A is for Anxiety

Word count: 1,112

Angst / Friendship / Youth / Mental Health Disorder


See, the thing is, she is just always so worried. Or afraid. Nervous. Or some combination of any of those emotions. It's just a part of her – something that is always there, somewhere behind everything else she feels.

Is it difficult to hide this underlying part of everything she ever does or feels or says? No. No, it's not. It's not hard to hide anything that has always been a part of who you are.

She prefers it that way, too, because she wouldn't know what to tell people anyway. It's not as easy as a broken leg or arm, or even blindness or deafness. You can explain those and people will immediately understand you and feel sympathy or even empathy. You say "See, my arm is broken" and point to the cast on your arm, and people sign it, words of encouragement, draw a smiley face and tell you, "I'm sorry, I hope it gets better soon," or some other variant of the same statement.

But she is broken somewhere on the inside. It's a hurt she can't define and she can't point it out to people. She can't go up to someone and say, "Look, this is broken" and point to… what? She wouldn't even be able to explain where she is broken. She can go, "I'm just sad, I'm always sad, afraid," and people look at her funny, tell her to get over it or that it will be over in a couple of days and she will feel better.

But she won't. She never does. Being sad, being afraid, is a part of her personality now.

She tried telling her mother once, but she just frowned and told her to stop with the silliness. Her mother is not a bad person, she just doesn't understand. And it's okay because she doesn't understand it either, and how is she supposed to explain something she doesn't quite understand herself.

Her father was a little more responsive. He hugged her and asked her if she wanted him to call her doctor and get an appointment. She had hesitated, but agreed, because some days all she wants, all she wishes for, is to just be normal. She doesn't feel normal when she's with her friends. They talk about boys and TV shows and glittery vampires in love. And it's not that she doesn't care about any of those things, because she does – just as much as any other teenage girl does. It's just not enough for her. It's not enough to make her happy, content, like it apparently is for the other girls. She needs something more than that. (How silly of her to think that, because the truth is – no one is normal. Normal is a useless word because the thing it supposedly represents doesn't exist.)

Anyway, it's not important. Her father had apparently meant an actual doctor. Not a counselor or a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but a doctor – the kind with otoscopes, stethoscope and thermometers. And that? That is not exactly the kind of medical care she needs.

She never mentioned it to her parents again. She loves them, and if they found out that she was all messed up inside they would hurt. They would think it's their fault, that they did something wrong, but it's not their fault, not at all. It's not her fault either, it just is.

The only time she doesn't think about it is when she's in school or in the public library; when she's learning and educating herself. When she throws herself into adventure stories, mythology and western philosophy she forgets everything else around her and she is in another world completely. She can lose herself in an essay on the concept of justice as understood by the old Greek philosophers. She will escape into another world and for a couple of hours she can be and do anything she dreams – anything, even the impossible. She has been told several times that she spends too much time in her own head, but despite the often depressive tone of her thoughts, it's familiar and safe in her head. Her mind scares her, but not nearly as much as what other people can say or do to her does. People are frightening and irrational and she hasn't ever met anyone she truly connected with. People are shallow.

She writes, too, sometimes. There are so many words, so many stories to tell, in her head and if she doesn't write them down she's afraid she may lose them forever. Some of them are awful and scary but still she doesn't want to lose them. She doesn't want to ever forget everything that made her who (what) she is today and what (who) she will someday, maybe, become.

"Hey babe, want to go to the cinema with us tonight?" Stella asks one night. A night just like any other. So many people say that being young is such an exciting phase of life and it goes by so fast, too fast. Maybe, she thinks, this is because young people like herself and her friends seem to do exactly the same things every day and every night. They hang out with the same people, go to the same places, talk about the same things, kiss the same boys, have the same fights, complain and gossip about the same people and wear the same clothes.

She likes that. It makes her feel safe, like she belongs with these people. It makes her happy and she will probably never be able to explain how much she loves these people. So of course she tells Stella, "Yeah, sure, when are we meeting?"

It's no wonder it goes by too fast – no one ever does anything apart from the usual. Youth really is wasted on the young, as the saying goes.

She figures people do it because it's comforting and familiar and totally none threatening.

The unfamiliar is the most terrifying thing in the world.

They have fun – Stella and Emma provide a live commentary of the lame romantic comedy they're watching and several people complain, and then Hannah spills her soda all over the lady sitting in front of them and honestly the whole thing is kind of a disaster.

It's perfect. For a couple of hours life is good and her thoughts stay calm.

But when she is alone in her bedroom it comes back, and she cries herself to sleep. Even when she is perfectly happy and has no reason to be sad she hurts. It's always, always there, and it's not going to ever go away.


'A', she writes on her blog one night, is for anxiety.