Looking back at myself now to when I was younger, I can very clearly see signs and symptoms of anxiety, that was not just normal growing up. Some would include obsessively worrying about fire drills in class when we were told we were to have one, getting anxious about reading out loud in class, and performance anxiety surrounding the sports I did from third grade through high school.
I was unable to articulate to my parents what I was even feeling, because I did not know myself what was going on. For example, I remember countless mornings of having a stomachache at my grandma’s house before getting on the bus to go to school. I felt sick, but I did not know that it was anxiety that filled me for what the day was about to bring.
Without knowing what was going on, how could I possibly know, or anyone else know, that I was not just a child who was faking it to skip school?
Getting older, college classes became extremely difficult because I did not have the tools to know how to work through anxiety, especially with taking exams. I remember being completely debilitated through studying for and taking organic chemistry exams, especially since I had failed every exam in that class. Despite meeting with the professor weekly to try to work on class problems, I was anxious I was not going to pass the class. Looking back now it was not that I did not know the material, but rather I could not perform on exams due to the sheer amount of anxiety I had built up for myself.
I was 23 years old when I saw my first therapist. After graduating, moving to a new city, starting a full-time job, and breaking up a long-term relationship did my anxiety peak. I would have to leave work in the middle of the day to go to my car to have a panic attack, often leaving to go home after because I was so physically and emotionally drained.
I knew something had to change, and that this anxiety that I had ignored and pushed off up to this point was not going to get better with me doing what I had always done.
Seeing the therapist, developing a self-care routine of journaling and now having tools that I can use daily to reduce anxiety, I feel more in control of it. I have maintained this practice and have been further developing it for over a year and a half now.
This message I send is in no way to blame my family or parents for not setting me up to work through anxiety. Rather, I think it’s important to consider that others may not be aware of the anxiety they carry, and potentially bring to you. There is also no timetable for when it is a good time to get help for anxiety, and there is no shame in doing so at any age. I know I will be continuing my journey for myself and my anxiety, but for me it had to start somewhere.
What information did you grow up with about mental illnesses like depression and anxiety? When did you start recognizing your symptoms?