High school was the worst. I would do well on tests but my participation grade would ruin my high scores. I would struggle to pay attention in class because all of my focus was on whether or not the teacher would call on me without my hand raised. I would freak out if we were placed into groups for projects or if I was called up to the board to solve an equation or if I was chosen to read a paragraph aloud from my seat.
I couldn’t wait to graduate because I thought the adult world would be easier to maneuver. I thought the freedom would help. I thought my anxiety would ease up after high school — but it’s not something that is going to go away. It’s going to haunt me forever.
Now, I struggle with phone calls. Not only important ones with my boss that have the potential to make or break my career, but also phone calls to hair salons and pizza parlors. Phone calls to banks and dog groomers. It can take me hours to work up the courage to press dial. Sometimes I hang up as soon as I hear the ringing. Sometimes I convince whoever is nearby to do the talking for me.
Even though high school is over, I still experience the same anxiety I felt while sitting inside a crowded classroom. I get nervous at parties when people are clustered into groups and it feels like I am the only one not talking. I get nervous when approaching cashiers at the grocery store because there is a chance my credit card will get declined or my bags will tear or my change won’t be placed back into my wallet fast enough.
I have reached an age where I am technically considered an adult, but my anxiety makes me feel like a child. I feel like I should have outgrown my fears by now. I feel like my nervous habits make me come across as immature. I feel like I should have my shit together by now. But when I feel those things, I have to remind myself it is my anxiety talking. It is my anxiety tearing me down and telling me lies.
Unfortunately, my anxiety has not disappeared since high school ended. It has only revealed itself in new ways. And that is okay. That is not as uncommon as I think. So many other people are struggling with the same things as me. So many people are silently fighting similar battles.
Anxiety is going to follow me around for as long as I live, so I have to stop trying to outrun it. I have to accept it. I have to learn coping mechanisms for it. I have to stop hoping for a future where things are better and start learning how to put plans into place to make today better. I have to find a way to manage my anxiety because it is never going to go away on its own.