I ran on the track today. My heart was pounding, I could barely breathe. I knew that when people looked at me they could see my flushed cheeks, that bright hot red. I allowed myself to go in continuous circles anyways. It’s familiar. It reminds me of elementary school days, holding my father’s hand at the bus stop and garnering up tears so he would take me home before the bus pulled up. It reminds me of high school days, and the daily hyperventilating before stepping out my door and into the morning air, counting my breaths. It reminds me of many bad things, none of which compare to the freedom of running like I did today.
Running alone. The act of running is simply a victory of its own. A year ago this simple act would only be found in my daydreams, today it’s the ultimate freedom: battling barriers, proving others wrong and most importantly proving to myself that I can enjoy the simplest parts of life that so many others get to enjoy on a daily basis. But it took me twenty-one years to get to this point.
Before I gathered up the courage to admit something was wrong, before I agreed to therapy and found out more about my anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, before I started taking anxiety medication, before all of that… my body was a cage, kept tightly locked by my mind.
Some days were as simple as canceling plans with friends, other days meant crying between classes and throwing up for hours before an exam. Many days felt wasted, because I confined myself to my bed, paralyzed by fear. For a while I tried convincing myself I was the same as everyone else, or just overly sensitive. When people said they had anxiety I was sure it was just an expression. As I got older I developed ways to deal with my anxiety, such as making color coded lists for hours on end or spending my nights writing down everything I needed to do to be “perfect”. But it didn’t work. Before I knew it I was unable to find a job because of my fear, unable to make phone calls without a panic attack, and eventually… unable to love anyone new in my life. I was unable to love. It got to a point where I considered suicide, a personal moment for me that I will never be able to forget.
Anxiety should not be taken lightly. Anxiety is not just something one gets when they experience slight discomfort in new situations. Yes, to a point anxiety is normal for every human being and it’s ultimately there to protect you but for many it’s a chemical imbalance, it’s not so much “having anxiety” as it is “living with anxiety.”
If you’re coping with anxiety I promise you it only takes a step to start a better path. There’s nothing wrong with making that phone call, seeing that therapist, embracing your flaws and learning to live with them, there’s nothing wrong with needing medication for a while, or maybe your entire life. Just take care of yourself. Take back control of life. If for anyone, do it for you.