Anxiety may seem unreal or illogical to others, but to those who suffer, it is very real.

Anxiety can destroy you from the inside, whilst looking fine on the outside.

Anxiety can feel like the entire world is crashing down on you.

Anxiety can be extremely terrifying and crippling and it is sometimes impossible to know when it will come or go.

When you have anxiety, it can be hard to explain what’s going on in your mind, so people don’t always take you seriously and even more so when you are an extrovert despite it being common to have social anxiety when highly extroverted.

Anxiety isn’t something you just get rid of by saying “everything will be okay”.

The prospect of writing about this topic is very daunting and scary  because my anxiety is highly personal, sensitive and real. The excerpt above sums up what anxiety sounds like for me however, as hard as writing this has been, the only way is through.

Bismillah.

I have only looked at my anxiety in the face and acknowledged its existence only recently, even though its manifestations have been with me for a very long time. The way that my anxiety expresses itself has evolved, and even though it has gotten better over the past few years, I am yet to be cured.

Although I am someone who cherishes their own company, I love being around people and have always been an extrovert. Believe me when I tell you that I can talk! Paradoxically, I have spent years feeling isolated, unhappy and feeling as if no one cared me. Something that perhaps added to my confusion around my anxiety. Growing up, certain everyday situations would fill me with immense fear and panic, yet I was able to capture the storm within and “keep calm and carry on”. I would suddenly feel a deep sense of inadequacy and as if those around me were all there to watch and judge my every move.

On the other hand, there were times where pain could not be restrained and things would happen that others would see. At really stressful moments, I feel super claustrophobic and have to make a real conscience effort to breath. I distinctly remember going on a trip to the museum in the first year of my A-levels as part of Communication Studies. I remember dreading it because I felt like I was going to ‘mess up’-and I did. I panicked whilst trying to find my bus pass, as everyone was waiting on me. I fumbled around in my bag unfocused, sweating profusely and palpitating, and when I had found it, I felt like a complete idiot. This happened again on the underground when I touched my pass at the wrong exit. Again – I panicked – painfully. I knew everyone was looking and waiting, I knew they were shocked at my incompetence. For the rest of what was meant to be an adventurous day, all I could think of was how useless I was.

Another aspect of my anxiety was this deep fear of disappointing others. My very first job was as an interpreter, which I loved, but it meant working in multiple locations on a daily basis. Taking this job on was a huge challenge and a massive step out of my comfort zone. I would often panic as I tried to find the locations, lose my sense of direction and remain paralysed due to the fear of asking help from my agency – I did not want to disappoint them or appear incompetent. Utterly flustered, I would ask direction from numerous passer byers,  and usually run past the location a number of times before actually seeing it. Upon arrival I would have to act completely normal which was an additional stressor. Thankfully, I became better, as slow as that was, but definitely better.

Eventually, I gave myself the time, space and permission to ponder on my anxiety and it surfaced that there is a direct link to some difficult childhood experiences that I endured for a long time and had refused myself to accept. However, there are happy endings. The acknowledgement of my anxiety coincided with falling in love with someone amazing and feeling cared for and loved. I felt safe enough to embrace myself fully, but you don’t always need someone to fall in love to accept yourself, I was granted an additional blessing.

There are multiple strategies which I employ to manage my anxiety.  Most importantly, I let go of labels and expectations that those around me and those that society holds. I do what I love on a daily basis, I communicate my true feeling to those I love and I remain mindful of my religious duties, all of which have truly helped, and continue to help.

~ Araweelo M.A

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