If I had a list of all of the things my anxiety caused me to avoid over the course of my life, I’d be the owner of one incredibly long list. It’d probably be more of a scroll, really. I’m talking about enough paper to wallpaper a house, or wrap a million Christmas presents. Enough paper to craft a flock of paper mache birds large enough to block out the sun. Enough paper to make a fleet of paper airplanes, flown by paper pilots, loaded to capacity with paper munitions.
Okay, I may be exaggerating but I think the point is clear. Typically, I’m a large tangle of nerves and worry masquerading as a human.
I can’t tell you when anxiety became a part of my life—my guess is some point early in my childhood—but as far as I was aware, it’s just how I was. I hated social gatherings and small talk with strangers. Job interviews made me get all sweaty. First days of school, new jobs, first dates were usually preceded by nights of walking through the upcoming event in my head over and over again, obsessing over what could go wrong and how I would try to avoid it. And those are the things that I had to do. When it came to optional events, I’d often just skip the ones that made me anxious all together.
For years I just chalked it up to having a particular set of preferences. I just didn’t like crowds, that’s why I never went to concerts. I hate small talk, that’s why I’d avoid going to parties unless I knew the majority of the people in attendance. I just didn’t think my music or writing was good enough yet, that’s why I never shared so much of the art that I spent my teens and twenties working on. I was just… particular.
I had long been an advocate of talk therapy, but one day my shrink said three words that would change my life: Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Okay, and another word: Lexapro.
So, four words total. Just so that we’re all on the same page.
Apparently, one little pill could free me from the matrix and allow me to see past the machinations of the malicious robots that control our reality. Wait, that’s a movie.
Apparently, one little pill could help me control my anxiety by doing some science-y stuff to my brain. Cool, right? It took about two weeks to notice the effects, but once enough of the drug had built up in my system, the difference was impossible to miss. It was like cleaning your glasses, and only noticing just how dirty they were after everything is clear again. I had no clue how many of the things I thought I didn’t like were things that I didn’t like because they triggered my anxiety. I was dealing with an unchecked mental health issue, and I had no clue.
It’s been about a year and a half since I started Lexapro—and I’ve continued talk therapy, which works for me—and in that time, I’ve done quite a few things that would’ve had me digging in my bag of excuses before. Without the albatross of anxiety around my neck, I’ve done some public speaking, started a blog, done a few interviews and photo shoots for fundraisers that I was involved in, and even performed a little improv comedy. I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to sky diving or swimming with sharks, but, for now, I’m okay with baby steps.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!