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of anxiety.

The first time I had an anxiety attack I was 16 years old.

My best friend had just gotten her license, so a few of us piled into her car to get ice cream at a nearby Coldstone. I remember laughing really hard, but being nervous for some reason. There was something solid there, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Like an itch in the back of my throat.

We were sitting outside of the creamery when I felt as though I'd been punched in the gut, a hot shiver running through my body. I jolted up and sprinted to the nearest restroom, making it just in time to vomit into a toilet bowl and not the sidewalk.

At first, I thought I was lactose intolerant.

But then it kept happening. At dance competitions, at parties, before tests, at lunch with friends, and even just talking to my parents. My brain would get fuzzy. I would feel like something was boiling inside of me. I didn't know what it was or how to bring it up to my parents.

Through college, it was a constant battle between being medicated and wanting to feel normal.

There were times when I became a recluse, hiding in my room and not being able to explain to my friends what exactly was going on. "I'm tired," I would say, "Maybe next time."

I pushed people away, people close to me, and had a difficult time going to classes. I lost a lot of friendships, but gained a few who understood, who didn't ask too many questions.

"What are you anxious about?" "Maybe go to the gym? I find sweating helps clear my head."

"Don't be nervous! It isn't that big of a deal!"

"We love you, don't feel like that, it's silly."

"Go for a walk outside, you just need fresh air."

Someone without anxiety will never understand.

It isn't stress, it isn't nervousness, it isn't sadness. It is its own beast.

It is sitting bolt upright at 3 in the morning for no reason, being unable to go back to sleep. It is your heart beating a million times a minute even though you aren't stimulated in any way. It is the fear of upsetting even your closest friends, of speaking to someone new, of getting on an unfamiliar bus.

It is vomiting on the side of a road, in the middle of the night, because you felt the out-of-body sensation once again.

Anxiety is my familiar monster. No amount of checking under the bed will make it go away.

I am slowly learning to deal with it, even now.

Sometimes, I'm thrown into despair just pining for normalcy. How am I supposed to be a fully-functioning adult when I can't even bring myself to go outside? To call a friend? To reach out to say I'm sorry?

But, little by little, I am taking the right steps. Giving myself small tasks and small victories to keep me going. Because if I can conquer one small thing, what is to stop me accomplishing a medium-sized thing? And then a big thing? I have to remind myself, even on the difficult days, that the mind rules over the body. That the chemicals firing in my brain don't actually control my forever. Breathe. Be anxious. Be sad. But the minute there is a chink in the enemy's amour, I must go for the gullet, must squeeze through.

Because my anxiety isn't going away....but neither am I.

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