BY LACHRISTA GRECO
I was born anxious. No, really. I can't remember the person I was before my anxiety disorder, because that person never existed.
One of my first memories is me at age four, spread out like a starfish on the kitchen floor, crying and screaming because I had a UTI. The cold tile floor momentarily alleviated my pain. After that UTI, I worried when I'd get another one. I would say to my parents, "Pray that my privates won't hurt." This became my mantra.
In elementary school, while most kids loved field trips, I was terrified by them. Field trips meant my routine would be disrupted. They meant I would be in environments that I didn't know or feel safe in. At the age of seven, I would worry about getting sick on a field trip; worried I wouldn't be taken care of, because I didn't trust anyone except my parents to take care of me. I'm fortunate I was able to trust them so deeply.
I was the kid in middle school who would obsessively check if her homework was in her backpack--ready to turn in the following day. I was the kid who gave enormous importance to school, teachers, and other authoritative figures.
That all changed in high school.
When I was 17, my three best friends (my three only friends) were at a party that I didn't attend. Since I wasn't there, they gossiped about me hardcore. They bonded over sending me four hate emails. I still remember how the first one began: "Well hello Mary Sunshine--How has the Queen of the Bitches been?"
After that email, they each sent a personal one letting me know what a terrible person I was and what a bad friend I was. They told me not to sit with them at lunch anymore. The following Monday, I began eating lunch in the girls' gym locker room. The smell of B.O. and menstruation ran rampant.
During this friendship fallout, I got very physically ill. I couldn't eat. My digestive system was beyond fucked up. Nobody knew what was wrong with me. I finally had an abdominal ultrasound done, and all they found was "a lot of gas." I was put on a liquid diet, which only aided in my disordered eating habits.
During this time, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, put on Zoloft, and started therapy. I was out of school for four months. The whole experience was traumatizing, but it made me realize how nothing matters if you're unwell (physically and/or emotionally). I finally got a hold on my anxiety, and it's something I'll always have a soft grasp on, because if you know anything about anxiety, you know you can't hang on too tightly--it's always shapeshifting; it's always somewhere.
My parents used to call me, "Princess and the Pea," because I could feel everything. I still can, and it's worse in a lot of ways. You'd think it'd be easier the longer you live in this world, but it just gets scarier, and more difficult. When you're a kid, sure, there are things to be afraid of, but let's be real--you don't know enough about life as a kid to be fully aware of all the potentially terrible things that could happen to you.
I'm 30-years-old, and I'm still on Zoloft (and Xanax as needed). I still see a therapist (as needed), and I still work incredibly fucking hard to manage my anxiety. Is it better? I guess in some ways, yes. But, on those days where my bed feels like the only safe place in this world? Not so much.
I will always have a low buzzing of anxiety running through my blood. This I know for sure. I will always be working twice as hard as those who don't have mental illness just so I can appear normal. It makes me sad, sure, but I guess I'm lucky: Lachrista Marie Greco never existed without anxiety--so I have no previous self to mourn.
This is all I've ever known. I'm all I've ever known.
Lachrista Greco is a writer, speaker, activist, and Trauma-Informed/Adaptive yoga instructor. She is also the founder and CEO of Guerrilla Feminism, a global feminist resource network for activists. Lachrista has spoken at colleges, universities, and nonprofits about digital activism, learning disabilities, Italianità, domestic and sexual violence, and yoga. She has published two books. Lachrista lives in Madison, Wisconsin (with pieces of her heart in Rome), and plays Beyoncé songs on her ukulele. Follow her on Twitter.