I’m going to start this post off with a sort of disclaimer: I have never been diagnosed with anxiety. So I am not going to pretend that I have been. I have only been “evaluated” for my mental health one time and that was at least ten years ago. What ever observations were made were not really communicated to me, but I do not believe I was officially “diagnosed” with anything, even though I most likely could have been.
I am an INFJ and I have been told by the people closest to me that I am anxious. Very anxious, actually, and most of the time. I think anxiety is an inseparable part of my personality.
This blog post “came to me” last night as I was showering, and it’s been a mental itch in the hours since, and so therefore I know I need to say it.
So, without a lot more rambling, let’s get to the point:
To All Anxious and, or, Young People: You’ll actually be OK.
Growing up is scary. Going through life is scary. There are a lot of things to be worried about. Real, legitimate worries. I do not intend for one minute to pretend that the things which scare us all are not scary things: they are. Getting a job, going to college, making use of a degree, having enough money for bills, having friends, finding and keeping a worthy significant other are all major life things.
In fact, part of my inspiration for this blog post is that, at least most of the things I read online about being anxious, suggest that the person doing the worrying is worrying about something that will probably not happen.
I’m going to take a radically different approach. I’m going to suggest that the thing you’re worrying about could happen. It might even be likely.
But, you will actually be okay, anyway. And I am suggesting this to you because things that truly terrified me have actually happened.
And I am still here, still ok. I have faith that you’ll make it, too.
As I’ve mentioned, I am a generally anxious person. Many people at one point or another worry that they’ve left the door unlocked or the oven on. I feel like that probably about 85% of my waking life. There is something in the atmosphere around me, or in my own mind, causing me to feel like somewhere, I’ve left some oven on or some door unlocked. So I worry no matter what. But when the thing I worry about is quantifiable, ouch. Ouch, my poor brain and heart. But, I will tell you: I have survived 100% of all it. I’m betting that you can, too, even if it’s very difficult at times.
So now about those scary things happening, I can give some instances and I think most of you reading will agree that they’re pretty sucky. Maybe they’re similar to the things you worry about, or maybe they’re totally different. But either way, a legitimate worry is a legitimate worry not matter how significant it is to other people. My fears are legitimate. Your fears are legitimate.
My parents getting divorced.
When I was nine, this thought was so, so, SO terrifying and seemed so likely that it was petrifying to nine year old me. They fought intensely every day. My brother told me they were probably going to get divorced. I’m fairly certain I had a panic attack at nine. At that time, I loved them both and could not imagine them splitting up.
Well, the thing I was terrified of did happen. Nine years later, when I was eighteen and had already moved out with my mother. My feelings in those nine years about their relationship and divorce changed completely, and when it actually happened, I saw it as a good thing. Still a legitimate fear.
Not being able to drive.
As a teenager, neither parent had any interest in teaching me to drive. No one did. Absolutely no one. One day, when I was around 16, my father let me drive our Chrysler 300 about ten feet down the road. Now, I was totally, completely ignorant about cars and how they work. I had no idea that cars, when put in drive, would go forward by themselves (albeit very slowly). I was confused, and it freaked me out, and that’s why I only got to drive the car about ten feet. I can’t remember if I said I was done, or if it was decided for me.
After that, I had a series of nightmares about Not Being Able to Drive that lasted for years. Years. Being in a car, and not being able to control it, not understanding it, being unable to take someone to the hospital, getting into car accidents. These were vivid, horrifying dreams. I also experienced some weird social shame because I couldn’t drive as a teenager and didn’t even have a permit.
I did not get my license until I was twenty-two. Twenty. Two. By this time, my fears about driving were pretty deeply ingrained.
Of course, therefore, just about three hours after I got my driver’s license, I would get into a car accident from running a stop-sign (in my weak defense, the sign was not visible because of over-grown trees). Of course, there were three other people in the car with me that I cared about and of course, my step-daughter would have to go the hospital to get checked out and of course, all of my in-laws would know about it, as well as my step-daughter’s mother.
Of course, the car that I helped pick out (technically my husband’s) would be totaled, and the other individual that I hit also had to go to the hospital.
Of course. Let me tell you, it’s still hard to write about even though that was a few years ago. My heart rate just increased a little and my eyes are a little wetter than they should be. It was a completely horrible experience.
But, somehow, the sun still rose the next day. I still have my license, and have never had another incident since then, not even a ticket. We found another car. No one was seriously injured. It could have been worse, but in my mind and especially at that time, I was mentally devastated. To me, my failure was magnificent, spectacular, and public.
I lost my job.
When I was eighteen, I got my first job working as a teacher’s aide. There were some things I really enjoyed about it. There were other things I didn’t like so much (I felt like I had basically no training or direction), but I liked having a job. I lived with my mother and younger sisters. She was unemployed and my significant other’s self-employment brought in money very irregularly. My having a job was a pretty big deal because it not only gave me money, but provided stability for everyone else.
And then I lost my job. At the end of winter break, my bosses’ boss called and told my mother (which he should have never done, he should have told me) that I didn’t need to come in anymore. He didn’t like me, and used the excuse of reduced enrollment at the school to get rid of me. That was a pretty awful time.
So where I am going with all this? What I am trying to say, is that we experience a lot of fears. They are legitimate fears. Anxious people, and young people, seem to worry a lot about things or about being able to make it in life.
And we’ll actually all be okay. I can tell you that today, because some of the things which terrified me more than anything else have happened. Things that were in my nightmares actually happened in real life. Of course, there are more that I won’t go into just because this could quickly turn into a book, but I think I’ve made my point. I hope I have. I’d like to tell you that these experiences have made me stop worrying, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I still get freaked out about stuff, but it has changed my perspective.
Things happen. Life is hard, confusing, scary, and uncertain. But, it’s not all bad and you should never give up. Giving up means things end on a bad note, and none of the good stuff that’s down the road will be able to happen. So don’t give up.
Shit happens. You won’t get into that school. Your career won’t take off when you want it to. They’ll say no. They’ll laugh at you. You’ll lose your job. Your friend or significant other will just seemingly give up on what you thought was a good relationship. And then life continues to happen afterward; and you’ll have more opportunities, more chances, meet more awesome people, do more awesome things. Do things better, and more awesomely than you thought possible.
And you’ll actually be perfectly ok.