How Anxiety Affected My Life

I was not a real person.

In that stretch in time, the fact that I had a solid body was not proof enough that I was real.

This statement was a defining aspect of many periods in my life. Dissociated from who I was, I was unsure what to make of the world and wary of how dreamlike everything seemed. It felt like nothing was real. I couldn’t trust my own judgement enough to discern my existential fear from what the real world was, and I felt a looming dread that life and Earth as we knew it would end January 2019, the midst of winter.

My life wasn’t always like that, of course. I don’t think life is always like that for most people in general. This foggy state of mind was something I experienced from time to time as an elementary school kid, but it became the norm for me in junior high, sixth grade to eighth.

Change occurred, throwing off my world and introducing a new factor of anxiety: the first “milestone” of showing you weren’t a kid anymore, growing into a pre-teen: puberty. I looked down one evening and suddenly I had “frog legs.”

Now, this was in fifth grade and not actually junior high, but it was the predecessor to strange, exotic and weird feelings of despair in sixth grade. I was forced to acknowledge how time was ripping me out of childhood faster and faster and I think the stress of this change may have had something to do with all the despair.

Despair led to distrust of life and an uncertain fear of the future. I did have good moments in sixth grade, but I was always comparing them to the better moments of fifth and fourth and so on.

Then fast-forward to May of seventh grade, a time of stress so immense everything was falling apart, and I was seeing things where they weren’t and breaking down constantly. My relationship with my best friend was strained, walled off; my anxiety made school an escape from the mundanity of home and vice versa; my belief in life and in the universe was failing.

I couldn’t really articulate how this felt. I had never felt anything like this before; or maybe I had, but never to this extreme. The only certainty was numbness so deep the best I could do was a late-night empty email sent to my friend, struggling to find words, and ultimately, grasping on nothing.

Though everything felt like nothing and all this pain or anxiety appeared to me like it came out of nowhere, I will say that I did hold on. I tried keeping my own spirit up with words written in a pink journal, a too-bright voice that strongly encouraged: “NEVER GIVE UP” and “just be content,” which I know now, and knew then, is not easily attainable, like lights turned on with a switch.

And you know, it worked!

Actually, that’s false; the only thing that helped was time, and with it, eventual growth. I had to adapt to the life created around me, and I found ways to cope with my weird feelings. Then COVID happened (my eighth-grade winter) and suddenly now I’m here, a high school junior.

Throughout this year, and especially last year, I would have moments of time (intense days, longs weeks, wild months) where I felt that same, old heart-wrenching dreadful fear and it physically hurt my chest.

Now, though, I don’t usually feel as awful as I did back in that seventh-grade spring, even though I can still experience intense anxiety. For the most part, I can see the world as it is, without existential dread fogging my lenses.

That freeing feeling became my way of existence during January after Winter Break ended. It’s a distinct difference between anxiety and peace. The peaceful feeling doesn’t always last, of course, but it’s quite better than it was then.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you are experiencing something similar, you aren’t alone. I want to encourage you to hang on, because it can get better, and it’s likely that it will.

It might not seem like it right now, but life isn’t always a gloomy dump. Things can improve, and with time, strength and support, your life can improve and you can grow stronger through tough times, too.

I encourage you to find a strong support system; find friends and family (found family is still family) who care about you; but most importantly, give yourself the support you deserve, too.

I believe in you.