Ever since I was little, I've always been able to recognize that my brain worked differently than other kids. When my friends were playing on the monkey bars and jumping off the swings at recess, I was sitting safely in the grass under a tree reading a book. I always wanted to do those things, but something always told me that if I did, I would most certainly die. For as long as I can remember, I've had an escape plan mapped out in my head for how I would get myself and my family out if something bad ever happened; a strange thing for a six-year-old to do. I still know where every emergency exit, window, and door are at my childhood daycare - somewhere I haven't been in years.
I always just accepted that I was probably crazy and that someday my doctor would tell my parents and they'd send me away. However, after I hit puberty everything flipped, and I began acting out and having major mood swings. I was always trying to keep the attention on me (even though I HATED being the center of attention and having people look at me). My "friends" very rarely invited me to parties or sleepovers. I discovered they weren’t having them as often as I thought, but I always felt like they were, and that I was just the back-up friend that they called when all other options had been exhausted. I went through the entirety of my adolescent years feeling this way.
It wasn't until my first day of College at the Welcome Fair that I started to put things together that maybe I have anxiety. It happened after learning about Cam’s Kids and walking over to their booth and signing up for the email subscription. After this though, I left it alone and never brought it up to my family doctor or my family and friends. I thought it was unfair for me to assume that I had anxiety when I knew so many people struggling with it and their anxiety presented itself so differently from mine… "so mine probably wasn't really anxiety". I had many teachers and counsellors ask me if I had ever been tested for A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. After responding no, they suggested that I should get tested because I was struggling to stay focused in class and was constantly being distracted by sounds, smells, and flickering lights.
After completing my first year of college, I moved 12 hours away from home for my second year of college/first year of Nursing. This is when the spiraling began. My friends from residence and I would go to parties constantly, but I was quickly deemed the "mom friend" because I didn't drink before or at the parties. I was ALWAYS on high alert (don't ask what for - I still couldn't tell you). I was consistently doing laps around the party as if I was a security guard. I was also not sleeping or eating, and I knew everything going on in Res - even though I was not an R.A.
My teachers and academic counsellors at my new school had also all called me in for meetings to discuss the possibility of me having A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. When I came home for Christmas, I made an appointment with my doctor, hoping that getting diagnosed with one of these would finally solve my problems. In December of 2019, I voiced my teachers concerns to my doctor and she had me fill out some questions online. At the end of the questions a big text box popped up that said, "EXTREME ANXIETY DISORDER". My mom cried, and I sat in the chair staring blankly at the screen. What does this mean? I asked my doctor about the A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. and it turns out that my anxiety was presenting itself as these disorders. Since I was internalizing it, it was breaking through the seams as ticks that presented similar to A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. (tapping pencils, dozing off, playing with my fingers and several other things that I imagine were extremely distracting for my peers). I was prescribed medication and we're still working on dosages and things like that, but I can finally for the first time in my life say that I'm genuinely doing well. So, I wasn't crazy, my feelings were never silly, stupid or irrational, and the chances of me just "getting over it" were slim. I still have bad days and I'm sure I always will, but I'm ok with that. I have Extreme Anxiety Disorder and I'm not afraid of it.