An Inexcusably Late Post, or Real-Talk About Anxiety

So I haven’t posted in over a week. That is a problem. Sorry y’all.

To tell you the truth, it’s been a long week. And I’m going to be honest about it because it’s nothing I should get embarrassed about, because:

  1. I’m working through it,
  2. it’s getting better, and
  3. I doubt I’m the only one who has to deal with it.

Last week, I met with a psychiatrist who informed me that I have anxiety; the kind that is diagnosable. What does that mean?

  1. I get nervousness and panicky emotions that don’t go away by just telling myself to get over it,
  2. I get them often,
  3. I get them for irrational reasons,
  4. and it’s interfering with normal functions

My anxiety has probably been going on since the beginning of freshman year, and maybe even started in high school. What kept me from believing I had something medically wrong with me for the longest time was the official list of symptoms for panic and anxiety disorders. They include:

  • Trouble sleeping (which I don’t have)
  • Shortness of breath (which I don’t have, besides the inability to go up five flights of stairs with 50-pound backpack)
  • Excessive worry (I feel like I have the opposite problem)
  • Phobias (which I don’t have; everything I fear I can ultimately face and be fine)
  • Self-consciousness (the frequency that I wear makeup is inversely related to the amount of times I publicly fangirl)
  • Panic attacks (where you feel like you’re going to die) (I don’t have these)

So, no way I could have an anxiety disorder if I don’t have these problems, right? It’s clearly just a motivation issue, a collection of stupid habits I’ve developed in response to normal stressors.

Apparently not.

Apparently, most people don’t fear one-on-one social interaction. If they do, most people can rationalize themselves out of their fear. Most people don’t break down in tears when their parents’ old friends invite them out to dinner because they happen to be in town. Most people don’t always wait for invitations because they’re afraid of sending out invitations themselves, fearing rejection, or their inability to make conversation, or using up large blocks of time for not studying (because they’re convinced they’re behind on all their classes). Most people don’t skip meals because they get so focused on their work/non-work that they lose their appetite. Most people don’t hand two of their final papers late because they started so late because they were busy trying to find de-stressors for…what stress? What should rationally be stressing me right now?

I know I can do all my classes; for goodness’ sake, I’m in entry-level courses (for the most part) that are designed for any decent Georgetown student to pass. I know I can write well; I got a 100 on one those final papers that I handed in late. I know I can talk to other people and that they likely like me; I always have a good time when I go out and do things. So what the poop is stopping me?

Look at all my classmates, who are juggling their classes perfectly fine and getting good grades because they study while meanwhile I’m derping around on 8tracks and webcomics and the Internet and Impressionist artists on Wikipedia. Not only that, but all these people are doing 3-4 extracurricular things on top of that, and they’re making friends and going out with those friends and going to the gym and having normal meals, etc. Meanwhile, I do one and a half clubs, won’t keep up on my philosophy reading for some unconscious moral principle, and am even now putting off my Econ assignment that is due in less than an hour and that fact doesn’t even physically bother me.

And as the metaphorical cherry on top that is more like the elephant slowly falling on my chest that will arrive by graduation, they all have a clue of what they want to do after college. Don’t tell me they’re undecided, or that they have no definite career plans. They all have an understanding of why they’re at college, of what ends these four years will serve them, of what they’re interested in and a few options of how to pursue that in the future.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting here wondering whether I’d feel any regret if I were to leave Georgetown tomorrow.

What the poop is wrong with me?

Apparently, anxiety. Or at least that’s part of the issue. It’s hard to reflect on yourself and your future when chemical imbalances and psychological issues prevent you from being totally rational 100% of the time. That’s why the best decisions are made sober. (I hope.)

Thankfully, anxiety is treatable.
How do I know this? Because I already see improvement.

This weekend, I was staffing a Model UN conference (for those of you who haven’t heard of it before, voila). Of all the stressful things I could ever practically do (i.e. barring lion-wrestling in mud pits), this occupies the top 10. Timed writing assignments, repeated acting roles in front of strangers, keeping up with expectations of superiors, ceaseless multitasking, non-stop social interaction. And yet, I never once had a breakdown or was seized with anxiety. I met my deadlines, I went above and beyond in certain cases, and I was happy with the work I did.

What’s more, yesterday, I started feeling stressed about upcoming deadlines and my work.  “Yeah, way to go, Margo, you’re freaking out more and that’s a good thing. Whoop.” This really is an improvement, believe it or not. Before, I wouldn’t even feel bad about missing writing deadlines. Now they seem to matter to me. Another step forward.

Hopefully, by the end of the semester, my parents will have more things to ask me besides, “Are you okay? Was today an okay day for you?” In the meantime, it’s baby steps.

Like going to finish my econ homework now.

— Yours Unduly


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