My Struggle with Anxiety – by Adam

My name is Adam. I am 21 years old, and I am currently studying computer science at the University of Memphis. Honestly, I’m surprised I’ve made it this far.

Throughout my life, I have had to deal with intense anxiety especially when having to deal with people. Sometimes it gets to the point that I make up excuses to avoid certain social situations. I even have trouble eating in public and sometimes have to force myself to eat even when not in public. Sometimes, I don’t eat at all causing me to be underweight.

None of this was made better by the fact that, in middle school, I was one of the shortest people in the school and was made fun of constantly for it. I think there was maybe one person who was shorter. This made me extremely insecure about my height (or lack thereof). I felt weak and defenseless. I felt inadequate because I didn’t grow as much as other students. Thankfully, I’ve gotten more at peace with my height recently, but I still feel small when around my friends. Most of them are 6 feet or over and I’m only 5’4”.

Because of my anxiety, I always feel less than everyone else around me. I see them in groups talking and looking so happy, and I sit there was wish I could be that happy. These constant thoughts of inadequacy have led me to suicidal thoughts several times in my life. Sometimes I feel like I’m beyond help and feel that death is the only way to go. My rational side, however, is calling me an idiot for thinking something like that and so far, it’s winning the struggle.

I feel like it’s getting better, however, I still struggle with it sometimes. I almost skipped the first day of classes because I knew that at least some of the professors would make us introduce ourselves to the class, and I hate doing that. Even in the previous semester, meeting with my advisor was hard. I could barely email her to set up an appointment because I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. Even when I set it up, I nearly threw up on the day I was supposed to meet with her just thinking about it.

It doesn’t help much that I live in Mississippi. Most people around me are devoutly religious and some even believe that mental illness is a sign of demon possession. The fact that I’m an atheist probably doesn’t help them see that they’re wrong. Some likely believe that my atheism is the cause of my anxiety.

My parents haven’t been much help either. They refuse to believe that there’s a problem. Anytime I try and talk to them, they just blow it off and tell me to “snap out of it” as if I can just stop being nervous at will. Honestly, I don’t think they really listen to me.

I just hope to keep fighting and maybe one day to get over this completely. I know I have at least some support.

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About shatteringthestigma

An open blog taking submissions from skeptics and skeptic friendly individuals on the subject of mental health.

Posted on July 18, 2012, in anxiety and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I know how you feel, Adam. Your story sounds so similar to mine! I’m only 5’4″ as well and had similar childhood experiences. Combine anxiety with depression and ADD and you get me. I flunked out of college but managed to go to a small local “trade” school and take all the programming classes I could. Got a job as a programmer. That was almost 15 years ago. Still programming. I didn’t start meds for anxiety until a couple of years ago. Buspar has made a huge difference, though it’s not perfect.

    I tried getting myself through by telling myself that if I’m not in over my head I’m not learning anything. It’s a true sentiment, though it doesn’t make it any easier when there’s a neurological malfunction causing anxiety. Meditation helped, but you can’t go sit on a cushion when you’ve got to be at an appointment. Meds has definitely made an improvement, but it’s still going to be a life-long struggle.

    Since you’re parents aren’t supportive, I’d look into what help your school can offer. A lot of schools have a health center where you can talk to doctors and/or get references to therapists, even if they’re just student counselors. Being an atheist in the bible belt is difficult, I know. You just have to dig to find the right kind of support. It sounds like you’re doing that, so good on you.

    Keep up the fight and I hope you find something to lessen the burden.

  2. Adam, just keep fighting. I have many of the same issues – I’ve suffered from depression after my father passed away when I was 10 (I was a daddy’s girl) but it didn’t get really bad until I was 17. I felt so alone after I lost my dad, so when I was 15 I got pregnant. I thought if I had a baby he would have to love me. And he did. He was such an amazing boy. But when he was 20 months old (I was 17) he died. And I died inside. That was 26 years ago and I’m just learning to live without him. I have a wonderful husband who has been there for me for 16 years. I have 4 other children – 2 with my husband and 2 before I met him. I think I’m emotionally healthier now than I’ve ever been, even though it’s only been a few months since I last cut myself.

    I suffer from many invisible illnesses. I fell down the stairs a few years ago and although I thought since I didn’t break anything I was ok, I found out later I wasn’t. I did some damage to my neck and now have chronic pain in my right arm and sometimes lose the use of my right hand (I am SO right-handed). I also have arthritis in my lower back which has put pressure on my sciatic nerve in my left leg so I have difficulty even lifting my leg sometimes. I still suffer from major depression and know well the feelings of inadequacy. My oldest child and only daughter is very much like her abusive father – she has made it very clear she feels I’m not good enough for her and never will be. That’s what her father always told me – that I was lucky he put up with me because no one else would. Just a week or so ago my daughter posted on facebook that I’m a monster, she has no respect for me (but I already knew that) and that she hoped I find god.

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I too am an atheist living in the bible belt. I live just outside of Knoxville, TN. When my son died, I spent years searching for comfort from god. Six years after he died, I became a minister. I never could seem to be the person everyone thought I should be. I struggled with it for most of my life. I’ve had suicide plans because I didn’t know how else to stop the pain. And I was told how selfish I was to want it to end.

    My point is this – you are NOT alone! Just because the people around you don’t understand, there are those of us who do. Now that I have read your story, you are in my heart. Every time I think of you I will send positive energy to you. Hold on to your logic – it will save your life. It saved mine many times over. Knowing no matter how much I hurt, there are people that love me and don’t want to live without me. Whatever you have that is positive in your life, cling to it when things are bad. And if you ever need me, look me up on facebook!

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