Before I could give it a name to it, I exhibited signs as of being an extremely anxious child. My parents would tell my teachers I was very shy and needed more time to warm up. I had regular stomachaches, was irritable, sensitive, and hardly spoke. My first-grade teacher did not think I could read but quickly realized that was false during our private lesson. It was not that I could not read, it pained me to read out loud.
I come from a very loud, gregarious Puerto Rican and Black family. My parents, along with my other family members do not have a problem expressing themselves. My mother and my two brothers have the gift of gab; they are so charming and sociable, they can befriend anyone. I, on the other hand, never felt like I truly belonged; they gravitated towards people while I felt the need hide. I did not know how to communicate my feelings, I spent a lot of time crying without being able to explain why. Looking through my childhood photo albums, if I am not posing with my parents or brothers, I am standing by myself or on the verge of tears being forced to stand with someone else.
On top of naturally being avoidant, I attended a private, Catholic school from pre-K to eighth grade. This played into my constant anxiety as I was under the impression I was constantly being watched. My every move was being tracked and judged by a higher power who was also not a fan of my B+’s. I also recognized that very few of my classmates looked like me and they had a tendency to form clusters with each other. It did not matter that I would be with the same group of kids for the next 10 years, they would still remain acquaintances to me, except for maybe one or two. I was labeled weird early on because I did bond well with the other students, even though we may have I had something in common like shopping at Hot Topic, learning how to skateboard, listening to Linkin Park, or reading The Series of Unfortunate Events books (none of it mattered).
I had quite the imagination because I was always by myself. I have even been asked on more than one occasion if I was an only child (weird question). I always felt sheltered but it is not like I had anyone to hang out with anyway. I was jealous of my brothers because they were cool and popular.
By the time I hit high school, I had resigned myself to being a loner and that was okay. Well not to the general public. This left me susceptible to bullying and no one to have my back. My classmates thought I was mute and an easy target; my teachers apparently thought I did not speak English (true story!). My inability to get along and open up to people was my fault, but apparently, people’s poor reactions to me were also my fault. By the time I hit the twelfth grade, I had finally been able to form witty comebacks and was able to successfully clap-back, albeit delayed.
When I attended college, I had tried to rebrand myself. I was now an easy-going gal, who went with the flow and did not worry. That did not work out too great. All that time I spent faking it caused me even more anxiety, I barely had enough energy left to hold down my part-time and I would have a complete breakdown each month. I would have explosive outburst when someone asked me how my day was or I would spend my nights crying in the darkness of my room. My first two years of college were definitely the hardest and I spent a lot of time suffering in silence when it was not necessary.
As an adult, I still have a lot of anxiety. It has become more manageable and it is something I live with. I definitely have monsters on my boat, but I try my best to continue steering the course; it takes a lot of patience, time, and perseverance. I want to give up any chance I get because I think it will hurt me to try. I get myself really worked up about the future and I struggle to stay in the moment. I push people away because it’s easier than waiting for them to decide whether they like me or not. Luckily the ones who that have stuck around have definitely made it worth it. I have been able to achieve minor successes, I have stable relationships, and I have taken some big risks. I’ve come out alive and that’s pretty cool. I still get stomach aches, irritable, or emotional when faced with certain stressors. I still hold my tongue or fear my next steps. But, I can at least push through my anxiety and power on.