An open letter to my anxiety

You’re not the only voice to listen to

To my Anxiety,

You motherfucker.

Being a uni student is hard enough, with all its expectations and pressures. But you amplified this by 10. You gave me  a mind forever racing, caught up on mental to-do lists, creep in with constant reminders of all my worries that I’m letting friendships slip, I’m going to mess up that presentation.

The balance is hard; you’ve been trying to make it near enough impossible.

When I tell people about you, they try to help. They tell me to ‘try to limit activity that makes you panic’, ‘look into what sober social activities the uni offers if going out makes you anxious’, ‘maybe just have a self-care night’.  This is all good advice, but you made it harder than that. You caused a conflict between me, and my uni experience, between self-preservation and ‘FOMO’.

And it’s not just me. You’ve done this to so many of us. Crept into our lives somewhere between GCSEs and A-Levels and decided to move into uni with us. And I speak for us all when we say “fuck off”. It’s hard enough navigating drinking, gigs, nights out and academic pressure. I don’t need a devil and angel battling in the back of my mind.

In one corner, the voice reminding me that this should be the time of my life, the voice that doesn’t want you to stand at the back of the crowd, or leave early, or count your drinks at pres. And your voice, too aware of the risk, building walls and leaving me teetering on the edge of a panic attack when I disobey.

You tried to isolate me, tried to set me back. And yeah, I gave into you for a while; excused myself from pre-drinks, cursed myself for being so weak, separated myself from friends I’d just made, stayed home, stayed in the comfort zone you drew me. I was your slave for a while, until you gave me no options.

I never wanted to be smothered by you, none of us do. A little worry can often do us good, but I could no longer live within your walls. I refused to let you lock me out of the things I once loved. So I started learning about you, rationalising the emotions and gained somewhat of an explanation for the things you caused.

I did little things like yoga and meditation which are proven to reduce you, I started to set myself little challenges to disobey you; go out sober but stay out all night, have a drink and go out but let myself come home early if I wanted, gradually building up my confidence again. I felt your hands loosening around my neck, slowly, slowly.

But I’ll admit last week I ignored your cries, and pushed it too far by standing at the front, and ended up having a panic attack in the pit.

The worst thing is when I think you’ve finally started to let go, and then you come back more forceful, like a punishment for not listening when you told me so. But I’ve learnt that my conscious sounds nothing like you, and self-bullying, calling myself weak and stupid, getting angry at myself for having to leave early when all my friends will never help.

I will not hate myself for slipping back slightly, I’ll no longer curse myself for falling back into our old habits.

And I know you want to help. I know you’re looking out for my safety and my comfort, and maybe I should learn to compromise more, and make more allowances for you, but your voice is so harsh. It’s a thin line between listening to you and looking out for myself, and listening to you and sacrificing myself.

My fear of missing out is valid. That other voice is valid; the voice that’s telling me to go to pres , to go out, to tag along with my friends to that flat party, I know you disagree, but that voice is not my enemy. If anything, that voice is my freedom. And I’m working to view it as a goal to meet eventually, rather than a side of me that you’re trying to suppress in order to prevent panic.

I’m working to use my FOMO as motivation to challenge you, anxiety.

You’re valid too, but you’re not the only voice to listen to.