At the end of winter break this year my dad approached me in his classic-dad manner, “Miranda.” He said. “I’ve got an assignment for you this semester.”
I couldn’t tell yet if he was joking or not (he is about 90% of the time).
“Your assignment is to make a friend a week and report back to me.”
Yeah, no, I still couldn’t tell. He had to be joking though, right?
Every week this past semester when we’d Skype the parents my dad would walk onto screen, “Miranda! Micaela! Friend report.”
Well if it wasn’t a joke to him, it sure was to us. The idea that either of us, but especially I, could make a friend every week–it’s just hilariously absurd. After all, a Myers-Briggs personality test once told me I’m 98% introverted. It also said that no one is 100% introverted, so literally only 1% of the population is more introverted than I am. But that’s only part of it.
Another reason I’m no social butterfly, nor even a social caterpillar, is my anxiety disorder. Ugh I hate saying it. I hate the word anxiety. I hate admitting to that heart racing, gut-clenching parasite. I hate giving it a name. I hate it.
Anxiety feels like something I should be able to control, so I’m embarrassed that I can’t. In my head I know that I should be no more ashamed to have anxiety than to have PI or migraines or an incredibly lazy stomach. In my head I know that my body’s overreaction to normal life things, especially social situations, is as real and uncontrollable as its anaphylactic reaction when I accidentally eat certain types of nuts. But also in my head is a lifetime of exposure to the stigma of mental illness. Also in my head I see the character on tv sweating and popping Xanax like they’re Tic Tacs; I see the person in the movie who is too afraid to leave their house; I see the cartoon character who always carries around a paper bag to hyperventilate in. Isn’t it funny? they seem to say to me. Aren’t people like this silly? After all it’s all in their head.
That’s why when I meet with my professors at the beginning of the semester I go over my immunodeficiency, sometimes my migraines and stomach problems–I never say a word about my anxiety. Though it’s the very thing making my heart pound while sitting and having a simple conversation, I hide it away. I don’t say anything about it when I meet with them. I don’t say anything when I have to give a presentation and I know I will get a lower grade because the ultimate trigger for my anxiety is public speaking. I don’t say anything when my professor emails me reminding me that there’s a participation grade.
But that stigma is also why I’m sharing this now, even though it hurts my pride considerably–even though part of me hopes that no one will read this. The other part of me hopes everyone will read this, because I may be embarrassed of my anxiety, but I shouldn’t be. No one should be. It sucks to have to be the one to write “anxious mess” across my forehead in doing so, but somebody’s got to say it.
So my brain’s got a bit of a people/life allergy. What’s there to be embarrassed about in that? 😉