I want to go on a small tangent for a few hundred words, so please bear with me 🙂
If you have read a few of my earlier posts, or my bio, I have talked about my struggle with anxiety. It is something that has been apart of my life since I was young. I struggled for a long time trying to figure out what was wrong, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. When I was in college I finally realized what it was, and I will admit that I felt relieved, or even happy, to be able to put a name with what was happening to me.
My internal struggles did not end with a diagnosis. I continued to try and keep my affliction private because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I had (and still have) wonderfully supportive parents, but it was new territory for them so they weren’t always sure what to do. Whenever this would happen, I would end up getting HUGE hug, which looking back on is hilarious and amazing all at the same time! I have had close to a million hugs over the years 🙂 Thank mom and dad! I love you!
There were not many people who knew about the internal battle that was waging inside of me everyday. My ex-boyfriend, of seven years, was obviously one of the individuals who knew about what was happening. However, he was not entirely supportive. Let me be clear here, he was not a bad person, he just did not understand anxiety. It is very difficult for someone to understand the pain and embarrassment of fighting anxiety unless they have been directly affected, either through a family member or themselves. He would become frustrated with me when I would have bad days. He did not understand why I couldn’t stop “worrying” or “get over something”. For someone with an anxiety disorder, there is nothing more painful than hearing “just stop worrying about it” or “just get over it and move on”. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if anxious people (myself included) could just say “Hmmm I’m going to stop having anxiety and move on!” Show me that world and I would LOVE to visit 🙂 People with an anxiety disorder cannot just get over it. Anxiety is not a switch that can be turned off by sheer willpower. It is a disorder that takes time to understand and practice to control.
Needless to say, my ex-boyfriend and I broke up shortly after I moved to Arizona. I have no feelings of discontent towards him, he did the best he could with what he knew. There were dark days when he was there for me, and I fully appreciate that and am grateful to have had him there. After we broke up he called me one day and apologized to me for not understanding my struggle. I will always treasure those words and I am eternally grateful that he expressed them to me.
When I moved to Arizona, I knew no one, had no connections and had to start my life over from scratch. I had such an amazing adventure! I met so many new people and traveled to places I never knew existed. I ended up meeting an amazing man, who understood my struggle with anxiety and he ended up being who I ran to during my hardest days. He would talk me through the anxiety and help me to focus on other things so I could keep my head above the water and not feel like I was drowning. He knew just what to say and he made me feel like I wasn’t crazy. Four months later, I ended up marrying him! (I know, crazy right? Quick!) (WARNING: Corny gushing will be present for the next few sentences.) My husband is a treasure I can hardly believe I found. Without his guidance and encouragement, I don’t think I would have been able to fight my anxiety head on. I would still be afraid of it and living in denial. He taught me that it is ok to live with anxiety. It is ok that I am afraid. He also taught me to try and be bigger than my anxiety. He often tells me “You are in control, not the anxiety.” Recently I have had terrible struggles with this disorder because of a birth control pill I took that sent my anxiety into hyper-drive. I didn’t realize what was going on because I was so lost in my own fear. As I have gotten back on track, he has held my hand every step of the way and encouraged me, in his own ways, to work to fight back. He often coerced me to leave the house when I didn’t want to (I think I needed a little coercing at that point) and he always listened when I needed to vent. On my roughest days, he encouraged me to go to God in prayer. There is no way I would have been able to come so far in my healing without him by my side.
Anyway! Enough with the googly stuff!
Now that I am a few months away from being 30 (ahhhh) I am finally completely understanding what is going on. I have learned so much over the years and I am so glad for the support system that I have in place now. I no longer am ashamed of having an anxiety disorder. It’s not my fault. I am not weak. I am not lacking in faith. I am the opposite of these things. A Mental Illness is no different than any other physical illness other than the fact that it is in the brain. It is as simple as that. I lived for years in fear of what others would think, and even what I would think of myself if I admitted I had a it. Now I feel empowered by knowledge and understanding.
We should never be ashamed. We are strong!