As someone who has battled anxiety throughout my life, I’ve always hoped it wouldn’t affect my relationships, both romantic and platonic, but it often does. Though I’m an outgoing person, social settings kick my anxiety into overdrive. I find myself overthinking every word I say, every move I make, and I can’t help but stress over my likeability. Unfortunately, I’ve had several instances where I have panic attacks, and cannot leave the comfort of my own bed. For the longest time I’ve felt like I’ve been missing out on the care-free life that teenagers are supposed to lead.
I’ve never been one to throw in the towel, and the battle with my anxiety is no exception. Though it’s something I’ve always struggled with, it became increasingly prevalent in my life after my freshman year of college. Therapy is a process I hold to the highest regard, and something I’ve been attending for the past six years. However, I often found myself holding back and not telling the full extent of my anxious thoughts due to how ashamed I felt. When I was able to come to terms to the extent of my anxiety, I finally made real progress.
Since this acceptance has come a plethora of necessary conversations, realizations, and an exploration of medication. Though my journey will never be over, I’ve certainly seen a huge improvement, and not just on a personal level. In my own mind, admitting the thoughts I was having and truly delving into them has allowed me to work on addressing my core issues. However, the area where I actually see the biggest improvement is in my relationships with those around me.
Combatting my own anxiety has given me the gift of truly understanding others on a deeper level. My own experience with mental health struggles has made me so much more vigilant of those who may also be suffering. I initiate open conversations with my close friends, allowing me to air out my own stress, and understand their personal issues as well. In order to truly connect with someone, you must dive deeper than the surface level.
Fairweather friendships have never been of interest to me. I’ve always wanted to be there for the good, the bad, and the ugly; I’ve always struggled letting people into my life, to the point that it halted my relationships from reaching this level of security. I knew my battle with anxiety would be easier navigated if I had a friend or two to journey through it with me. When I realized I could be that person for someone else, it became a top priority of mine to ensure my friends felt comfortable enough to be open with me.
Since these developments have occurred, I truly do feel that my friendships have more meaning. You get to know someone better and appreciate them more when you learn about what they’ve been through and all of the work they have left to do. Personally, my journey is still just beginning. But admitting to myself that there is so much to be done, and that these problems lay deeper than I ever wanted to accept, has allowed me to make so much personal and relationship progress. In order to understand others, you must first understand yourself. Realizing this is what has propelled me toward more authentic friendships. For this I am forever grateful, regardless of the stress required to get here.
Written by: Alexandra CoopermanInstagram: @alexandracooperman