My Anxiety Is a Disorder, Not a Personality Trait

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I have struggles with chronic anxiety since the earliest years of my childhood, but it has taken me more than two decades to separate my anxiety disorder from my personality.

With age and experience, I have adopted strategies in order to manage my anxiety and its accompanying symptoms, but even then I am still affected by anxiety’s wicked and unnerving tactics. I still experience panic attacks despite understanding them and being able to separate my irrational and rational thoughts quite easily. Immunity did not come with understanding, and it is important to note that a cure does not always come with help.

When you have grown up with a mental illness of any caliber, it can be a hard pill to swallow, sometimes literally, that no matter how much professional help you seek you’ll never be completely set free from it’s grasp. I defined myself by this and considered myself a failure for far longer than I ever needed to. I am here to tell you that not everyone can defeat mental illness, but I believe you can defeat the idea that you are nothing more than the thoughts that haunt you in the quiet corners of your life.

When you make a new friend, what they first notice is the way your eyes illuminate when you introduce them to what you’re passionate about; they are far too absorbed in your conversation to notice the way you hands shake as they brush past your pockets.

Despite how overwhelming anxiety can feel in the best of times, you are not described as the boy who stutters or the woman who never answers the phone. You are the man with the kind nature and the colleague who continually seeks to serve those she works alongside.

Anxiety occupies such a significant portion of our thoughts and our lives that it is often difficult to ever separate ourselves from how it can make us behave in new or frightening situations. We are usually the only ones who have this focus — the people around us are focused on how we treat them, what music we play and how good we can tell a joke.

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