Battling My Anxiety


Illustration by Melissa Joseph

Heaving chest, desperate for lungfuls of air. Words jumbled like a child with a mouth full of marbles. Fat tears cascading down a face stuck in a grimace of pent up anxiety.

Breathe, take air in and then out. Desperate hands trying to scrub away the evidence of fears and self-loathing. The advice of others ricochets off deaf ears, too filled with an inner voice that is focused on failure. 

I’m an adult woman having an existential crisis over a college class. Acting as though this one class proves to others how stupid I have always been. Big breath in, shaky one out. 

I try so hard but my grade stares at me from the blue computer screen telling me that my hard work isn’t enough. Then the avalanche of terrible thoughts begin to rush down the back of my mind. 

No one likes me and they’re all just pretending. My anxiety makes me unlovable. Everyone else has their life together. 

The anxiety spiral has been activated, a level of guilt and powerlessness possesses my body. If you can’t pass this class should you even be pursuing a degree in journalism? What are you spending all this time and energy on? What a waste. 

Anxiety likes to sneak up on you when you’re not paying attention. It’s your body’s natural response to dealing with stress, and when managed correctly, can be a normal and healthy part of life. 

“More than 60% of college students said they had experienced ‘overwhelming anxiety’ in the past year, according to a 2018 report from the American College Health Association,” New York Times journalist Brad Wolverton said. “Over 40% said they felt so depressed they had difficulty functioning.”

This increase in anxiety can be attributed to multiple factors. 

“Mental health professionals say college students have experienced financial burdens on a different scale than many of their predecessors,” Wolverton said. “They grew up during the Great Recession and have seen family members lose jobs and homes. They have great uncertainty about their career prospects and feel pressure to excel academically or risk losing job opportunities.”

As someone who has tried living on a working poor salary, these types of worries cause anxieties to skyrocket. Instability has a knack for making your heart feel like it is beating erratically out of its encasement of rib bones. 

More times than not I’m not even sure where my anxiety comes from or why it’s happening. I just know my brain is struggling to deal with what life is sending my way. 

As a 30-year-old, I have yet to always break the cycle of my anxiety spirals. So let this anxious mess give you some words of wisdom.

I’ve come to realize control plays a big role in my anxiety. It’s not easy to confront, but I’m making progress. 

I’ve worked to not let anxiety restrict me from moving forward in my life. There are still panic attack moments and whispered words about failure. 

“I’m still learning how to accept that, even when it hasn’t shown up in a while, it will always come back and that I will always come out of it on the other side when it does,” Psychologist Laurie Saloman, who deals with anxiety said, “but, most importantly, I’m still learning that my daily struggle with my own mind does not make me weak or powerless or unlovable. In fact, it sort of makes me a badass.”

I’m always working on loving the anxious, overthinking parts of myself while remembering what a badass, resilient and worthy person I am.