“I am not my anxiety”

Ever since I was little I have been labeled the responsible one in my family. While my parents were busy taking care of my rowdy twin brother and my other siblings, I had to learn to be on my own, to face my thoughts. When my parents went through a nasty divorce after years of separation, my mother confided in me and her anxieties suddenly consciously became mine. The following years were spent constantly worried – silently – about her and my siblings who were having issues adjusting. Even if it was out of my power, I tried to solve everything and protect those I loved just so I wouldn’t feel this huge pit in my stomach.

I have teased by my family and friends because of my anxiety. Growing up, I became ashamed of this constant stress and I learned over time to internalize my anxieties and pretend that I was happy, that I was fine. This led to me to keep so many feelings hidden from most people.

Today, when I am surrounded with my friends and family, I smile and laugh, I joke. Most of the time, I really am happy. When I find myself alone and I let my anxieties take the best of me, however, I suddenly feel desperately alone. I feel the need to scream and make others understand why I am who I am. I want to tell them that I can’t just relax; that I can’t let go; that I can’t stop taking care of others; that I wish my parents had not made me confront reality at such a young age. I want them to ask me how I am really doing.

Even though I still struggle to find a balance, I now know that’s my anxiety does not make me different or boring or annoying. My anxiety is just a term; it is simply proof that that I would and will do anything to help those I love, even if sometimes that comes before my personal happiness. My anxiety does not define me and my accomplishments.