There’s a recurrent conversation that is in the air during the new year that starts with the simple sentence: “What are your plans for the year?” And I swear by all of the special things in life, that the answer should be way simpler than it is for me. Why? Because I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I have plans. A lot of plans. But every year, fear paralyzes me and the thought of everything that could go wrong in all the possible scenarios makes keeping up with these plans hard. I’m not a risk-taker (clearly) and the ideas I tend to have are probably the safest ideas anyone can ever think about. But my mind is a war zone where every single thing is dangerous. Every single person and new plan are the enemies that I must avoid at all cost.
I’m 24. I recently started towards my Master’s but I also want to travel in order to have some job experience from outside my country in my professional field when I graduate (I’m a psychologist who works with people with cognitive disabilities). So this year involves A LOT of challenges: Master’s, job, traveling alone, living on my own, meeting people by myself (I’m already in mid-anxiety attack as a write this). All of those are things that I want to do, that I crave, are part of my life goals. But… I’m frightened. And not the “Oh, new country, new friends” kind of scary feeling. No. The absolutely paralyzing, breath-taking, dry-throat, I-feel-like-I’m-having-a-heart attack kind of fear. An elephant is sitting on my chest kind of fear.
In my mind, the plane is going to crash, my suitcase will get lost, my home will be burglarized, violent people are going to do unspeakable things to me, I’ll have no friends and probably, my whole family is going to die while I’m away. And that’s just a summary. As I said, my mind is a war zone that produces all the kind of thrillers that thrillers films and news reports are made of. And as a consequence, the best plan is to stay at home, with familiar faces and never, ever, face the outside world.
Of course, these things are not going to happen. And I know that it’ll be okay, that I have to take chances and that all of those bad things will never happen. I probably know that already because I hear it about 20 times a day, but my anxiety doesn’t know it.
So dear friends, family and kind strangers: the new year’s resolution isn’t for everyone. For many of us, it’s a moment in the year when we have to fake that none of our plans are scary.
What I’m trying to say is that every year, my new year’s wish is to stop being afraid. But as it hasn’t happened in 24 years, I’m starting to think that a better wish would be to DO things despite being afraid. And I hope this helps someone who also feels how the throat closes when someone asks for the new year. You aren’t alone, as I’m not alone.