I used to shy away and deny the fact that I struggle with anxiety.
I didn’t get help for my anxiety until I was a junior in high school. I came from a highly competitive school district, where getting a B+ is the same as failing. And while my school gave me opportunities that I otherwise wouldn't be able to get, it also gave me a lot of anxiety.
Anxiety is the natural response to stress. I could feel the stress from school, extracurricular activities, my job, and it hurt a lot. But what hurt more was that there wasn’t any help in these situations.
I think that the biggest challenge I ever faced was confronting my anxiety, and my biggest accomplishment has been getting help for it.
They say the best thing to do is to breathe, but I oftentimes found it hard to take deep breaths and realize that I'm only human. I'm a people pleaser. I tend to put 110 percent into everything, and I don’t like letting people down, especially those who are my higher ups. I always took on extra shifts, I always made sure to be on time, even when I was feeling bad or sick. I made sure to put others above myself.
I struggled with the concept of saying “no.” I used to work at a small end grocery store in my hometown, and I was seen as a reliable and honest employee. My boss used to always call me to ask if I could work the extra hours, or if I could stay longer. Maintaining the work and personal life balance was hard, because I made sure to always make others happy — to put others before myself.
No one ever asked if I was okay. But working retail is very transactional. It is a corporation. You do not owe the company anything, and it is hard for people to recognize that.
And while there’s a resilience to pushing on, the anxiety makes it so much harder to focus on you and what you need in order to live a healthy life.
I was scared of what would happen if someone didn't like me. I had this fear that people would talk bad about me, or say that I was unreliable, and these fears really constrained me in my social life as well. Ironically, people-pleasing made people not like me.
But over time, I realized that I had to speak up about the conditions I had to work in and that I needed to get the right tools I needed in order to stay healthy, like counseling.
I also tried to incorporate into my life was a system of recognition. If my body was telling me to slow down, that I wasn’t strong enough to continue. But most of all, I learned to take a step back and make sure that I was doing the right thing not only for myself, but also for others as well.