One of the things about anxiety I often think about is how it makes it so hard for me to accept that feeling nervous and scared sometimes is okay. I struggle to differentiate between situations that are just, let’s say, all-in-my-head, and situations that would make anyone feel stressed out. I am always feeling so much, too much, and most of the times my disorder turns me into a ball of emotions. And I hate it. I often feel ashamed, even if I know it’s not my fault, and I am constantly battling against all these feelings, trying to silence them, trying to silence my brain.
There are moments, however, when I stop and tell myself: “Look around. What you’re doing is actually scary. It’s new and challenging and mentally exhausting. Your feelings are valid.” Realizing that it’s okay for me to feel scared, that it’s not just my disorder messing with me, is often so liberating that I feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders.
It’s still hard sometimes. As I have mentioned plenty of times, either here or on my Twitter account, I am in the process of enrolling in university to take my master’s degree. Picking what classes I want to take, doing all the paperwork, submitting applications, making sure I meet the faculty requirements: everything is so nerve-wrecking that I sometimes wish I could simply go back to kindergarten. I gave myself a little panic attack the other day, when I was reading the PDF with all the instructions on how to submit the admission application, and I am already worrying over the internship I’ll have to do during the second year. Of course my anxiety disorder plays a role in making me feel like this, but when I think about it I wonder if anyone would ever really take such an important step, something that could possibly determine their future, or at least take up a whole two years of their life, and not feel at least a little bit scared.
I remember when, years ago, fresh out of high school, I went to take my university admission exam. It was the 13th of September and I had to be there by 9AM. When I arrived (it took me a good while to find the correct building, as I had never been there before), the hall was already packed with students. Most were with friends, I was alone, but looking at them from the little corner I’d sat down in I remember thinking “wow, they are just as scared as I am“. It was an almost shocking idea, because I was so used to believing it was just me, that I was wrong and silly. They were revising their notes, pacing nervously back and fourth, and I was just sitting there, taking in the fact that I was not the only one feeling absolutely terrified and wishing it could all be over as soon as possible. And that thought alone was enough to get me through the day.
I think one of the worst things about suffering from a mental disorder is that we often feel alone, stuck in a dark place, while everyone around us seems to be doing so much better than us. And I am not gonna lie: it’s true that we struggle in situations where most people don’t. It’s true that anxiety makes us jump into full panic mode over the tiniest things. But, at the same time, it’s also important to learn to accept that sometimes feeling nervous is okay. It’s valid. It’s even right, and not something that our disorder is making up inside our head.