From Medical News Today:
If I think back to all of the most memorable and joyous moments of my life, my memories are laced with a dark, gripping cloak of anxiety.
Experiences that other people would celebrate, such as graduations, weddings, and promotions, are dreaded milestones for me — not the ferociously sought-after goals that they are for many people.
Sometimes, I think back to try to identify the defining moment that turned me into the anxious, paranoid wreck that I became for so long. I search for clues regarding what led me there. Maybe my mother was withholding, or maybe my father was too strict.
Perhaps those things are true. But my anxiety was always there, slowly bubbling to the surface for a quarter of a century, until it would eventually erupt, pouring into every aspect of my adult life.
As a kid, I would second guess everything that I did. I was told that I was "just shy," and that I needed to practice doing things I didn't want to do in order to get used to my shyness.
My mom would make me order food at restaurants and over the phone, in the hope of helping me overcome my irrational fear of interacting with others.
By junior high, I hid myself in class projects and after school programs so that every moment of every day was accounted for, leaving no room for self-doubt to creep in. The adults told me I was ambitious, driven even.
And perhaps they were right, but I see now that it was just my anxiety taking root in the deepest recesses of my personality and worldview.
In college, I continued working tirelessly on class projects and student organizations, using my anxiety as the fuel to my overachieving fire.
I hid behind the guise of being a good student, a good worker, and a good son.
But the dark reality was that if I stopped to rest for a single second, I would spiral out of control. The self-loathing would take over, and panic attacks would consume me. So I filled my time with more work, more activities, and more goals.
I graduated with honors, and at my college graduation ceremony — a collection of medals hanging around my neck — I was meant to lead my class out onto the stage to receive our degrees. The department chairperson gave me simple enough instructions, mostly just detailing the path from the entrance to our seats.