I've been a "worrier" for as long as I can remember. I worry about things that may never even happen. I worry about a minor quibble or mistake until it evolves into an apocalypse-style scenario. Logically, I know what I'm thinking is implausible or even impossible, but in that moment, the fear is incredibly real.
I read too much into the slightest gesture or voice change. I can cry or get a bit snappy because of a bad day, and afterwards, I am wracked with guilt at the prospect that I've made others feel bad because of it, and that they now despise me. It's akin to some sort of paranoia: a little voice in my head, almost like an evil conscience, is always judging me, telling me lies about how people see me and making me frightened.
During my college and university years, pressure to do well in my coursework and exams utterly crippled me, even though I was getting good marks. I'd go through fits of weeping and panic attacks. People told me to just "calm down" or "get a hold of yourself". I was labelled a drama queen.
What no one seemed to realise was that my emotions and fears were beyond my control - or at least, that's how it felt whilst these incidents were occurring.
I wasn't behaving that way on purpose, or doing it for attention. I couldn't just "get a hold" of myself. It wasn't that simple. I wasn't some actress playing a role. The terror was real, and it was overwhelming.
It wasn't until I discussed my behaviour with a doctor that my "irrationality" was revealed to be an anxiety disorder. I began a course of medication, and it's made a massive improvement to my life. Yet, I still can't win. Even the tablets are looked down upon by some.
"Why do you need them?" they ask. "Can't you just go for nice walks every now and again? Have nice bubble baths?"
I do both. Regularly. And if these work for some people, that's wonderful. But in my case, they don't really ease the condition. Medicine does.
What I have is an illness of the mind, just like how others need medication for illnesses of the body. My brain produces too much adrenaline and too little serotonin. Tablets help with the chemical balance. That being said, I have undergone therapy too, and this has taught me techniques to help me control the irrational thoughts. Still, it compliments the medication rather than replacing it.
In the workplace, I don't ask for much in the way of special treatment. All I personally need to feel infinitely better is a little patience and a slightly altered approach to certain things. Need a meeting? Please tell me why first - it silences terrifying illogical thoughts about disciplinary actions or a sudden sacking. I seem nervous about something when I shouldn't be? Talk it out with me: ask me how I am. I'm not ashamed to discuss my feelings or my disorder, even if others may (wrongfully) judge me for it. They judge because they don't understand.
My anxiety is a part of me, just as much as other traits — like my love of a good book and a great cup of tea, or my desire to make others happy and do well in life. It's part and parcel of the package I offer to friends, or to employers. I just get up every day and do my best... the same as everybody else.