I am what high-functioning anxiety looks like

Danielle Shorr, junior creative writing major

Danielle Shorr, junior creative writing major

Guest column by Danielle Shorr, junior creative writing major

I cried every day of first grade. This is not an exaggeration, nor is it something I did quietly, politely and to myself in the privacy of a bathroom stall or behind a bus seat. I cried every single day and everybody knew it. I was 6 years old and terribly and inexplicably anxious.

As I grew older, anxiety became more supplemental – an add-on to the array of internal battles that would come with my teenage years. Depression left me bedridden at times and apathetic. Still, my anxiety, while not always the center of attention, was ever-present.

I am lucky enough to have a family that understands the importance of talking about and treating mental health-related issues. Throughout high school, I took an antidepressant called Lexapro. The small dose helped me tremendously to get through my day-to-day routine. I have never been ashamed to admit that I credit its existence for being what got me through high school. While I ended up going off of it before starting college, I am thankful for how it helped me manage when I most needed that help.

Anxiety can be pretty black and white, meaning you either know how it feels to live with it or you don’t. If you’ve never had a panic attack in the middle of a lecture, then it might be difficult to understand what that feels like. For me, it’s a swelling of my throat, an overwhelming wave of heat passing over me, and a flood of fearful thoughts. High-functioning anxiety means you would never know it by looking at me. It means that only the closest people in my life have bear witness to the struggle.

“I get nervous too.”

But it’s not nervousness. I was nervous when I competed in my first poetry slam. I get nervous during job interviews. I’m even someone who loves public speaking. My day-to-day battle is not with nervousness, but with an overpowering fear that can render me incapable. Anxiety is exhausting. It takes a physical toll on my well-being, sometimes keeping me up for multiple nights in a row.

My anxiety is irrational. Logic has never been a cure to its existence. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell me it will be fine – my brain has already formulated a million comebacks to tell you why it won’t be.  Even though it’s tiring, anxiety can be manageable. It takes work and effort, but anxiety can be overpowered. There have been times when I’ve wanted to surrender, give up and let the fear control how I live my life. But today I’m doing more than just existing: I’m thriving. Today I’m looking at fighting anxiety face to face … and winning.

Leave a Comment