- Gonzalo Gonell
Gerald, my anxiety buddy
Anxiety is a challenging thing to understand, manage, and navigate. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”. It’s impossible to capture all aspects of anxiety with just one sentence, as this definition feels lacking compared to my own experience. It’s overwhelming and scary, especially without knowing why anxiety grabs hold of some and not others and how to mitigate the feeling. I would know because I’ve been there.
I didn’t come to understand or accept that anxiety was something I was genuinely struggling with until last year. I thought everyone lost their appetite, had nausea, or went into an intense panic when faced with something as simple as introducing myself. I thought my constant worry that I might do or say the wrong thing, embarrass myself, or be made fun of was something everyone else struggled with as well. This anxiety consumes me so much that I don’t bother introducing myself in the first place. I miss out on what could be a great connection or friendship because my anxiety forces me to. I believe I never truly grasped my struggle because I never had to face it for a prolonged period of time. It wasn't until I was faced with the harsh reality of moving 3 ½ hours away from home for college that I was forced to come face-to-face with my anxiety buddy, Gerald.
Now I know it sounds strange or possibly concerning that I made up an imaginary friend named Gerald to represent my anxiety, but I believe it’s a strategy that has saved me hours upon hours of panic. Having Gerald helps me avoid the blame and guilt of feeling anxiety, and how that affects my thoughts and actions. When I am feeling this way, I know I have to stop, take a breath, and tell myself this is not on me. Putting the blame on Gerald allows me to focus on calming down and feeling better rather than letting the guilt make me feel worse.
Anxiety does not define me as a person, it is simply an unfortunate and painful addition. It’s like a little buddy who always tags along with me, no matter how unwelcome they may be. I see Gerald as the classic angel & devil on my shoulders. Sometimes the angel wins, sometimes the devil does. He isn't necessarily a completely bad or evil part of me. He’s just highly protective and doesn't want me to get hurt, miss a deadline, or even simply embarrass myself.
I encourage anybody struggling to have their own buddy. It can be an anxiety buddy, stress buddy, anger buddy, or whatever you need. We shouldn't have to go through these things alone, nor take all of the guilt and blame that comes along with them as well. Gerald has given me the power to love myself and everything that comes along with me, which is something that has been a tremendous benefit to my life. Self-love is incredibly important and I believe Gerald is an incredible tool I own to practice it every day.
Gonzalo Gonell is a sophomore at the University of Central Florida, studying Film. He enjoys writing, listening to music, and playing video games.