When I was younger, I always felt the need to shy away from others. Partially because I was in the beginning stages of accepting being gay and partially because I always assumed people thought I was weird. Of course, I had a few good friends, but to the masses, I was pretty quiet. I kept away from large crowds, not because of bullying or even personal insecurity, but because I was afraid.
What if I bump into someone? What if I smile at the wrong boy, and he wants to fight me? What if I trip going down the stairs and everyone sees? What if, what if, what if.
My constant fear of the unknown prompted me to stay within my own bubble, a subconsciously created safe zone. I dived into the world of anime, and Naruto became my best friend. I stayed home at all times, and read books and watched anime from Sun up to Sun down. When middle school came around, it got even worse. At this point, I was pretty sure I was gay and I had even come to accept it. However, my knowledge of societies views on gays, especially growing up in the urban areas of Baltimore, prompted a new fear. The fear of being outed in school was always a worry. I was too feminine to hang with the boys, and it only placed a target on my back to hang with the girls. It was like hell. It wasn’t until I became acquainted Cartoon Networks’ “Fusion Fall” MMO that I began to speak to other people, and come to the realization that there was nothing to fear about communication.
Anxiety can manifest itself in numerous ways, and there are plenty of types, such as PTSD, OCD GAD, Social Phobia, Specific Phobia, and Panic Disorder, just a few to name a few. You may be unsure of if you face any of these issues because typically we just excuse the behavior as ourselves just “overthinking” or “just being paranoid.” A few signs of anxiety can be:
- Obsessing over insignificant issues, no matter how small
- Being unable to concentrate
- Not being able to get a thought out of your head that is causing you emotional turmoil
- Overthinking a decision
- An upset stomach (Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting)
- Being easily startled
- Bodily aches
Having anxiety is normal, and it may be pointless telling you (seeing as you just may worry from reading this), but there really is nothing to worry about. Being anxious doesn’t make you some sort of freak, and you’re no different from anyone else. So go out there and enjoy life! Go to that party, and wear that sparkly dress that you think draws too much attention! Walk down that hallway where you feel like the floor is going to cave in if you walk too far to the right. And yes, I even encourage you to switch it up for a change and walk the long way home (as long as it’s not in an actually creepy neighborhood or high on crime).
You may be asking, how do I do this? Well, I have some of my very own personal tips that can help you get through your clumsy, shudder-inducing, embarrassing, anxiety filled days.
- Counting to ten: Take a few seconds and stop whatever it is you’re doing. Breathe deeply and slowly, and in your mind (or aloud if that works better for you) count to ten. With every second you count, make sure to remind yourself to relax. Do this as many times as you want, or count as high as you need.
- Create an alter ego: When I entered highschool, I subconsciously created an alter ego named “Star.” I envisioned myself as a character on a TV show and learned to step back from problems as if they weren’t happening directly to me. I became confident, empowered, and quickly grew to popularity after embracing myself in a new way, by using a new identity to express who I really was behind all the social anxiety, and fear of the outside world.
- Focusing your senses: When you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack and you can’t seem to get yourself together, find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- Don’t fight it: Stop fighting your anxiety. Embrace it. Whatever is causing you stress at the moments just accept it for what it is. “I am afraid of this,” “I am nervous of that,” understand these things in your mind and think of a solution. Afraid of the crowd in the hall when the bell rings? Try to stay in your current class until the crowd dies down a bit. Nervous about walking into somewhere for the first time? Don’t expect anything when you walk in. Focus on yourself and what you’re going. Don’t think of the things that are coming along with it
Anxiety is completely normal, and you’re not the only one who thinks that some imaginary serial killer is going to chain you up in the basement of that creepy house at the end of the block. It’s our job to support each other in our anxious little family of worriers, so if you have a few tricks to help cope, or even just want to share some stories, sound off in the comments below!