I learn something new about myself every day, whether consciously acknowledge this or not. Today’s lesson is one that was meant to happen since long ago, I think if I hadn’t sheltered myself so much from the world. I would compare it to droplets of water slowly dripping into a puddle. The knowledge has been collecting all this time but it’s not until now, at this very moment, that I truly get it.
I can finally admit that anxiety is a normal thing to feel and go through and that having anxiety is not actually a bad thing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt anxiety and perceived it as something to be feared every time I was experiencing symptoms of it. Just the slightest hint of the onset of anxiety (my heart would speed up, my throat going dry, my mouth refusing to work, my brain panicking in a frenzy of zigzag thoughts and emotions) would be enough to make me feel hopeless and not in control of my own actions. I’ve spent my whole life living like this; shutting down and coping in not-so-good ways almost every time I felt anxious about something. Even now I feel the pull of it beckoning me to ponder about a million trivial things and start worrying about the outcomes of these situations.
I know that no one is exempt from anxiety. Everyone has it. It took me forever to understand that other people, not just socially anxious people like me, feel anxiety. Prior to this revelation, there was a period on my adolescence years ago when I assumed that almost everyone except me was made of glass and their lives were perfect.
Teenage angst and anxiety didn’t mesh well for me. My perception was skewed because I had a lot of time to hide behind anger as a shield to cover up the anxiety. That, and how verbally withdrawn I was. I thought the world owed me so much because of how unhappy I was and I believed this was how I was going to live for the rest of my life because I didn’t have the courage to reach out to anyone about my inner turmoil. Many times I found myself to be more spiteful, more hateful in my thoughts if other people were happy and I was not. I was asked all the time in school why I seemed so shy or hardly ever spoke. I never answered and often settled for not responding at all. No one really knew what was going on in my head.
At the time at home, my parents did try to reach out to me by asking me what was going on. By this time, I was so used to keeping to myself and barely saying anything that I used silence as both a weapon and a form of protection. I felt uncomfortable and anxious over my parents’ questions so my default during these situations was to not speak or, at worst, pretend not to hear them. My behavior was troubling to them. Not even my mom yelling at me in exasperation for not talking did very much except trigger guilt and shame in me. I’d use these emotions as further reasons why I couldn’t at least try to verbalize or formulate a sentence about what I was feeling. I remember what it felt like to be too anxious to open my mouth and speak if someone confronted me with a question I was afraid to answer. But other times it wasn’t the fear that kept me from talking and instead it was a choice, an excuse I gave myself to keep myself in my comfort zone.
I am a different person today. So unlike the old me, at least in some ways. I know what I experienced, although others who were present in my life then might give differing accounts for why I acted the way I did. I once overheard my father talking on the phone and describing how, in the far-off past, I used to deliberately ignore people when they spoke to me. I could tell that he was writing me off as rude because he assumed I had an attitude problem. He’ll never know the deeper reasons for my behavior during those times in my life. I am fine with never revealing my side of the story to him or any of my family, partially because it’s a dialogue I wouldn’t know how to open and I am content to let them believe what they want. To truly know a person’s whole heart, the good and bad, is a too difficult endeavor, anyway.