Letter #70

Content Warning: Anxiety

To whomever reads this, 

Hi, I appreciate your presence and voluntary desire to read a letter like this. I am a young adult in my 20s. All my life, I have struggled with anxiety, and it wasn’t the kind that people often assumed anxiety to be. People often attribute anxiety as persistent worrying, but don’t count it to be an actual problem. I wish the term anxiety wasn’t used so lightly and interchangeably to equate it to mere worry, since it undermines the struggles of people who have two anxiety disorders like me. In fact, I am diagnosed with both GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and Social Anxiety Disorder.

Sure, you might think, these labels might be seen as irrational, and it may boggle your mind to know that these “disorders” exist. But I want to let you know, my dear reader, that anxiety can become a person’s worst nightmare as it starts to invade all aspects of one’s life in all areas.

A confession I would like to make is that all my life, because of my social anxiety, I had intense fear of going to public restrooms, ordering food, calling on the phone, initiating to hang out with friends, walking by myself, shopping by myself, paying at the cashier, for fear of people judging me and for fear of making a mistake and getting humiliated. I always felt that people saw right through me and believed the same negative perceptions of myself. I often saw people as if they were hawks ready to pounce at me and make fun of me for every move that I made.

Social anxiety is not about being “shy” it is this fear of being negatively judged by others, but it gets to a point where it becomes debilitating. These avoidance behaviors have often led me to becoming misunderstood all my life and, of course, it ruined my self-esteem.

But I am so grateful that this year, my family finally accepted that it was okay to seek professional help for mental health reasons. I’ve grown up not being understood for my anxiety issues, despite clear signs of an abnormality in my anxiety levels as a kid. I had a long history of missing school due to my anxiety. I literally became infamous in my school as the one who was absent all the time, and, of course, people talked badly about me. And this was all because of my anxiety. I would go to extremes of forcing myself to vomit at home to convince my parents that I had “stomach issues” so that I would stay home instead of going to school. In my culture, anxiety wasn’t seen as a real problem, and it was often misunderstood. But thanks to therapy, especially CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), Exposure Therapy, individual therapy, and medication, I am beginning to see myself blossom into my most authentic self.

I may still have old patterns of avoidance in certain situations, especially socially, but I kid you not, the power of therapy and medication have truly changed my life for the better. I recommend to all those who are struggling with social anxiety and anxiety to seek professional help.

One thing I also want to share is one of the biggest statements a counselor had told me before: “your feelings are valid. No matter if they are irrational or not. It is your experience, and it is true to you.” These very words have changed my life forever. These are the words that jumpstarted my healing process and when they spoke those words to me for the first time, I felt a deep sense of healing that took place in my heart. It was the kind of validation that my younger self never heard, and it was the words that I needed to hear. Something I can never explain.

What I want you to take from this is that, if you or someone you know struggles with a mental health struggle, please let you or that someone know that their feelings are ALWAYS valid, no matter how irrational it may seem. Because people like me, who struggle with any mental health struggle, are often misunderstood by their close family and friends and end up feeling like they are the crazy ones, but everyone that struggles just needs to find a space where they are understood and validated. This is where healing starts.

Your feelings are always valid. Please remember that.

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