When I was young, I would run around my backyard playing out imaginary scenarios. I remember my mind feeling a lot “lighter.” I felt freer, as it should have; I was only a child. Now I am twenty — I don’t really have a backyard to run around in, and my mind feels a lot heavier, but the imagination stayed put.
Growing up, my parents made sure to always tell me how to act, as all parents do, so as not to embarrass them. Parents want their children to be the best reflection of them and I always followed their instructions. It was only until I got older that I understood how little my parents knew about the world and how I had to figure it out for myself, as much as a pre-teen could anyway.
I had to grow up mentally, arguably, a lot faster than I should have. I got involved in family politics earlier than I should have; as for details, I am not allowed to share it yet because the wounds are still fresh (in all honesty they are still being picked at). I was constantly told that I was mature and I was always praised for this. I knew how to deal with someone having a mental breakdown but I had no idea how to hold a conversation with someone my age.
My teen years were lost on me. I didn’t get to have a teen experience of boys and parties and loud obnoxious conversations. I could never talk with my peers on a level that made sense, they wanted to talk about a boy (which is normal) and I wanted to talk about my very specific career steps (a little less normal).
I constantly felt alone and misunderstood. My small but wonderful group of friends also grew up faster than they should have. We never fought because no one wanted to have conflict and if there was an issue it was calmly discussed. This is all the social understanding I had.
In my second last year of high school, I had my first public panic attack. I couldn’t control my crying and then I couldn’t control my breathing. My English teacher asked me what was wrong, and I told her in the hopes that someone would be able to help, but no one could. Running away was a constant thought on my mind but I was clever enough to know I would die and having panic attacks in the comfort of a home is better than having them on the streets — at least it was in my case anyway. No one could help me and I turned to the internet which was the greatest thing. I learned that I wasn’t alone, that I could channel my emotions into art and that the world needed saving and maybe I could be the one to do it.
Now I am twenty, I still struggle with my anxiety; well, I don’t like calling it that, because even though my doctor once said I had anxiety I didn’t go back to talk about it so it hasn’t been fully diagnosed. I base my assumption on my tics and my inability to take anything lightly but also not care about the things that should matter.
I’ve recently started working and this means building relationships with colleagues, all of whom most likely got to be teens, some who still are and I have no idea how to handle it. I have a people pleaser type of character which bodes well as I do not have anyone who has a good reason to dislike me, which causes less stress. Regardless of this fact, I am still extremely scared before and after work and sometimes during that, I believe everyone hates me and I am absolutely not good enough. I must point out that not all days are bad but most aren’t good.
I know I am not the only one who missed out on parts of their lives, who doesn’t quite fit any mold. To those people, I hope you know you aren’t alone in this feeling. To those who cannot relate at all, please be kind to us because we are trying. Life is hard, it’s hard for all of us, but we just have to keep pushing because even those good days end and so do the bad days. Life is an absolute journey and our minds are the backpacks we take with us everywhere. We hold all our memories tightly to our chest and try not to make a mess but sometimes we do.
The only thing that helps me then is to remind myself that everything I do in this life has all been done before. I may say the wrong thing or have an anxiety attack at the wrong moment, but it’s happened before and people survive it. We outgrow our embarrassment and make space for people who will fit into our story; sometimes we mistakenly fit the wrong people in, but eventually, it all works out. I mean, it is kind of beautiful how despite how heavy our minds have gotten, we always keep finding more space to fill it with such honest and vulnerable stories; these are after all the most beautiful stories to tell.