. As it happens, instructing me to stop exaggerating and being so dramatic isn’t what I’d like to hear either. As my mother always tells me: if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.