My days start as they usually do, with thoughts of what if this and what if that. Visions of the unknown and the unknowable, with thoughts of anxiety and fear. Since I was a child this has been my reality. No matter if it's supposed to be a laid back Saturday or a busy Wednesday, they all begin with unsubstantiated fear. What if I can't pay my rent? What if I get to work and I make a mistake? What if I crash my car into the back of an 18-wheeler? Soon, the sweating starts, and unavoidable nausea. Imagine being in so much fear, not because of a credible threat, but because you have a condition in your mind that you can not escape. How do you run from your mind? How do you get away from your own beating, racing heart? Answer is you can't. I can't.
I was diagnosed with Social and Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was 16, but I was suffering before that. In 4th grade, I had to switch my teacher in the middle of the year. I was so scared I didn't want to go to school and when I did arrive for my first day in the new class I stood at the water fountain frozen in fear. I didn't want to face the unknown. I clung to that fountain like a life preserver and refused to budge. I heard my new classmates talking about me and my teacher wondering where I was, but it didn't give me any courage. One of my young peers was told to come get me but I was already drenched in sweat. It was cold outside so I had my big coat on which only made things worse. I wore my nervousness like a cologne and everyone was getting a whiff. That year went as you would expect filled with days of bullying and fighting because I was thought a weirdo, unable to form the words needed to defend myself. I didn't know what was wrong with me, so how could I make them understand? I felt like a prisoner in my own body. A prisoner. Let that sink in a moment. I took that trauma with me throughout the rest of my elementary school days on into middle school where I felt like I just might start to blossom.
Middle school meant organized sports and sports meant football. My love. My passion, what I knew how to do. I was confident for the first time. I knew this sport like I knew my own face I thought, but what my father didn't teach me I was about to learn the hard way. My first week in practice was fun actually. I made friends as we got sized for uniforms and equipment, determined our desired position groups. I made friends! Finally, people who shared my likes at school. I figured I would go out for Quarterback, a position I had been groomed to be a master of. I had spent the entire summer before gearing up to be the leader of my middle school football team and nothing was going to deter me. Until I met my coach. In 5 minutes that man managed to destroy all confidence and any swagger I had built up. I was going up against two boys who were a different color and also taller. It looked as if they all had a relationship already and I was just new on the scene. Like the coach had already made up his mind who would be leading his squad. He looked at me hard. Up and down with a penetrating stare. I felt the anxiety creeping up in me, but I fought it this time. This was my time I thought to myself. He asked me to pitch the ball to my friend Anthony who was going out for runningback. I hadn't learned how to pitch the ball anywhere. I could throw it deep, but pitching it to a runningback hadn't been one of my lessons. I could hand it off just fine, but I wanted to showcase my arm. I got into position and without any instruction made my attempt. The ball rolled to Anthony, instead of hitting him in the hands. My new teammates snickered and the coach told me to get over there with the lineman. My world shattered into a million pieces in one moment. I didn't want to be a blocker but I didn't want to be off the team either so I slowly made my way to the group of lineman standing 20 yards away. Tears rolled down my cheeks, but I quickly stood tall again. I didn't want to show any weakness. This was the beginning of my hiding my true emotions. My true anxiety, my true fear.