My Dear Friends,
Before I began sharing about my anxiety, I was terrified to open up to you. I worried that disclosing my anxiety would darken the light, cheery nature of our friendships. I wondered if “anxious” would gradually become my sole identity, overshadowing the many traits that comprise who I am. My greatest hope was that you would understand that anxiety challenges me, but does not define me. The moment I disclosed my anxiety, my fears dissipated. I am incredibly thankful that choosing to be vulnerable about my anxiety has strengthened our friendships, created inextricable, deep connections and brought us closer than I could have ever imagined. Moreover, I am extremely grateful for your presence in my life and for the numerous ways in which you have supported me through the most difficult times.
Thank you for understanding whenever I arrived late to meet you for coffee with my hair disheveled, my eyes wet from an onslaught of panic, and my slight figure clad in an old, shapeless sweatshirt. I appreciate that you never commented on my anxiety-ridden appearance and always took the time to listen to whatever was on my mind as we sipped our drinks.
Thank you for your willingness to learn what I need when I feel particularly anxious and to respect boundaries. When we were roommates, you were always understanding of my need for space in times of anxiety, sending texts peppered with hearts, “I love you’s” and “It’s going to be okay’s” instead of entering my room. You came to know that sometimes, all I need is to know that someone is there for me, even if they are not physically close, and more importantly, you always respected that.
Thank you for reminding me that the worries consuming me are unimportant in the grand scheme of life. In college, you were always by my side to reassure me that an “A minus” midterm would not affect my ability to graduate college Summa Cum Laude, obtain the job of my dreams, and attend law school. Thanks to your encouragement and kind words, I now fully understand that small missteps cannot prevent me from achieving my goals.
Thank you for laughing with me when I make light of my overly-neurotic, irrational, anxiety-addled mind. In the worst moments, humor is my most effective coping mechanism. Your willingness to laugh at my self-deprecating remarks instead of shying away means the world to me.
Thank you for understanding whenever I am unable to do something. You have never treated me any less respectfully when I am overwhelmed and overloaded, and I love that you recognize and accept that I have limitations, just like everyone else in the world.
Thank you for pulling me away from my stressors for pure, unadulterated fun. Legally Blonde movie nights, lunches out, beach days, shopping trips and Hamilton sing-along sessions have all provided a welcome diversion from the anxieties that are prone to creeping into my mind. I am grateful that you have taught me the importance of taking breaks to refresh and refocus my mind and body.
Thank you for supporting me through the most difficult night of my life, for comforting me when panic completely overtook my mind, for treating me as compassionately as you always have and for encouraging me to prioritize my mental health. To this day, my health is a top priority and I am willing to slow down when I feel overwhelmed.
Thank you for reassuring me when anxiety causes me to doubt myself. When I worry that I will never be gainfully employed, second-guess a piece of writing I sent out, or wonder if I am “the annoying friend,” you never fail to remind me that I am strong, capable, and loved, dispelling the pervasive “what-ifs.”
Thank you for reminding me that I am never as alone as I feel. The stories you have shared about your experiences are a powerful reminder that there are a vast number of people in the world who share the same challenges. I have learned that if we support each other, stand together and share our stories and experiences with one another, not only will we become stronger and more resilient in the face of adversity, but we will also feel less alone.
Thank you for showing me how loved I am. Whether through your words or your actions, you never fail to express your love and support. Although you understand that anxiety is only one piece of me, you are always supportive when my anxiety challenges me, and you accept me exactly as I am, which is the greatest demonstration of love. I promise to stay by your side in your darkest moments, loving and supporting you just as you love and support me. I love you immeasurably. You mean the world to me.
Previously published on Thought Catalog.
Featured Photo via Unsplash.