“I am not my social anxiety”

My issues don’t really matter. Other people have worse issues. I shouldn’t be talking. I always seem to convince myself that my voice doesn’t deserve to be heard. But here I am. I am screaming and howling and sounding my barbaric yawp.

I keep beginning this with this sad story about when I first found out I had anxiety and depression in fourth grade. This is the problem, I think—I feel like I’m inviting myself to be pitied if I include all of the nitty-gritty details of a nine-year-old starting Zoloft and going to therapy. I don’t want pity. I don’t want pity for any of what I’m doing. Just support. Solidarity. I want the knowledge that someone else dealing with similar issues can see this and think “hey, that sounds like me! I’m not a lost cause!”

Anxiety to me manifests itself as a thick black cloud (highly metaphorical, don’t worry). When I am called on in class, asked to give a presentation, or put in any sort of social limelight, it crawls up my throat and grabs hold. It takes all the power in me to speak. My mind is telling me that everyone will think I’m stupid, fat, ugly, worthless, a joke. This cloud fogs my vision so I can’t see the reality of the situation. In my eyes everything is coming to get me—noises are too loud, all glances my way are glares that shoot daggers, any whispered comments are about the inherent awfulness of my existence. I feel naked and vulnerable.

When I am in a small area with a lot of people, when someone I have not mentally “approved” touches me), when someone I haven’t approved is in my “space”—this is when the black cloud wraps itself around me. It is a boa constrictor, slowly crushing me. It is a colony of ants and spiders crawling all over my body. I am, to my core, unwell. My body doesn’t question fight or flight—it just screams FLY, NOW, GO, PLEASE!! PLEASE!!!!!

There are countless other ways this cloud plays with me. There are endless nuances to fit each situation. But, to boil it down, that is how it functions in my mind. It is not something that has ever or will ever go away—no matter how much I take, no matter how many therapists I see. That’s not to say that I’m constantly panicked or battling my black cloud every second. It comes and goes. For me, what helps the most is knowing that I am not alone. It’s a big part of why I feel the need to tell my story, despite being terrified to do so. It is an amazing feeling to know that there are other people out there that have black clouds and are doing well.

So hi, everyone. I’m doing well. I hope you are too. If not, that’s okay. The cloud will go away. You will feel the sunshine dance across your face before you know it. You will be able to breathe the fresh air again soon.