It’s the worst thing to hear about anxiety.
Well, I have anxiety, too. Everybody does!
It’s hard to argue because you don’t want to appear self-absorbed and share your symptoms and entire life story. If you have anxiety, you’re probably worried about someone thinking that you’re faking it, so you just keep quiet in the first place! Am I right?
But, the truth is, not everyone suffers from anxiety.
Everyone feels stressed, overwhelmed, and maybe even a little anxious, sometimes. Not everyone has serious struggles. Just as many people experience headaches, not everyone suffers from migraines. Just because it isn’t happening to you, does not mean it isn’t happening at all.
Someone who suffers from anxiety could feel this way all the time, and usually for no reason at all.
This is written with love and hope for understanding, not only for me but for anyone who is working on their mental health. We don’t want attention, we hope for acknowledgment as anyone else might want for another condition.
So, I am going to tell you my entire life story.
I have generalized anxiety disorder and this is my story, because people ought to know. Not because I am special, but because someone you know might be suffering and hoping that you understand.
It all started in college.
Although, I look back to my childhood and recall moments where anxiety most definitely presented itself. (i.e. I refused to get hot lunch because when presented with the choice of “peas or carrots” while in line, I panicked and could not bear to make split decisions while others waited on me ever again. That was second grade.)
My junior year, there were many changes. My classes, my friends, my boyfriend.
There was one class in particular that I had on Monday afternoons that brought on physical symptoms.
This class was incredibly challenging for me. The information was hard for me to understand and I was falling behind quickly.
It made me so nervous that I left the room several times to scurry to the bathroom and throw up. At the time I thought “well, heck. Maybe I’m pregnant!” I was so anxious that I had a physical reaction.
This happened almost every single Monday. After class I would go home and rest because I was convinced that I randomly got food poisoning every single Monday. Crazy, right?
Then, there were my friends.
Being a female, you gotta expect a little drama to appear every now and then. I was extremely passive at that time and when faced with drama, I ran. Literally. Every day after class I chose to isolate myself in my room to avoid anyone asking me to take a side on something. Things that I knew were wrong were happening and I was not bold enough to stand up for it.
I knew things were out of my control and I cried almost every single day. The feelings of overwhelm ensued and I felt trapped. I sobbed. And these sobs made me realize something was wrong with me. But I still didn’t imagine it was my mental health.
Why in the world was I so intensely upset over arguments that had nothing to do with me? It wasn’t a whimper you get when you watch The Notebook, it was a sob where you are out of breathe and exhausted when you finally stop.
That wasn’t enough evidence for me to admit something was going on. Something that needed attention.
My boyfriend (now fiancé Zach) and I had a very rocky beginning to our relationship.
Our relationship is rock solid now, and we joke that we had all the crap before the honeymoon stage.
We were not good communicators back in college and I constantly wondered if I was good enough for him. Something always told me that he would get bored of me and move on to someone else. The thoughts of worry creeped in and I made up false narratives in my head on the daily. There was nothing he ever did or said that would encourage these thoughts. They were just there.
For a week I would wake up panting. I would hold my hand on my heart so that it would not burst out of my body. I felt like I was having a heart attack.
Zach was worried and agreed that I should see a doctor about my heart.
Because we were sure it was my heart.
A couple stickers attached to wires on my chest and tests later, doctors agreed. There was nothing wrong with my heart. I pleaded with them. I knew there was something wrong and that this was not normal. Not normal, was all they agreed with me on.
My doctor sat down and got on my level. She sat across from me and looked me in the eyes and she asked me something that I had not been asking in a long time.
How are you?
My eyes welled up and I immediately shifted my gaze on a trash can so that I wouldn’t have to see her sincere worry for me. If she looked worried then something must be wrong with me and that isn’t good. I was normal and nothing was wrong.
I told her school was overwhelming, but not bad. There was a little bit of girl drama, but it is what it is. My boyfriend and I were struggling. I cried a lot. One time I threw up in the middle of class. Well, that happens every Monday. I cry everyday, actually. For a couple hours. I assume everyone hates me. I feel like I always say the wrong thing and mess things up. I’m a mess. I am a complete mess.
She listened. I wanted her to stop me but she didn’t. She just listened to me.
Finally I looked at her. And she looked like she cared. That’s how I knew something was wrong. My doctor was not going dismiss this as I had been doing for months. The recommendation was to see a “psychotherapist”.
At that time, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. As you can imagine, I was not pumped about laying down in a chase lounge and divulging my entire childhood to a stranger who would tell me what’s going on with me. Not my idea of a good time (at that time).
My first day there, I quietly checked myself in, so that people around would not hear why I was visiting.
I literally coughed purposefully so that people would think I was physically sick. But I wasn’t, my entire psyche was out of whack and I didn’t even know it. I still didn’t believe I had mental health to work on, because I was just too “normal”.
A small woman opened the double doors. You would have guessed she was opening the gates to a theme park. Her eyes and smile beamed as she called me back, like we were about to go to a party. I got up and followed this surprisingly unserious therapist to her office.
There was no chase lounge. There was no open space for her to pace the floor as she so seriously would ponder about my condition. It was two chairs, facing each other (what?!) and a whiteboard. She grinned and asked me to take a seat. We spoke for a full hour together.
My second session, I was given a diagnosis. I was told I had generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies.
This was the beginning of the most important part of my entire life.
The two chairs served as a place for me to release everything. My true feelings and thoughts, knowing that I could be honest and open without repercussions or judgement. The whiteboard served as a recorder of my thoughts as my therapist rapidly wrote as I spoke.
Together, we broke down why I thought the way I did in ways I could understand.
There was never a time that I was told how to think, but I was taught how to manage, how to have compassion, and how to grow my empathy.
My understanding of myself became so much deeper that when anxiety creeped in, I could better take a step back and slow it down (most of the time).
I am forever grateful.
It began as feeling embarrassed and shameful and finished my sessions as someone growing into themselves.
Anxiety will always be a part of me.
This will never go away. And I’m okay with that. It’s hard sometimes, and I still have the occasional panic attack. There are times when I lay awake at night wondering about “what if” and “why” to an obsessive point. I worry about saying the right things and acting the right way. Wondering always about what could happen.
Those attacks make me appreciate when I am to ease and when I am purely joyful. It feels so blissful. I am thoughtful and I think deeply about how I could change scenarios, change ideas, change the world. My brain doesn’t stop because it can’t. I strive to make people feel good based on my actions and my words, because I am in control of that. My empathy has grown and I care about others. My imagination is absolutely insane. Like, out of this world.
I have anxiety to thank for the tough and to thank for the beautiful. It is a party of me and it is real.
Send some love to those who open up to you, because it isn’t easy.
Love love love.
Maybe your response to this is; well I still think that I am just as anxious as you. To that I say, totally possible. There are others who have a much tougher time that I do. Also, it’s not a competition. I wouldn’t want to win if it was!
If you really feel like you are having a tough time the totally get yourself in to talk to someone about it. Life is better when you understand and when you know what it is you’re working with.
Mental health is overlooked and it is important.
If you feel alone, I am here for you and I would be more than thankful to connect with you and have your back.
We got this!
These may or may not be a placebo affect, however, I am in love with my salt lamp. It purifies the air naturally and it is honestly just so beautiful. These lamps are known to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Himalayan salt releases negative ions which creates a calming environment in your home. I am a huge fan. Check out this duo that I have on my bedside tables.