Written by Lexi Davis
It's so strange to be a person with anxiety, who is also extremely outgoing and longs for adventure. And it's very easy to assume that just because someone can perform a show without getting stage fright or loves to share their entire life story on social media (@ me), that they could never possibly struggle with anxiety. That's a silly thing to assume.
As sad as it is, or maybe shocking if you don't know me personally, I live in constant self doubt and fear. I have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder for quite a few years now, although it's clear to my family and close friends that I have been struggling with it my entire life. It wasn't until just a few months ago I discovered that I have OCD. And before you ask, no I am not a germaphobe and my room isn't always impeccably organized. That's a very stereotypical view on the disorder that I'm trying to help people steer clear from. While some people with OCD do have those tendencies, I am more obsessive of my thoughts and how to process information. My brain can stay locked on one fear for hours to days to weeks to literal years. Anyways, I do have OCD and it's something that I constantly have to work with. BUT, the point I'm trying to make is that is may be surprising to some of my followers that I struggle with this disorder. Especially since I love theatre and being the center of attention. But use me as proof that you never truly can know what someone is going through. I can be alone in front of a crowd of thousands and feel fine. But ask me to drive on the freeway, or call a restaurant to ask what kind of soup they have, and I will have a mental breakdown. That's the funny thing about anxiety, different things trigger different people and that's why we can't just say someone is stupid for feeling how they feel. You might think someone is an idiot for being afraid of the ocean, while you sit there terrified of space. To each their own.
But this post isn't about how awful having anxiety is. Those who have it know, and those who don't have heard it before. This post was requested by a dear friend of mine and she asked me to explain how I fight through it. So that's what I am going to do.
And obviously I am no expert. I still have to cope every single day with silly things like how much stress it causes me to use heat on my hair. But I do feel like I might have some tips on how to help others who have the same issues as me.
Remember your feelings are valid.
You may find your fears irrational and stupid, but they are there regardless. So understand that if something makes you feel a certain way, you are allowed to feel that way. I always feel extremely uncomfortable with the idea of sleeping over at someone's house. Ever since I was little, I was the girl that would commit to the slumber party, RSVP and everything, and then freak out as soon as everyone started going to sleep and my mother would have to come pick me up. And that wasn't just me as a 1st grader. That was me my senior year of high school. I used to beat myself up every. single. time. I would feel so dumb that I couldn't simply sleep over at my friend's home. I would be overcome with guilt that my parents would have to come pick me even though they assured me 104 times that they didn't mind at all. It took me until last month, can you believe that, LAST MONTH, to come to terms with the fact that sleepovers just aren't for me. I am not bad or wrong for feeling this way. It's just part of my anxiety and it's okay for me to feel this way. Let yourself feel things without making yourself bad or wrong.
Do not over strain yourself, but let yourself face your fears.
It is always good to try new things, even if it brings a little stress or discomfort. But don't get me wrong, I am in no way saying you should let yourself completely fall apart in order to do this. Take baby steps towards overcoming things that scare you. Sometimes those experiences prove to be exactly what you needed most in life. The summer of 2016 I decided to go to this leadership camp (obviously I would be sleeping not in my home and as mentioned before, I didn't love that concept), and I was nervous beyond belief. As my mom dropped me off in the parking lot to load my baggage and leave, I was full out BAWLING. I was sitting in the front seat begging my mom to let me just stay home. She gave me just the right amount of tough love, but with an out. She told me I needed to go but if at any point I wanted to come home, she would be on her way to get me. With that, I wiped my mascara off my cheeks, put on my sunglasses to hide my weepy eyes, and got out of the car. That was the summer camp that changed my life. I honestly could write a coming of age teenage love story novel about the whole experience. Watch out John Green, here I come. That night, I became friends with a certain someone named Tyler. And I swear on my life, he was Glowing™. A straight up ephinany that I needed him in my life. If I hadn't faced my fears and gotten out of my mom's car, I truly have no idea where I would be right now. So use this story as a reminder that good things can come out of situations that may seem terrifying. Trust your gut and be careful, but have a little faith too. You are stronger than the fear.
Take care of yourself.
Although you shouldn't pull an Elsa and lock yourself in your room for 7 years, remember that it's okay to stay in every once in a while. You don't have to go to every party, or spend time with your friends any second you are free. Take a bath, reread your favorite book, binge watch Stranger Things until you can't keep your eyes open anymore. Take care of your needs! If you need to go a few days without social media to clear your mind, I mean this in the nicest way possible, nobody will care. Take time for yourself and do what you need to do!
But that being said, remember to consider the feelings of others.
I have always been an advocate of self love and being able to put yourself first when needed. But, be careful of how others may be feeling as well. They may really need you to be there for them at important events, or even little things like they just miss you. Helping others and being there for them can help you feel so much better. Unless of course they are using you or constantly drain you in which that case, Dump Them RN. We don't need no fake friends in 2018. But we all need someone to support us through our trials and when you can be that someone, it can be very fulfilling. When you feel alone or without someone who will listen, take that pain and use it for good. Use it for a friend who is in the same position.
And lastly, know that you are not your anxiety. Yes it is part of you, and it possibly may always be. But that isn't who YOU ARE. You are a person, you are not anxiety. You are not depression. You are not your OCD. Just because you have an illness, doesn't mean it has to define who you are. You are so much more than that. You are your beautiful personality and your incredible sense of humor. You are your loving soul and don't ever forget it.