Saturday, August 5, 2017

Interview with an Anxious Friend

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By: Emma B. 
At age 11, a writer friend of mine saw his counselor for the first time. Very recently, that same counselor officially said he had some form of anxiety, a running theory with him and his parents for some time. This answered a lot of questions for him personally and upon further examination, answered some of mine. My friend and his family have decided to treat his anxiety with behavioral therapy and without the use of medication. I would like to share his story (with permission of course), as a writer who is interested in what it takes to treat anxiety disorders in teens without a prescription 
Even though anxiety can be common in teens and young adults, many of you reading this may not know what it means to have anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Though this definition is very literal it does describe the common things someone with anxiety might feel. There are also different types of anxiety; with the five major types being:  
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 
  • Panic Disorder 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  
  • Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder 
There are also non-specified anxiety disorders which can encompass multiple symptoms from the other disorders listed. While my friend's counselor has stated that he has some form of anxiety; he personally believes that he falls under the more non-specified category with that being the extent of what he knows so far. However, even though my friend is still trying to figure out more about his specific condition, he does have to realize the anxiety itself and has been struggling with it greatly.    
Over the years my friend has often seen writing as a form of therapy to help ease the troubles of normal life. When the idea came to him that he could possibly turn one of his fictional writings at the time into a novel, he was initially very excited. Then he started wondering what would happen and it initially increased his anxiety. He thought if he did a single thing wrong; he would somehow be seen as stupid. When he told me this story, he couldn't even explain the proper reasoning for panicking at first but only that once he was in the heat of it his project, he couldn’t stop. This cycle went on for months with feeling like he had to have approval from someone, anyone. Eventually, my friend gave up and in that period where he was struggling on what decisions to make, he wrote less and less. Eventually, new ideas came in and stole the old one’s thunder. This made dealing with new ideas cumbersome.  
Over time, the attention given to one idea over another led to increased anxiety and self-doubt. This made things somewhat unmanageable for my friend and his family. The anxiety itself began to manifest in other ways in my friend's life as well. Simple misunderstandings between friends became hurtful rejections, further driving home confusion and adding exponentially to already present anxiety. This further complicated family relationships, specifically between his parents. He became more isolated and internalized emotions. This in turn added to his anxiety even more. In short, my friend was becoming a glorious mess. With the help of family, my friend sought out a licensed counselor to address this problem 
Even though my friend’s overthinking and over-worrying habits still exist; they have significantly improved since he started seeing a counselor and began to understand his situation. Things are slowly getting better and through writing, now as a positive form of therapy he's learning who he is again and learning not to be afraid of being himself.  
When I was interviewing my friend, he told me, the biggest part of fighting his anxiety has been trying to feel more secure and emotionally independent from his fears. He felt that this is partly due to the fact that anxiety is a mental disorder that occurs when fears overtake a significant portion of your life to the point where it’s a problem. It’s the very definition of anxiety as a whole after all. This means trying to break that cycle of fear can be one of the most if not the most difficult thing about finding a non-evasive cure.  
My friend told me that this has been a deeply personal struggle for him as it has been a hard fight for him to better associate with social cues while staying true to his personality. This is especially difficult in the endless cave that is middle school. Everything is a confused mess and his ability to carefully plan everything out while still being left stranded and feeling like he should be worried about something is difficult. These feelings are beyond hard to shake, even more so when you consider how hard anxiety is to deal with on its own.  
There is one thing keeping my friend determinedhe told me that every night before he goes to sleep, he says one thing to himself. "I'm still learning." This has been his nightly motivational phrase and he says it is working. In the end though, through all the blood, sweat and tears (and everything else in-between); my friend has decided that being himself and opening up about his anxiety is a good thing. Despite his struggles still existing, he simply keeps telling himself that one phrase, "I'm still learning."

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