Shut Up

No, not you.

Sylvia Bryan

No matter how many layers of concealer and foundation I put on in the morning, I will always have dark circles under my eyes.

Sometimes–most times—I can’t fall asleep when I want to, because I can’t make my brain shut up. There are days I can’t focus in class, for the same reason. My imagination creates inane scenarios that I can’t escape. Rationally, I know how unlikely said scenarios are. Rationally, I know that everything is okay. But all the reason in the world won’t shut my brain up when I want it to.

My headaches are actually a symptom of a tumor or aneurysm. My mother will get into a car accident on her way to work. My boyfriend is cheating on me. I failed the calculus test. What if that was one too many ibuprofen tablets?

Those are the types of scenarios my mind creates. Sure, all of those are possible. In theory, yes, they could happen. But they’re unlikely. Statistically, I probably don’t have a brain tumor. My mother is generally a good driver and her commute isn’t particularly hazardous. I doubt my boyfriend would actually cheat on me. I have never actually failed a calc test. (Quizzes don’t count.) I follow the recommended daily dosage of any medications I take.

I’m not the only one who deals with this. Anxiety is incredibly common. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect one in eight children and eighty percent of children or adolescents with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not being treated for it. Everybody will suffer from some degree of anxiety at one point in their life, which probably explains the low treatment rate. It’s always hard to know when something is a problem and if you should ask for help. But this is especially true when the problem is considered so common and normal.

I would not consider myself an extreme case; I think I’m on the milder side when it comes to neurosis. But on behalf of myself and people who have it worse than I do, all I ask for is a little bit of patience. I know my scenarios are silly. I know they don’t make sense. But I will still get anxious over the possibilities. I will still bite my nails; I will still lay awake at three in the morning; I will still get distracted during class. I can’t really fix any of that. I can pretend to be calm and act like a normal, functional person. But inside I might be kind of a mess.

I’m okay with that.

I really do think this is a normal, common issue; the severity is certainly a case by case basis. But the core issue of anxiety is part of the human experience. That’s why we need to be patient with each other. Everybody’s anxiety will manifest in different ways, at different times, to different degrees. We don’t have to understand each other, but we can be patient. We can be sympathetic. I know how much I appreciate it when people are patient with me, so I promise I’ll try to be patient, too. Deal?