An Anxiety Story

disability theory
Anxiety - A grayscale picture of a hand eraching out of water towards a cloudy sky
Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Something that struck me when I was being tested how common anxiety is with ADHD. For me, that manifested in tests. I want to change answers because I’m so afraid of being wrong. I’ve gotten better, but it has continued into my post-undergrad life. If I make a mistake, it’s hard to resist the urge to beat myself up. Over the years I’ve developed tools to manage anxiety, but it still plays a role in my life.

Anxiety is a fear response. Fear isn’t bad. It keeps us safe. Standing over an active volcano, for instance, you realize that laying down and making lava-angels would be bad. The fear of being burned alive would hopefully prevent you from doing that.

Anxiety comes in during prolonged threatening or stressful situations. For me, that started in elementary school. Because my processing speed is slow, I had a hard time finishing tests. I had a few teachers focus exclusively on my low scores. I felt stupid, and some teachers reinforced that.

As an adult, if I make a small mistake socially or in work, I’ll obsess over it for days. It’s hard to get past that until I apologize, sometimes to excess.

What can we do to help minimize this? Individually, that can mean medication or therapy. Maybe both. On a supportive level, understanding is key.

Kids need patience and compassion, but so do adults. Nontraditional students return to school to better their lives. One of the most toxic aspects of our society is how it views landmarks as being strictly chronological. Anything less than early success is still seen as failure.

Mistakes are an opportunity for growth, and that’s worth keeping in mind as we interact. If we tackle anxiety on a socially, perhaps it won’t be as prevalent or difficult individually.

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