We Need to Have This Conversation
I have always wondered if I would write this post and for a long time, the answer was no. Then, two tragic, highly publicized suicides occurred this week and I had to say something.
I have anxiety.
Some of you may be thinking, "yeah, me too." Let me explain further. An anxiety disorder isn't being nervous for a test. It isn't feeling stressed because you have a lot on your calendar. It isn't the "I'm never going to make it" worry you have when running late. Anxiety disorder is small, unimportant things causing you to go down a spiral; fight or flight can get triggered, other physical symptoms may be present, and you can become pretty physically ill. I'm talking, my wifi is down, I reset the router while I think about how I have no internet and will need Verizon to come and I'm going to have to take time off of work to get someone here and it's going to be days and what am I going to do until next week when they can fix it? I'm talking, I'm on my way home from work with dinner but I need to get my mail and change and use the bathroom and will my food be cold and not worth it and I'll have to throw it out and then order something because I don't have food and then it's going to be really late before I have dinner. I know how silly these two scenarios sound. They are also not at all made up. Thankfully, I've been lucky enough to have the help that I need from medication and a wonderful therapist. I've learned to catch myself and recognize when anxious thoughts creep in. I know ways to calm myself, and of course the medication helps balance my brain chemistry so that I don't live in a heightened state anymore.
I won't go into the details of how I was finally diagnosed back in 2012, but I will say that for years, and even leading up to finally agreeing to try medication and see a therapist, I thought taking medication and seeing a psychiatrist meant that someone was crazy, weak, and generally damaged. It was something I thought needed to be kept hidden, something to be ashamed of.
Frankly, it's taken me until very recently to be comfortable sharing this piece of myself. It's not something I lead with or something that most people know about me, but if it were to come up in conversation or made sense to discuss, I now would without fear.
Anxiety and it's sister, depression are so hard. No one can see them, no one knows you are suffering. Like any health issue, they don't discriminate by age, race, gender, socio-economic class, religion, or any other category.
These days, we talk so much about health and wellness. Fitness, mindful eating, and meditation have taken center stage, but often that's where things stop. Yes, working up a sweat and taking a few minutes each day to center yourself are very helpful for your mental well-being, but for many of us, sweat therapy isn't enough and that is OK. It's MORE than ok.
Maybe this post is self-indulgent, or seems pointless, but maybe there is someone out there who needs this. Maybe someone else has butterflies living in his or her stomach like I did. Maybe someone else goes into a tizzy at the hint of a drop of a hat. If I had known that it was ok not to be ok, that my reactions weren't a short-coming on my part but were actually because my chemistry (through no fault of my own) wasn't the same as everyone else's, I would have felt a lot better about myself and gotten the help I needed years sooner. If you're out there, I understand and I'm here for you. You are ok and there are ways to make it easier.
If any of you need someone to talk to, I'm here.