I dedicate this letter to all those out there dealing with the big, bad “A” word that has made an investment in trying to terrorize our lives. It’s tough, but just know you aren’t ever alone.

Dear Anxiety,

Your attempts at trying to invade my personal life have come in many, many different forms. One of my biggest pet peeves is the fact that you change your appearance to become accustomed to my lifestyle, with things such as having the perfect night of rest now taking a back seat on your command.  Meanwhile, as I sit here reminiscing on all the other ways you ruin things for me, here’s all the stuff I wanna get off my chest. So please, why don’t you take a good listen. Stop being the whisper in the wind that tells me to stay inside in fear of rejection. You say you only want to keep me to yourself, but the question is, do you really mean me any good?

Stop trying to make me believe I can’t have a good time outside amongst a crowd. Stop letting me feel like I can handle the crowd, only to roar back full force and make me feel like a mouse running for my life into the nearest quiet establishment. I keep thinking I’ll find my peace on the street or at a festival during the warmer months, one that has all the colorful vendors and food, but when they get congested, let’s just say that you make me think crowds are too much company for me.

Stop making me feel bad about all those times I couldn’t communicate properly to people. Yes, I’m talking those times I would ruminate about whether I said the right thing to somebody or presented myself in the “right” way. I know I’m by no means a perfect individual. But you always have to step in and make me think that I can’t be social. That I’ve committed the unthinkable act of being awkward. That I’m an outcast for life.

You try your best to change me to your will, making it so that my mind plays tricks on me. Remember that one time I couldn’t properly order what I wanted the first time I went to Shake Shack, and it was so crowded that I felt eyes everywhere, all trained on me?  That feeling of moving from place to place, scrambling to find my place of belonging in the world. Well, now I know how this came to be.

This was you making me feel that way.  These waves of feelings that crash over me in a mindstorm of negative thoughts that only try to pull me down into the depths of foggy memory, stress, exhaustion and pure panic. Sometimes I wonder if you’ll ever just leave me alone, or will I have to keep wishing for a “medical miracle” to make my life better?

As I get ready to end this letter, I have the most important thing I want to say to you: stop making me feel uncertain about my future and where I’m headed. It’s bad enough you make me think about all the wrong things I’ve done and why. And no, your ruminating calls never help; they only leave me drained.

In the end, Anxiety, you may try to have a form of control over my emotions, and how I behave in certain places, but I will still stand tall, and make the effort to beat whatever you try to throw at me, no matter how long it takes. I may hit many bumps along the way trying to get rid of you, but I’ve got ways to help combat the negativity you try to force into my life.

Whether it’s journaling about those situations that give me the most trouble to sort out my thoughts, doing a watch through of my favorite show or anime, or listening to some of my favorite songs endlessly on repeat through Spotify. With the help of these things, I still go to crowded events and places. I still try to communicate with people when necessary (even if the interactions feel awkward). I’m still here and I’m not letting that looming shadow of yours whisper fear into my heart.

Yours Truly,

R.A. Pinford

If you live with anxiety, you’re not alone. You can get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, you can get free, confidential counseling at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. Call (212) 423-3000 to make an appointment. No immigration restrictions, no insurance needed.

*This name has been changed to protect patient privacy.