“Why can’t I stop worrying? Why won’t this list of worries ever end?” was the recurring thought that manifested itself in my mind like a virus as I grew up. As young as 10 years old, I asked myself sadly why I could not feel happy. I was so innocent, but so burdened by the weight of my worries. And as a sensitive individual, I naturally absorbed everyone else’ responsibilities; I possessed the mindset of a 40 year old. I worried about helping to put food on the table when my father lost his job. I agonized about getting straight As, even when they didn’t count for anything in middle school. I tormented myself about whether that essay was perfect enough, or whether I should have spent less money on myself. I panicked about my friends and whether they still loved me. I cried easily and despised being so vulnerable. Although I am (still) an incredibly outgoing person who loves to smile, there was this constant, semi-subconscious negativity that threatened my emotional and mental stability.
In 7th grade, I began to bite.
Strangely enough, I bit my actual hand, and not the fingernails…I am a rather eccentric case of anxiety, I suppose. I gnawed on my hands, as I would food. My hand found its way to my mouth repeatedly, until it became an automatic reflex to stress. My friends didn’t quite understand. Most of them were happy and lighthearted, who recoiled in disgust as I showed them the calluses which had formed on my fingers. They were hard, red, ugly, swollen areas. Even my sister shuddered as she touched the callus, and angrily announced that if I continued this habit, no one would ever hold my hand. Some slapped me and yelled at me when I bit, others pleaded with me to stop. I pleaded with myself, but this action of biting had become addictive and had spiraled out of control from a sometimes-habit to an obsession. I bit and bit, until I split the flesh and my fingers bled. For the past four years, I have struggled to stop biting. It’s hard to fathom how much damage that I’ve inflicted on myself and it pains me to know I have no one to blame but myself. In 10th grade, I began to tear out my eyebrows with my hands. All of these… nearly irrepressible obsessions have become a part of me, and reflect the intense anxiety and nervousness which I feel underneath the smile. Although I am still fighting the war against these feelings, I have matured emotionally and this has made me a happier and more stable person, despite the continued habits. Some of my friends, who have finally reached the same point of anxiety as I did 5 years ago, ask me how I deal with it. Upon reflection, I see that I took numerous actions in order to counteract this disorder. Although I was first forced to see a therapist by my guidance counselor, I found that I liked talking about my feelings to a someone professionally trained to understand and advise me. My therapist introduced me to new concepts, and helped me to understand the neurotic and psychological aspect of my actions and emotions. She instilled into me confidence and self-esteem. Some fear therapy because of what therapy is associated with: mentally damaged, insane, “retarded” people. They are afraid to admit they need help. However, I would strongly advise therapy to anyone who is struggling with the same problem as I am. I also write poetry and simple essays to release buildups of emotion. It is an amazing way to uncage your emotions without harming yourself and anyone else, and in retrospect, many of the works I have created are beautiful and inspire me to keep writing. Whenever I consider doing something rash, I talk to my friends, who have always reasoned with me and proved to me how much they love and care about my future. With this confidence in myself and in the unconditional love of the people around me, as well as therapy, poetry and the simple solution of time, I have become a happier and healthier girl, ready to take on the world.
Trust me: you are not alone. As for parents, I can only tell them to continually comfort and support their children, as they should be doing already. I constantly seek the approval of my parents, and without it, I often feel miserable. Harsh words have harsh impact on a sensitive and dependent child—and parents must understand this aspect and this responsibility. Parents should emphasize that their love is unconditional. However, there are a number of different types of nervous anxiety disorder. At other times, parents may simply need to offer a shoulder to cry on or a reassuring hug or smile. The most important advice I have to give is to simply be there for your children. There is nothing like the let-down of a parent who is “too busy” or who tells their child to just “get over it”. Such a response is incredibly insensitive and ignorant of the way someone’s mind can work, the way someone can be manipulated into extreme agitation by their subconscious. Parents should show their children a consistent love and faith that they can overcome any obstacle preventing success and well-being. These are only first but most vital steps to equip a child properly for a happy and healthy life journey.