I had been in this situation before. I had experienced dozens of panic attacks throughout my life — that’s just what living with anxiety (or more specifically, generalized anxiety disorder) is like. It didn’t matter where I was, who I was with, or what I was doing. Once I felt it creeping up, there was no way back. But how do you possibly explain that to your new boss on your first day at a fashion magazine? You can’t. What I had been afraid of for weeks was actually happening. And it felt like I had only myself to blame.
What kind of 22-year-old adult cries outside of her office and physically can’t walk in? What kind of 22-year-old adult has to call her mom to calm her down? I worked hard for this internship, and now I’m just going to fuck it all up because I can’t make myself go inside, I thought. Why can’t I grow up and just get it over with?
That’s the kind of dialogue that happens in my head daily — and I know I’m not alone. Anxiety disorders — such as generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and phobias — are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., and they affect twice as many women as men. They also tend to be more common among people under the age of 35.
I can remember when I started having these feelings of overwhelming dread. I was 10 years old, and every time I had to spend long periods of time without my mom, the anxiety would start. I didn’t know what it was, and I couldn’t explain it. My sister would have to hold my hand in bed in order for me to fall asleep.
I spent days at the school nurse’s office, telling them I felt “sick,” when really, the thought of staying in my classroom made me want to burst into tears. But why? Other kids in my class seemed to love it. What was wrong with me?