It’s the night before the first day of classes, and I can’t sleep.
What’s wrong? My friend asks as they walk in circles around my room.
“Tomorrow is important and I need to wake up early, but I can’t sleep,” I reply.
Oh, sorry. Is it because you wasted your whole day in bed?
Something about their voice is off. Cold, even. Like they’re working against my best interests.
Did you not have anything to do? You always complain that you’re stressed so I would’ve expected you to do something today.
Then it hits me: I live alone.
For the fifth night in a row, my anxiety has materialized, turning once peaceful, sleep-filled nights into fever dreams. After years of fighting with my brain, my anxiety has learned to step outside of my body.
Are you okay? Your eyes are still closed.
“Leave me alone. I’m serious.”
Just calm down, I’m trying to help you.
“Please just leave me alone.”
OK.… Remember how you tripped when walking into the office the other day? That was so embarrassing
My eyes shoot open. My head is throbbing, my vision blurry. I stay up for the rest of the night, replaying every embarrassing moment I’ve ever had — real or not. I feel exhausted, even when I try to relax. Anxiety is weird like that.
Anxiety is that impossible video game level you need to beat before being able to do anything else.
It’s the feeling when I’m walking into class, and fumbling a little while trying to sit down in a chair. For some of you, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It might even be something you laugh at.
But it’s a big deal for me.
Am I an idiot? Do I not know how to sit in a chair the right way? I can’t be serious right now.
My heart starts to race.
These people are probably all laughing at me right now, I’m going to have to drop this class.
The room gets a thousand degrees hotter. I’m sweating.
Is that me breathing so loud? I can’t make more of a scene, or else they’ll remember me in public.
I feel my throat closing.
I’ll just go home. I won’t even bother with the rest of my classes since I’ll probably snowball and ruin the whole week.
I leave, practically collapsing on the way out.
This is what I mean; my brain amplifies the stakes of small, easy tasks until even sitting in a chair can make or break my day. While the people around me seem relaxed, my anxiety flares up like an annoying itch.
Having anxiety is like being in a cage with an open door. I can leave at any moment, but I stay out of fear that something bad might happen the second my body passes through the entryway.
I know I’m not alone, though. Tons of people struggle with anxiety and share personal experiences to let others know they aren’t alone. I just hope I can do the same thing for the people reading this.
So, to anyone who is struggling out there with anxiety, depression or any type of mental health issue, you’re not alone.
Jenna Quinn is the senior engagement editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Jenna Quinn is the senior engagement editor at The Spectrum. When she’s not scrolling on social media you can find her watching Mets games on her laptop or crushing on Jack Harlow.