Type A(nxiety): Get your brain in the right place

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Psychologists hypothesize that Type A is a personality type. Some of the characteristics of Type A people include being rigidly organized, outgoing, ambitious, workaholic, proactive, highly productive and competitive. Or as I like to say: Hi, my name is Ellen.

For as long as I can remember, I have been highly involved. Currently, I serve on three committees as a student representative, I’m enrolled in 20 credit hours, I have a part-time job and babysit on the side. And I’m still in college and of age, so I go out to Dana’s sometimes. My life very clearly aligns with the Type A personality, and if you don’t believe that, I have a beautifully color-coded planner that will tell you otherwise.

It wasn’t until last fall that my involvement suddenly became too much. All of a sudden I was worried about finding jobs, housing for the next year, graduation, paying rent, work deadlines, schoolwork, being a good friend, grocery shopping and calling my mom. I always felt like I was walking around with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Being a Type A person, I would write it off and say, “It’s just this week,” or blame a singular class for being rough. I constantly reminded myself that I wasn’t a pre-med major worried about the MCAT and I wasn’t awaiting law school acceptances or denials. In other words, other people had it worse than me.

Looking back, I had been writing off extreme anxiety and panic attacks as a part of my life because I was Type A. In reality, I was suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks. A concussion, a cane, a month of shaking and five doctors appointments later, I was medicated and on my way to being my best self again.

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. Most people experience it before starting a new job or on the first day of school.

But when that worried state increases your heart rate and condemns you to bed all day for a reason you can’t verbalize or rationalize, it’s not just over-involvement and hard classes. It’s not just being a Type A person, either. Anxiety affects all types of different people, and minimizing your own symptoms of anxiety does not help anyone.

On Twitter and around campus, I’ve started to see lots of promotion for self-love, self-care and mental health days. As an active person who loves a To Do List, self-care usually winds up at the end of or off the list because I feel that I am not being productive enough, efficient enough and so on.

It took me falling to my knees and giving myself a concussion to realize that I was aiming for a standard that was both unachievable and unrealistic. My anxiety made me ignore so many of my loved ones who told me to get help. Even once I got medication for my anxiety, I was so anxious about starting the medication and experiencing side effects that it sat on my shelf for a week before I took the first dose.

Being both Type A and anxious makes my over-involved, part-time working, second semester senior lifestyle hard. There are days when I worry I’ll never be employed and I want to lay under a blanket for hours and not leave my room ever. There are days when I sit in classes and can’t focus because I have dozens of other thoughts racing through my brain.

But now, rather than chalking up my feelings to my personality type, I email my professors to tell them I’m taking a day for my mental health or going to see my counselor during class time. At the end of the day and at the end of my college career, I’ve come to realize perfect attendance is far from the most important thing.

Take a day, sleep in, eat fries and chocolate, listen to music and dance, talk to your friends and family and make an appointment at McGrath, because if you’re Type A, you know how important it is to be successful. You can’t do that if your brain is not in the right place.

Ellen Rakowski is a first-year Private Interest and the Public Good master’s student. She is a guest writer for the Newswire from Chicago.