You Don't Have To Treat Me Like I'm Weak Just Because I Have Anxiety

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woman in hat and glasses

I have been an anxious person since the day I was born. It's true! I was born choking on my own poop with the umbilical cord around my neck.

When your first day on earth involves eating s*** and trying not to die, anxiety comes naturally.

My mom says I was an anxious baby, too. For reasons no one could identify, I would go rigid in my crib start screaming.

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As I grew up, a ring of bright red dried skin surrounded my mouth. I’m always chewing my lips in chronic anxiety. I'm probably the only eight-year-old who was ever told to "calm down or you'll get an ulcer."

I'm anxious. Medically, anxious.

I take Prozac to treat my anxiety disorder, and I talk to a therapist, and I write about it because I think that's my responsibility and part of why I'm on this earth.

But I want to make one thing very clear: Me having anxiety does not give you or anyone else the right to treat me like I'm made of glass.

I've had anxiety my whole life, and I've learned how to cope. If I can't do something, I'll tell you I can't do it.

Don't assume that when I turn down an invitation it's because I'm too anxious to leave the house. It might be because you throw terrible parties and I'd prefer to stay home dressing up my cats like superheroes.

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It drives me absolutely nuts that people who have known me forever and people who know me well still get nervous when it comes to talking to me about important issues or problems.

"I just wasn't sure how you'd react," is something I hear a lot.

You guys, I'm not unpredictable the way a paranoid schizophrenic is. I'm not even much of a yeller.

It's my responsibility to figure out what I can and cannot handle, it's not yours. I know you think you're helping, but what you're really doing is making me feel like a crazy person.

There's a real stigma against mental illness in the world today, and that's part of why I talk about my own.

I had no idea talking honestly and openly about my anxiety disorder would make people treat me like I was some delicate breakable thing.

I'm not. I'm basically Pyrex. You can drop me or cook me and I'll come out of it just fine. I've learned how to come out of things just fine.

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I love and appreciate people who try to make the world a better place for people with mental illnesses, but instead of trying to manage our reactions to things or treating us like overgrown babies, listen to what we are actually telling you.

When I tell you I have anxiety, what you should be hearing is how strong I am. When I tell you I've just had a panic attack, it isn't because I want you to coddle me; it's to explain why I'm sweaty and a little shaky.

I am not looking for special treatment, I'm looking to be treated like the person I am.

That person may have an anxiety disorder, but that person is also tough as nails, kind, smart, funny, and a great friend.

When you talk down to a person with anxiety, you're taking away a little bit of who they are.

Don't do that. Because who they are is absolutely awesome.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a freelance writer and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.