According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, there are three definitions of anxiety. The first is defined by a nervous and/or worrisome feeling. The second refers to eagerness; a butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of anxiety. And the third, is a psychological disorder characterized by excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. It can be assumed that most of the time, when a teenager says that he or she has anxiety about something, it’s referring to a feeling of uncertainty, or perhaps even desire, but certainly not the psychological disorder. I, on the other hand, suffer not from infrequent episodes of anxiety, but rather, from the disorder itself.
Although there is, technically, an exact definition of anxiety disorder, it presents itself differently in each person that it affects. My anxiety, in particular, contains components of both obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. To some, my anxiety may present itself as childish, or even as exaggerated, however, these are not compulsions that I can control. I know that my anxious tendencies are irrational. I am not oblivious to that fact. Some of my teachers in school, though, tend to treat me as if I am incompetent when I am in the midst of an anxiety attack.
It has taken a long time for me to accept that I cannot cure my anxiety; I can only manage it. With a combination of Prozac, Adderall, and weekly therapy, I am now able to function more normally than I could before. While I no longer feel the need to color-code all of my class notes, my hands will still shake if there is, God forbid, a pen smudge on my paper.
I am well-aware that no one cares whether or not there is a blue blemish on my homework. But I do. I don’t know why I care. My obsessiveness is time-consuming and also annoying to those around me, but it’s not something that I am in control of. That needs to be understood.
There are many sides to my anxiety; not just sheer panic. At times, I can be extremely high-energy. I might tap my foot against the floor violently, or go into a monologue at lighting-speed. I get overly-excited very easily. Typically, anxiety doesn’t present itself happily. But in my case, it can. Contrary to popular belief, symptoms of anxiety can fluctuate drastically. While I like to believe that I am fundamentally a happy person, I can still fall into deep spells of sadness. I might cry spontaneously, or hyperventilate in an empty school stairwell.
Anxiety has been and always will be an uphill battle. Thankfully, I have compassionate parents and several understanding teachers, all of whom want me to succeed both socially and academically. Anxiety isn’t an easy condition to understand, and to be honest, I don’t understand all of it myself. I can’t expect other people to understand it, or me, either. All I can ask of both future educators and prospective friends is to listen to what I have to say, and do their best to take my irrationality seriously.
Ariel Gold is a high school student who lives in the New York Metropolitan area.