I Am Ana’s Anxiety.
More specifically, I am Ana’s Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Or, you could simply call me “Anxiety”, but it’s best if you don’t call on me at all, and pray that I never call on you.
Ana might not feel so fortunate to have me. There are many students who don’t wrestle with the weight of anxiety as she does. They call me “overthinking,” “stress,” and “isolation,” and frankly, I find these labels quite insulting. Afterall, I’m no lightweight when it comes to affecting Ana’s academic and social life. My primary residence is in her mind, but I have a way of infiltrating every corner of her world. My goal? To cast a shadow over Ana’s entire life.
So, where did I come from? Who knows? There are plenty of theories. Here’s my version:
Ana has always been a conscientious student, eager to excel academically and make her immigrant parents proud. But over time, this drive started to morph into something more threatening. It started as a persistent knot in her stomach before tests, the fear of making mistakes, and the crippling self-doubt that accompanies perfectionism. Relax, they said, but Ana ignored it.
My first appearance in Ana’s life was subtle, like the uneasiness that crept in when she was asked to speak in class, or the dread of group projects. “What if?” became my mantra, and I chanted it relentlessly. Anxiety, they called it, but Ana couldn’t easily escape my grip.
April 5, 2021. The first time I made my presence starkly clear. The trigger was seemingly mundane, a simple school presentation scheduled for that morning. But I tend to have a way with the mundane, if I must say so myself. On this day, I seized the opportunity to amplify her fears, manipulating the dread that had been building up inside her to its zenith. When Ana’s turn to speak arrived, her voice failed her entirely. Her palms grew clammy, and her breaths grew rapid and shallow, saturating her bloodstream with an excess of carbon dioxide. As the world around her became distant and surreal, her vision narrowed to a tunnel, her senses overwhelmed by the suffocating weight of, well, me. It was as if I had frozen her very being, rendering her unable to move, to breathe, or to articulate her thoughts.
I loved every moment of it.
From that day on, I decided to classify myself as a master of disguise. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m the reason Ana avoids social gatherings and isolates herself in her room, looking to books for comfort. I’m the reason she can’t manage more than one meal a day, the reason her tears are a nightly ritual, and the reason her parents remain oblivious to her silent suffering. I single-handedly have been responsible for countless missed opportunities and strained relationships, and I take pride in it.
I am a skillful manipulator. I convince Ana that her peers are constantly judging her, that her teachers are secretly disappointed in her, and that she’s not good enough, no matter how hard she tries. I am the architect of self-doubt, the creator of negative self-talk, and the instigator of sleepless nights.
Ana has tried to fight me off, seeking support from therapists and practicing relaxation techniques, but I’m persistent. Sure, she may have hampered my strength temporarily, but I take comfort in my resilience, for every step she takes toward recovery, I counter with a wave of doubt.
It’s a constant battle, but I thrive on uncertainty and fear.
I wish Ana the worst. It’s in my essence.
Saanvi is a senior in high school who has recently discovered a passion for writing. She enjoys playing her electric guitar and taking long walks with her dog.