Stories, skills, and positivity- to anxiety sufferers from anxiety sufferers.
Throughout elementary school till high school, I was always a very friendly and open person. I used to be the girl who could just talk to anyone and be friends with anyone. The group of friends that I currently have, came together as one because of me. All my friends always tell me that “without you we wouldn’t have this group, you ARE the group”. And obviously that made me feel great. Even though I was able to make friends, I wanted to get out of high school, get out of Toronto, and go somewhere completely new and different where I could start my life over. I never worried about having to make friends at the new place, because like my friends would always tell me, I knew I would be able to find people. But I was very wrong.
I remember how excited and happy I was about going to University away from home. I couldn’t wait to live on my own, have freedom, do whatever I want, whenever I want, and just be able to finally breathe away from strict rules of my parents. For the first few weeks, I was still very excited even though the only friend I made at that point was my roommate. I just told myself “give it some time, and it will get so much better”. I told myself that because when I did my “research” on my University of choice, every review said how nice and friendly people were there. I am pretty sure there were only two negative reviews about the people of that University at that time. So I just held onto that information and reminded myself that I will make tons of friends and enjoy my university life.
But sadly months went by and nothing happened. The few people I tried talking to, some in my classes and some on my residence floor, they just stopped responding. There was this one girl on my floor who I made plans with to hangout and when the time came and I asked her if she would still want to hangout, she read the message and never said anything back. After that, every time she saw me, she would look at anything other than my face and just quickly walk away. There was also this other girl who started talking to me in one of my classes. She initiated the conversation and she talked to me even more than I talked to her. We were getting along pretty well so I decided to ask her if she would like exchanging each other’s numbers so we could sit in class together or something. She was not hesitant at all and instead of just telling me her number, she literally handed over her phone to me so I could take down her number. If you ever saw an iPhone, you would see that at the top of the list of contacts, it says “my number” and it has the number of whoever owns that phone. So I got her number and we decided to see each other the next time we had class together. That night I texted her saying “Hey this is blah blah, I am the girl you sat with today in economics class and we talked. I am just texting you so you can have my number too.” And guess what I got as a reply? She replied back saying, “sorry hun, wrong number.” I was so shocked and surprised.
There was no way it was a wrong number! She didn’t even take out her phone the entire time we talked, and when she took it out to give me the number, she didn’t have the chance to change her number to a different number. On top of that, I texted her just a few hours after we met. I honestly couldn’t figure out why she would do something like that. If she didn’t actually want to talk to me, why did you talk to me the entire class telling me how we should hang out? Next time I saw her in class, she saw me and quickly went a few rows ahead of me and sat down. Her response broke my heart.
Every time I tried to make a friend, the same thing kept happening. First they would talk to me and want to hang out, then they would completely ignore me to my face. Not a single person on my floor would ever try to acknowledge that I was even there every time they saw me and my roommate. They would simply stand there and talk to my roommate and ask her how she was while I awkwardly stood right beside her.
After this pattern repeated itself a few times, I started to become so anxious about everybody around me. I hated going outside to get food because I didn’t want anyone to see me. I remember always going to get food right before the cafeteria closed at night so that nobody would see me in the dark. I would just stack up all the food so I wouldn’t have to go there during day time. I have missed so many of my classes only because I knew I would see someone in that class who I tried to be friends with but got ignored. I couldn’t step outside of my dorm without being so anxious that everyone around me is talking about me and laughing at me. I absolutely hated leaving my room. And when I would talk to my friends from Toronto, they would tell me about all the new friends they made. They would ask me how my new friends were, and I had nothing to say. Because I had no friends here. I was completely alone.
The entire year I just talked to my roommate and this one other girl from my theatre class. That’s about it. I wasn’t having any adventures that my friends in Toronto were having. I wasn’t enjoying university as much as they were. I simply didn’t get to experience anything I wanted to experience. My constant anxiety would keep me from sitting in any row other people were sitting in. It kept me from trying new things and going to new places, it kept me from attending any event the school had, it kept me away from even bothering to talk to anybody, I quit the club I joined because I couldn’t handle being around people. Anxiety kept me away from living a normal student life.
Not much has changed now... The anxiety has made my high school friendships suffer too. Now every time one of my friends take a bit longer to respond, I just sit there being anxious and worried about what I possibly could have done that is making them not respond. And I would just start beating myself up over it by pointing out all the negative things about myself. So now my life has come to a point where I am under constant fear that everyone I have will leave me. At this point, I just want to drop out of university, lock myself in a room, and just sit there. That would at least help me not remember how much I hate myself for having enough anxiety to not be able to function in society.
But here’s the thing, even though I hate going through what I am going through, I am sharing my story so that anybody who reads it can feel like they are not alone. I know how it feels to think you are probably the alien the world is looking for, but I don’t want someone else to ever feel that way. I hope one day I will be able to get myself together and figure things out for myself, but till then, you and I are on this journey together. And something great will come out of our struggles. Don’t give up and don’t lose hope. It is easy to say, but hard to do. But I want to do it, and I want whoever is reading this to do it too.
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Katie McLean holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and bases her anxiety aid in personal experience, as well as techniques that have been passed on to her by counsellors, friends, and fellow anxiety sufferers.