What Anxiety Actually Is, Since It's Certainly Not 'Just Worrying'

by Kirsten Corley

Anxiety disorder is far more extensive than an ailment of someone who just worries too much. It is reflective of complete panic and it affects every aspect of life for those who suffer from it.

Anxiety has always been a part of my life. It isn't something I talk about often, I suppose due to the negative connotation that comes with it.

But, as I have found more personal acceptance within, I have come to learn that, just like my hair, it is a part of who I am. “She worries way too much about things,” I would hear my family say, and they're right.

My friends know the depths of it at a much greater level than most because amidst analyzing a situation or telling them about my irrational fears, they laugh saying, “We love you anyway, don’t worry.”

From as far back as I can remember, anxiety has played a relevant role in my life. Although I played team sports all my life, the amount of stress that came with playing was overwhelming.

Even at a young age, when everyone played soccer in New Jersey, my dad had to force me out of bed and convince me that I wouldn’t be the single reason the team might lose. But, as a goalie, I always thought differently.

At a young age, I’d check the locks about three times before going to sleep because the irrational fear of someone breaking in was all too realistic in my mind.

When people with anxiety get sick, they think the worst-case scenario of things. My mother constantly yells at me for going to the doctor so often.

As I grew up, school filled me with constant stress and if I wasn’t doing well or maintaining my GPA, it was the end of the world. Perfectionism is something that comes with anxiety; always doing well and being successful is vital in life.

Showing up on time was completely vital in every situation and the chance of me ever being late to practice or class or games was slim to none. I was always the first to everything.

For me, while there is much negativity that comes with it, anxiety has benefited aspects of my work and school life. Despite it, I've led a very successful life, thus far.

Traveling via airports is probably the worst source of anxiety for me; when I travel alone, I show up a good three to four hours early, just in case something could go wrong. And, the moment I step in an airport, I feel my heart beat faster instantly.

Even tougher than airports, nothing gives me more anxiety than people not answering my texts or calls because it automatically leads me to think I did something wrong in a, “What did I do to make this person mad at me,” kind of way.

I can’t tell you how many times I have catalyzed a situation from absolutely nothing and apologized, and my good friends, being who they are, just accept it and accept me. If I got a dollar for every time someone told me to relax or that I was overthinking, I’d be well off.

I almost always come through with plans and the thought of someone canceling last-minute sends shivers up and down my spine.

Sleeping is absolutely the worst. It takes me about two hours to finally fall asleep, but I never sleep through the night.

I wake up at around 3 am and worry whether I locked the car in the driveway or wonder where a certain thing is, and then, I can't go back to sleep until I settle my questions.

Situations go from bad to completely catastrophic in my mind. And, something little as misplacing an item can trigger me and lead to tears.

Then, relationships are a whole other ballgame. Sometimes, you overthink things so much that you ruin something before it even begins, then you beat yourself up, replaying everything to your friends and in your mind. And again, they just tell you to relax.

Anxiety is more than just worrying, and to people who suffer from it — like I do —, the hardest part is self-acceptance. You accept yourself, you learn what triggers you and you learn how to deal with it.

In college, I had a wonderful support system and group of friends, who loved me, despite every fear I held.

After college, I came home to friends who continue to prove themselves, as they have the past eight years. Your family knows you and loves you exactly for who you are.

We can’t choose how things affect us and we can’t choose the cards we are dealt in life, but we can accept them and play the best game possible.

The only setbacks we have in life are the things we allow to be defined as setbacks. If you accept everything about who you are and learn to embrace it, you will learn to laugh about the situations you once found debilitating.