I was a swimmer my entire life and swimming was my life. I was known as the swimmer, I smelled like a swimmer, my hair and skin looked like I bathed in chlorine, and my whole world was based around a pool. At the time, I always thought my weird routines were just habit, but looking back I now realize what I was doing. It was a coping mechanism. What am I exactly talking about? Well let me give you a few examples. Before practice or a meet I would pack my swim bag the night before and lay out my swim suit. I’d set my alarm an hour and a half before I had to be up (mind you, swim meets were in the winter and usually somewhere far with a start time of 8 am). When I’d wake up I would unpack my bag, double check everything was there, and then get dressed and leave. I’d sit in the same seat and eat the same breakfast on the way. What was I coping with? The fear of the unknown. The thing that gives me anxiety.
Now fast forward 8 years since I hung up my towel, my fear of the unknown consumes me. In college I would avoid going to parties because I didn’t know who would be there, if I’d know their name, and what I would have to talk to them about. At work I’d lose sleep over the fact we were meeting with clients because I was afraid of what I could say wrong or if I would ask a dumb question.
I have been dealing with this anxiety my entire life but only in college did I realize how bad it was. It kept me from being a normal college student. I burnt bridges by just avoiding talking to people because I didn’t want them to know that I can’t go to a festival because the questions that I don’t have answers to made me shake.
I’ve been made fun of for this but that’s okay because I make fun of myself too for it. What 24 year old can’t go to a bar on a Friday night because she’s worried where she will sit if it’s going to be too crowded and how will we find a parking spot if it’s even that crowded?!
As I said before, I have lost friends over this because they didn’t understand why I only came to a few events and had to say no to more then I wanted to. But as I keep dealing with this and keeping an open mind about things, I’m learning to deal with it. I force myself to say yes to people and follow through with plans. I don’t want something like this to keep me from living my life just because i don’t know what might happen next.
I hate calling this anxiety because I know people who have it way worse but that is what this is. Don’t feel sorry for me either because it’s making me stronger and more aware of myself. All I am asking is that if you are dealing with this, take small steps because before you know it, you are going to that bar even though it’s unsafely crowded and probably a huge fire hazard but that’s okay because you are there and that’s enough. And the other thing I ask is if you have a friend that constantly says no, don’t give up on them, just give them time. Personally, I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling to my friends so I left them in the dark and we grew apart when all i wanted to do was be by their sides.
Anxiety comes in all different shapes and sizes and it takes patience and love to deal with it and the ones that are there with you through it all are the ones to hold close.