Since I was younger, I knew that I thought in a different way than most children. As I grew older, I became consumed with death and its aftermath. I couldn’t understand why my biggest worry wasn’t which dress I would wear to prom. I felt like a fish out of water, and no one would understand.
After seeking help, I grew to realize that living with anxiety is not so abnormal. Some people have low cholesterol, some are allergic to peanuts, and some, like me, have an anxious mind. Honestly, I would pick anxiety over a peanut allergy any day.
In the beginning of my treatment, I felt alone and misunderstood. I refused to talk to my parents about what I was going through because I was convinced that they would not understand. While I was learning to cope with my anxiety and irrational fears, I thought about how many other teenagers shared the same thoughts as me. I felt like I wanted to let others know that they are not alone in what they are going through.
I’m not a therapist, a doctor, a social worker, or anything of the sort. I am, however, a daughter, sister, and a friend. Some may even call me an analyst. I take things in and let it marinate until I can understand the world. I learned enough from my experiences, and I continue to learn every day. And maybe I’ve even suffered a little. But mostly, I am a self-motivator. And since I’ve learned so much, from myself, and those around me, including family and friends, I feel inclined to share my knowledge with the world. After everything that I went through, I wanted to help others learn what I have learned, and show people how to look inside themselves without fear. I wanted to show people how to figure out who they are, and understand how to come to terms with it.
I grew up in a nice Jewish home with my family. I have great parents, and both a younger brother and sister. I went to private schools, summer camps, family vacations, I had food on my plate, and my room was painted in my favorite color. How could I complain? I was always a happy child. I had an amazing childhood. On the outside I looked like any other normal American girl. I had playdates, I did well in school, I had a loving family, and I had the ultimate collection of Barbie dolls. And just like a Barbie, I knew how to show my plastered smile and dress to impress. Nobody ever knew what was actually going on inside of me, and how my thoughts and fears ate me up alive. I knew how to hide my emotions, at least the ones I didn’t want anyone to see.
I still lived my life like any other ordinary child. I grew up with fears, but every child did too, so I didn’t think it was anything abnormal per se. But every year, kids grow up a little more. They become more mature. I grew up in a different way. Yes, I got taller, I went through puberty, and I even matured. But most kids’ fear of having a monster under the bed eventually goes away, and they even stop sleeping with a nightlight. My childhood fears followed me into young adulthood, but instead of a monster, my fears became more intensified and more about me. By the time I was 5, I stopped sleeping with a nightlight. I slept through the night and I didn’t worry about the monsters under my bed.
When I was 16, I studied abroad. I lived with three other roommates and everything was great. When I returned home, I started sleeping with the light on. Every night I slept with the light on until I was 19. It was embarrassing, and a secret I’ve kept until now. Before I sought treatment for my anxiety, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. Even though I slept with the light on, I didn’t think that I needed to see a therapist or seek any type of help. It wasn’t until my first panicattack that I realized that I have major anxiety.
I was drowning in the most irrational fears and obsessions that made me feel like I could never have a normal future. Because of all of my anxieties, I was convinced that I was mentally ill, and that I needed to be institutionalized. I was afraid of death, and a loss of control, but at the same time, I also struggled to find a purpose for my life. My anxiety took over my life for a long time, until I stopped letting it.
My battle against my anxiety isn’t over yet, but I’ve come a long way already. Seeking help saved my life, and I am grateful for all of the support I received. Things got easier over time, but it was the will to make my life better that got me through my toughest moments. Anxiety disorder does not mean you’re crazy. It’s perfectly fine to need extra support. You’re not alone.