My peers at school always called me the ‘Quiet Girl’ but I actually just suffered from anxiety. I was quiet, not because I had nothing to say, but because I was afraid to speak.
I’ve always been a bit anxious. It could be because I switched schools four times and moved home five times all before the age of six. It could be because I was bullied as a baby. I know! There was a baby in my nursery that used to bite me. Yes babies can be bullies, too. Or it might be genetic – I’m half Jewish. We got anxiety problems going all the way up the line. Thank you racism, ethnic cleansing, and the boat journey to Ellis Island! Whatever may have caused this anxiety, I had it and I will always have it.
The worst part about being a child with anxiety is that you don’t even know the word anxiety exists, nor how to ask for what you need to stop feeling anxious. There were a number of moments growing up where I thought, is this normal? I was always afraid to confront my friends when they upset me. Usually I would just deny how I felt and then switch friend groups. Eventually, I switched schools, and when that didn’t work, I switched countries, and when that didn’t work – I went to therapy.
That’s when my therapist told me, “You don’t have to change where you live to change your life.” Isn’t that just crazy!
I didn’t realize I had a problem until I was 26 and felt such uncontrollable anxiety that I cried for three months straight until I couldn’t take it, made myself unemployed and moved to an island in Greece. After I calmed down a bit, I returned to London only to realize that I was running away, again, in order to avoid confronting work-related and dating-related issues. Oops. My B. If you’ve heard of the flight-or-fight response, well baby, I am the expert at flying away.
My anxiety has become a problem because, well, I’ve been basically unemployed now for seven months and am currently living at home because I can’t afford housing so, yeah, that’s like, not good.
Here’s what I wish someone had told me when I was five about anxiety:
Anxiety is normal and can actually be a good thing. It’s something that helps us know when we are in danger and need to change our behavior.
You are never crazy or irrational for feeling anxious.
If you feel anxious, there is always something that is causing that feeling. It might be that it reminds you of a bad memory, or it might be that you almost got hit by a car, or it might be that someone is bullying you. Both are valid reasons to feel anxious. It is important to figure out what is causing you to feel anxious and what you need in order for it to stop you feeling like you are under attack.
It has both physical and mental symptoms that let you know you are feeling anxious.
- your heart rate will increase
- your might experience an upset stomach
- you might have muscle cramps
- you might have trouble sleeping
- your poop might be a bit weird and you might pee a lot
- you will avoid doing something because you don’t want to feel anxious even though it is something you have to do
- you are not able to concentrate very well and are always thinking about other things and getting distracted
- you become very worried about things, overthinking, intellectualizing, and coming up with excuses or things that could go wrong instead of taking action
Instead of going to a doctor, taking a pill, or going to bed early, the best thing to do is to journal. That’s what I’ve done since I was 4 years old. As much as I was afraid of upsetting people or getting hurt, I was never afraid of a blank piece of paper and pen. Like a therapist, they are confidential, unbiased, and a mirror of your thoughts and feelings.
Then, you probably have to go and face your fears. Or you might get stuck in a cycle, and that will only make you more anxious. And trust me, that’s way worse, just read my blovel.
Obviously, some anxiety is for a good reason – and you don’t need to face all your fears… but there are somethings that you learned to be afraid of that are actually healthy and necessary in order to live a meaningful and happy life. For me, this is definitely true.
If you’re feeling anxious right now, please go to a bookstore and buy a journal! It will change your life. <3
Information from What is Anxiety, Therapist Aid.