By Adalis Rojas
As someone with anxiety, reaching out to other people is extremely difficult. So when I told some of my friends that I had anxiety and they laughed, I felt my entirety crumble. They added that it couldn’t be possible for someone like me to have anxiety; I was too perfect. They believed that the smiles and reassuring comments that I lived by were all that were to me. How could I be worried and anxious about anything if I clearly had a life with good grades and all that I could ask for?
That was the moment that I stopped trying to reach out to anybody. For a while, I believed them. I was overreacting—it had to be. I was just worrying about day-to-day things just like everybody else. I didn’t realize that refusing to recognize the ever-growing problem stirring inside my chest would result in more pain.
Anxiety became a conjured-up bully, making my heart race and hands clam up in fear of the smallest situations. I got panic attack after panic attack that appeared from nowhere, grasping at my neck and shaking me until I had nothing in me left. Sometimes, I thought about an embarrassing event that happened years ago, and it kept me up at night no matter how insignificant.
Everyday a little voice at the back of my head whispered to me how worthless I was.
You are nothing.
You’re friends leave you for a reason.
You have no place in this world.
Then, I acted like nothing was going on and put myself in a toxic cycle of loneliness and anxiety. I pretended that I was peaches and rainbows all because friends disregarded my hints of need.
Regardless of the storm stirring inside me, I didn’t want any of my friends to think of me different or call me a liar, so I tightened my lips and hid my feelings of tension and the small teardrops that slid down my cheeks. I blended myself in the corners of hallways when all I wanted to do was breakdown. My friends never noticed.
I regret the many times that I spent caving into myself and letting their words get to me. I wish that I spoke up or left them the second those comments left their mouths. I shouldn’t have believed them and cast myself in the shadows.
Instead of holding my head high and walking away from them when I should’ve, I let fear cloud my mind and wallowed in the idea that they were right. Yet, friends who deny you help and make you think lower of yourself aren’t really friends at all.
I share this experience, because I don’t want anyone to battle anxiety or any other mental illness alone. I regret not being able to say, “Yes, I deal with this, and I want to get the help I need.” Instead, I shoved all my emotions and worries under the rug, and I let them pile up until I couldn’t ignore them.
My advice for people who are swallowing their problems because they feel their voices aren’t heard is that not everyone will understand, but that’s okay. What matters is that they at least try to and value you. If not, don’t try to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Don’t downplay what you have for the sake of the opinions of others.
Reaching out to friends, family, or a therapist DOES NOT mean you are weak! It means you’re human and are aware of the effects that your illness is having on your life.
Baby steps must be taken to construct a better path that leads to a needed recovery. Maybe get in touch with a side of yourself that you never knew like painting, writing, or crafting. Even though the experiences will be rough, remind yourself that climbing the mountain to get to the top will be worth it.
Adalis Rojas is writing from the heart having experienced anxiety attacks for quite some time. The purpose of this piece is to encourage. Please comment and share on social media