My mom said I was an unusually anxious child. At 5, my anxiety was so apparent that my pediatrician said, “Mrs. Sarah’s Mom, I don’t recommend that your daughter starts Kindergarten quite yet. Wait off a year.”
When I started Kindergarten in 1992, I was simply labeled shy. “Oh, it’s okay. She’s just shy,” my teacher said. Oh honey. My first day I painted a portrait with the color purple because I was terrified of mixing paints. When the teacher’s aide asked me if I knew my numbers, I refused to count past 10 because I was terrified of taking too much of her time. For a week at recess, I stood with my small back pressed against the red brick wall, watching the other children play.
“Is she in trouble?” the teacher’s aide asked.
“No, she’s just…why are you standing there, Sarah?”
I just shook my head.
“She’s just shy,” my teacher said kindly.
And then, there was the Black Crayon. In Kindergarten, each table was set with a box of eight fat Crayola crayons. We were given worksheets to color, and mine had a picture of a lemur. I took the black crayon – hereon dubbed the Black Crayon – and began to scribble in his tail a bit too furiously.
The Black Crayon snapped.
I stared, horrified at what I had done.
Quickly I slid the broken Black Crayon back into its paper sheath and slammed it back into its box. I took a brown crayon and began to color the lemur in, simultaneously turning my head to the girl sitting next to me and screeching “SOMETIMES THEY LOOK LIKE THIS!”
She stared at me like I was on crack.
From there on, school wasn’t easy. I had difficulty making friends. I had difficulty fitting in. I contented myself with video games and Anime until I turned 18. Then the Anime dropped off and it was strictly video games. I mean, they were a great replacement to social interaction, something that TERRIFIED ME TO MY VERY CORE.
“Terrified” is a common theme. Clearly.
This unspoken anxiety controlled every aspect of my life. Learning to drive was the worst trigger. I simply didn’t drive until I turned 24, which made living extraordinarily difficult. I mean, when your friends are driving to school and driving to the mall and driving to each other’s houses for parties and underage drinking (I assume), I had my Mom cart me around Wichita. Clear through college! I had my Mom drive me to my classes at Wichita State EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Can you imagine?
If you’re neurotypical, you can’t!
There was a time when I was 18 that I began seeing a therapist. I couldn’t LIVE with myself any longer! I couldn’t LIVE in my own headspace! I was constantly angry, constantly sad, constantly shaking with the existential fear that my entire life was going to go tits up and that would be it. That would be the end of Sarah Jay. It wasn’t even a half an hour into my first session that my therapist said, “It sounds to me that you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I recommend you see a clinician.”
So I did. I walked away with a textbook diagnosis of GAD and a prescription for Lexapro, my first ever psychotropic drug! Cool, right? No. Not really.
I mean, after that (and after a short stint in therapy, I would guess it lasted about 6 months before I lied to my therapist and said that I was cured and quit going) my anxiety was managed, but it was still there. Like a little mouse gnawing on the power cables of your brain until a line snaps and your mind short circuits. I embraced the diagnosis because it put a name to the cyclone that spun constantly in my brain, but at the same time I was resistant. Pills made me feel faded. Therapy shone a light on my problems. I was happier just…not doing anything. Pretending the elephant that sat on my chest wasn’t in the room and wasn’t, well…sitting on my chest!
My anxiety comes to a single point: fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear. I’m not proud to admit that I didn’t get behind the wheel of a car until I was 24 because I didn’t want to rely on my Mom to drive me to my first full-time job. I’m not proud to admit that I resisted moving out of my parents’ house until I was 25 – living on my own was just too terrifying, so I moved in with four roommates. I’m not proud to admit that after moving to New Mexico at 29 to live with my partner in the beautiful southwest that I find myself constantly consumed with a fear of failure, failure of “adulting” properly, failure of making it as a fully functional human being. I’m still afraid. I’m afraid right now.
All of my fears are irrational and consuming. I almost FEAR that they define me. I’ve been on and off many pills – Lexapro, Celexa, Prozac, Celexa (again), Paxil – and some of them level me out, some of them freak me out, but none of them have been able to successfully curb the anxiety that holds me down.
So I just don’t take them anymore.
I truly don’t think my diagnosis makes me cute or quirky. I’m not a Tumblrina who dresses myself in the fashion of my fears and demands attention. But I don’t want to deny it either. I would rather live my truth and hope that my experiences mirror someone else’s. That someone else reading this right now can say, “oh hey, there isn’t anything WRONG with me.” There isn’t anything wrong with you, or me, or anyone with this disorder. You know?
Consider this my introduction to my anxiety, a topic I plan to explore as this blog evolves. I WANT to write about it and I will, damn it. That’s why I bought this domain.
That’s why I’m opening up.
(Also if you’re super cool you’ll notice that the titles of my posts are also the titles to songs and if you like those songs too we can be friends.)