Photographer & Mental Health Advocate
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Anxiety Awareness

Age & Anxiety

Every person dreams on graduating college, if not for themselves, for their parents/family. It's a rite of passage our society has instilled in us since forever and represents our journey of reaching the highest respect that could be obtained, knowledge. It's also the time when we young adults are officially considered adults. Not sure how all of that works and who decides when we're fully adults but lets take it back to when I was born to really understand why I believe adulthood is just a fabricated concept.

I was born on July 13th, 1991 to a single, beautiful, powerful and intelligent mother. I'm sure I was not planned and it must have been a difficult decision to keep me but I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to grow up with such a mighty woman.  

I'm not sure about most of my babyhood, as there are many gaps in my life that I cannot discover due to situations that are beyond my control but let us assume I was a really great baby. One who didn't cry a lot and who slept through the night. 

I was born in Puerto Rico and lived there for a bit until my mother decided to move to the States. Like I said, don't know much about this but I do remember thinking I was born in New Jersey not that it really matters but you'll see why later on.

I never required a father because I didn't know how it felt to have one. All I needed was my mother and my grandmother, (who I found out was not even related to me, go figure) and I flourished into a wild, investigative child, always asking why this and why that. Apparently I needed to know it all and if I didn't get the answer I desired, I still asked why. I can see that now it must have been annoying and give my mother and my family credit for dealing with me and not taping my mouth together. Though I do remember I said a bad word ( my older "aunts & uncles" told me to say it.) and I was forced to eat soap from my grandmother. Too bad DYFS didn't considered that child abuse, jk. 

I always got what I needed and even what I wanted from my mother. A single parent who took the clothes off of her own back to make sure I got whatever I wanted. We laugh now when she remembers when I would say "mommy buy me little one," cos' apparently I wanted everything my older family had but smaller, just for me. I even remember one time I wanted a PATH train just my size. Now that I think about it, perhaps that was a sign of my anxiety starting, showing that I only found comfort in small spots where I didn't feel so lost. 

I'm not here to say that having one parent messed me up mentally, though I'm pretty sure many therapists would assume that so, because it didn't. I felt safe with only my mother and I always NEEDED to protect her. Even as a child, I felt like an old soul and I'm not sure why but I wanted to be there to protect her whenever she felt sad and whenever she was having a rough day. She never talked about her problems in front of me and tried her best to never cry in front of me but I just knew when she was down. 

Lets jump a few years ahead so that I can get to the point of my story. 9/11 occurred and I think this is where the weight of the world started to crash onto me. My mother and her partner at the time, both worked at the World Trade Center. My 5th grade classroom faced the New York skyline, and I'm not fully sure if I remember seeing the first plane hit but I do remember my teacher, turning on her radio to hear the news. I also remember her crying and my 5th grade teacher was a strong, frightening woman. What my classmates and I saw that day, will forever be sketched into my mind. I thought I was an orphan and my world came crashing down. I don't remember much after that but waiting for hours to be picked up hoping it was my mother but knowing it'll probably be my grandmother. But by God's grace, my mother picked me up with her partner. He was covered from head to toe in dirt, dust and didn't say a word, he just stared into the distance. I cried and I think that's when I had my first anxiety attack but it was only right giving the situation at hand, so no one questioned it. My mother never made it to work that day because I kept her up the night before. Apparently I was having bad nightmares and she kept soothing me to comfort me and doing what mother's do best, taking care of her baby. As the months went on and our nation tried to pick of the pieces, I started to feel light headed a lot, almost like I'd float away from Earth. I even felt heavy at times, afraid that I would just fall through Earth and never see anyone I loved again. I remember the only way I could calm down was if I ran back and forth. 

I'm sure my mother thought I was just hyperactive but when I was sent to the hospital for having an attack that lasted longer than I could run around, the doctor said I was a hypochondriac. Go figure. A year later, my baby brother was born and a huge life change, was the culprit for my "acting out".

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I must admit, I was jealous of Andrew. The way my mother loved him and comforted him was what I wanted every time I was having an anxiety attack. But I didn't get it and all I got was yelling and judgment. I remember one night my anxiety was really getting to me and I just wanted my mother to comfort me and tell me all would be well but I was scared of her. I didn't want her to yell at me for waking up my baby brother or disturbing the only sleep she could get. I felt so alone and like a burden for most of my pre-teen/teenage life. 

I felt like I was forced to grow up really fast because I was different. It was no one's fault but my destiny to have anxiety. So when people tell me that being 25 means I'm officially an adult, I look at them questionably. Because of my anxiety, I've always felt a few years older than the teens my age and now that I am 25 and know how to handle my anxiety better, I feel young. Seeing Andrew grow up also taught me a valuable lesson that I know anxiety would have taken away from me if he wasn't born. Patience. 

Andrew was a very spoiled and loved child. He always got what he wanted and I really didn't want him in my room. But he would cry and cry until my mother forced me. Thankfully our relationship is better now but boy did I want to kick his little ass. Thanks baby, for allowing me to have that normal experience. 

So now that I am 25, a graduate from college and sitting at my desk questioning what the hell am I going to do with my life. I wonder if age has anything to do with being an adult. Especially since I lost out on a lot of things a teenager should have done when I was kid, I don't know what age I really am, inside at least. 

What gets to me the most is the lack of empathy as you get older. Yea, we empathize for younger people when they are going through difficult situations and also for senior citizens but what about the 21-50 year olds? What happens to them and why do we not care as much for their well being? A lot of the people in that age range need so much more empathy because they are starting to get to know themselves. Take me for instance, I didn't get clinically diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder until I was 19.Of course I knew what I had when I would research on my mother's Gateway 2000 at the age of 14 but to actually have a doctor listen to me and check my mental health was only when I was entering college. 

For a lot of people, getting to know who they are, starts when they hit their 20s. So how is 25 considered an adult? Most of the people my age are getting married and having or have children already but I'm just getting started on knowing who I am. What I like, dislike and what I actually want to do with my life. 

Because of my anxiety, there was always a confusing battle on who I was and if I was just this scardycat afraid of the world. Was that all I was going to ever be? A Chuckie from the Rugrats too afraid to grow up and leave my mother's side because the world was too big and bad. I didn't want to be that person but in order for me not to be that person, I needed to figure out me, who I was. 

I'm 25 now and I still don't know who I fully am. I know that I grew up with a warrior goddess mother and that family is everything. I also know that I can love someone almost as much as I can love myself but that self love should always be number 1! I know that it is imperative that I speak up on my mental illness and understand that I'll never be fully in control of it. And I also know I love photography but that's it really. That isn't enough for me to be considered adult anything and I'm okay with that. I know age is not synonymous with intelligence and that wisdom is only learned because of experience and that certain experiences only happen when you're older but you still can be wise and a child. 

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What I really am trying to write here is that our society needs to stop focusing on age and start aiming attention to mental and emotional health. I have never felt as young and strong as I do now and I want to experience everything that life has to offer to me. But I also want to be able to get my hair done by my mother, play with my baby brother and cry over random things because I'm a crybaby.  I don't want to be judge by society because "you're 25 years old, you should start focusing on marriage." No thank you, I'll focus on myself and how I can help the world.