My Life As An Anxious Twentysomething
By: Erin Stone (@elizstoner)
Trigger warning: anxiety
Lemony Snicket once said, “If we wait until we are ready, we will be waiting for the rest of our lives.”
That could not be truer in my current situation.
I have been prone to hesitating lately. In fact, I got this 5-year journal from Barnes & Noble a few years back and the question on May 2nd is “Are you hesitating?” I have answered yes every single year.
There are many reasons as to why I hesitate so much. Primarily, it is because I always overthink—even if I do not always come off that way. I constantly think about what has happened in my life and what could have happened, had I not done this or that, or if I would have done things differently. It often gets to the point where I create issues that do not exist, simply because I think about something I might have done wrong and assume it is the reason why something did not work out.
The overthinking has caused me to hesitate so much, that feelings of regret start seeping in. Some of the best things in my life have happened when I don’t overthink so much. So sometimes, I don’t hesitate. When I was aimlessly browsing through Twitter a few weeks ago, I saw Mara Wilson’s tweet about how she made a video for Project UROK. Next thing I knew, I was on this very website, watching videos, reading the blog, and I went back to follow ProjectUROK on Twitter. Then, when they tweeted they were looking for guest bloggers, I sent a simple e-mail to see what would happen. (Mind you, this was merely 3 days after I answered the question “Are you hesitating?” with “Yes, in every aspect of my life.”) 3 days later, a response came back that they would love for me to share my story. Let’s just say I was ecstatic…but then, the overthinking started, followed by hesitating to submit anything. What is so great about my story? Who will read it? What if I submit it and it just isn’t good enough? I’m not even a famous writer or a comedian! I haven’t even been to New York, where this was founded! Why me??? The thoughts just were an endless stream through my mind—unrelenting. But then, this thought came into the mix: Why not me?
I was going to wait until I was ready to write this perfect blog or whatever but I realized that there will never be a perfect moment to share my story. It might as well be now.
I have struggled with anxiety ever since I can remember. I struggled with it even before I knew what to call it. I knew I worried a lot about anything and everything. It really didn’t matter what it was or who it involved. I knew that I was scared to do a lot of the things that children my age did. I knew that I got referred to as “worry wart” a good majority of the time. What I didn’t know is that this wasn’t normal—I just thought it was, simply because I had always felt that way. Getting bullied in elementary school also got thrown into the mix. As a result, my self-esteem was quite shaky. However, things did get better and I decided to stand up for myself. That brought me better friends and more confidence that I was in control of my life. Sure, there were still tough times, but I made it through.
Fast forward to becoming an adult. After graduating from high school, I went to the college of my dreams because it was what I felt I was supposed to do. I did what all of the college kids did. I did my coursework, met many people, joined student organizations, and went to the parties. I put a Band-Aid on my mental illness and continued on.
However, sure enough, my issues were still there and started creeping into everything. I masqueraded as this bad ass who did what she wanted and didn’t give a shit about anything but inside, I was still that anxiety-ridden child. I felt like my relationships with my friends were just not where I wanted them to be and I didn’t know how to get them there. I was bummed out that I had not found the person of my dreams because I was so concerned with just having someone—anyone—to keep me from being alone with my thoughts and my anxiety.
My friends started to notice my issues and told me to go talk to someone. I refused and accused them of thinking I was crazy. I kept going and eventually, it was my senior year and things were just a mess. I was so anxious about graduating and figuring out what to do with my life, that I missed out on some of the friendships that I thought I would never drift from. I was also really low—and I was worried I might be depressed. In February, it got to the point where I was worried about what would happen to me if I didn’t get help. I was reluctant, due to a past therapy experience, and thought it wouldn’t work out.
Turns out, it did work out. My second therapist helped me so much by helping me identify my triggers, identify people I could talk to, and by encouraging me to think differently. By the time graduation rolled around in April 2014, things were looking good in my life. I felt less anxious about the future, I had an internship lined up in Chicago for an awesome organization, and I felt better about some of my relationships. However, things did not go as planned.
I ended up enjoying Chicago but it just wasn’t what I expected, or what I really wanted. I fell into the same patterns of trying to find someone to fill the void. I ended up moving back to Michigan to my small rural town that very few people have heard of.
However, I have realized that everything happens for a reason. In this year, I have done many things that I am proud of. I’m currently working at a women’s shelter in my local community and may start leading domestic violence support groups. I started playing music again and met someone who really inspired me to chase that passion. I submitted this blog—finally! But most importantly, I have spent a lot of time with myself and my anxiety—which was what I needed to do all along.
My life is anything but perfect right now. I still have anxiety and I still have a long way to go on this journey, but guess what? I am okay. I am okay because I still have hope. I am okay because I am a fighter who will never give up. I am okay.
Guess what else? If you are reading this right now, you are okay. Your life may not be perfect either. You might be struggling too. You might have this pain in your life that you are reluctant to face and that is okay. It is okay not to be okay too. Trust me on that. My advice to you is to please get help if you need it—because it is not too late. I also encourage any of you writers out there to write about your struggles, even if it is difficult to do so.
Before I end this, I would just like to thank everyone who has impacted my life’s journey thus far. Thank you especially to my family and friends. I would even like to thank the people who I no longer talk to as much anymore. Even if you don’t know you impacted my life, you did. A quick shout out to Mara Wilson for tweeting. Without you, I wouldn’t know about this organization. Finally, a big thank you to everyone at Project UROK for allowing me to share my story. I know this pun gets made a lot but…you guys ROK!