I’ve been a little MIA the past few days with so much going on in my life. I felt I should stay true to the reason I started this blog. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and feel more confident in who I am and my life. For me, anxiety is a huge part of it.
So many of my friends and family know that I suffer from anxiety. We joke about how weird my brain works or laugh about how silly it is that I can’t make up my mind in the grocery store but only a few know the personal struggle I face each day. So, I finally decided to share my personal battle with my anxiety disorder.
The good, The bad, and the ugly.
If you’re unfamiliar with Anxiety disorder, the definition states that it is “a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.” But, unless you personally suffer from this illness, you’d never comprehend all that it involves.
Anxiety is a 500lb weight on your chest making it hard to breath sitting in your office chair.
Anxiety is feeling like you’re paralyzed.
Anxiety is chest pain.
Anxiety is sweaty palms.
Anxiety is feeling really lonely and sad standing in a group of people.
Anxiety is not being able to rationalize the way you feel.
Anxiety is feeling uneasy.
Anxiety is worrying about everything that could go wrong in even the best scenarios.
Anxiety is crying because you can’t find the words to explain the weight on your chest.
Anxiety is crying because you just want to feel normal.
Anxiety is needing a second opinion on everything for reassurance.
Anxiety is worrying about what other people think of you.
Anxiety is not wanting to be alone because your brain takes you to places you don’t want to visit.
Anxiety is feeling nauseous from worry.
Anxiety is feeling anxious for no reason at all.
Anxiety is waking up at 6:30 AM on Saturday because you can’t sleep.
Anxiety is waking your husband up at 3:30AM in the morning to ask if you ever put the chicken away.
Anxiety is having a panic attack about which outfit you’re going to wear in Christmas photos.
Anxiety is smiling and pretending its okay when it’s not okay. It’s really not okay.
Anxiety is all of this and more.
I’ve suffered from anxiety for all of my life.
My first memory of a panic attack happened when I was fairly young. I remember my Aunt Theresa picking me and my sister up so we could have a sleepover with my cousin Caitlin. I spent a lot of time with them growing up because my Mom and Aunt were very close and my cousin Caitlin was only a few years older than me. I have so many amazing memories there going to movies, playing beanie babies, swinging on the porch swing, climbing trees, etc. But this time was much different. My mom was very pregnant with my little brother Michael and it made me very nervous to leave her. I began worrying that something may happen to her and I wouldn’t be there. This particular day, My Aunt Theresa drove the 45 minutes across town to pick me and Tiffany up and I was very uneasy leaving. We went to Publix to get cookies and ice-cream and as we drove further away from my mom I felt an uncontrollable urge to cry. I was so scared. I began running scenarios through my head of all the worst possible things that could happen to my mom and I wouldn’t be there. I actually remember thinking “what if they get in a wreck and die without me.” I’m pretty sure that’s what sent me over the edge. I cried the second we got to my Aunt Theresa’s house. The minute we got to her house I felt paralyzed. I needed to get home so I could make sure my mom was okay. No matter how hard my Aunt Theresa tried to reassure me that we were going to have so much fun and we were going to a movie and I didn’t want to miss the movie!! Nothing she said eased my mind. My Mom and Dad came and got me shortly after I got there. I still do this day can feel the weight on my chest when I think about those moments.
As I got older, my anxiety continued but it felt like something I needed to hide.
I felt different from others. I didn’t understand why I was the way that I was. For years I dealt with it. I lived in a loving home. My parents would have and still would do anything for me. There was no reason for me to feel that type of stress throughout the daily aspects of my life. I felt silly. Something as small as how I was going to tell my friend I couldn’t go to her house that night would keep me up all night. I would lay in my bed thinking about all the different ways things could go wrong the next day. I would obsess over the smallest instance of time and there was nothing I could do to let it go.
When I got to College my anxiety got much worse. College was really hard and I never had to work that hard in high school to get good grades. I began to have panic attacks frequently. I was so depressed. I had no money. I had no car. My parents and family seemed so far away even though they weren’t. I second guessed everything I did. I was spending my nights in my room “studying” (attempting) and failing while my friends went out and got drunk and still made their classes the next day. I gained weight, I was failing classes and I felt like I was spiraling out of control. I was so lonely.
I lived with my boyfriend (now husband) and I was so embarrassed that he had to be with me. That I was like THIS. I didn’t know how to express to anyone how I felt. I felt like a burden and I knew that I needed to do something to help myself. I began researching anxiety and depression. I still had a strong fear of the stigma associated with medications.
I wanted to do anything I could to avoid going to a doctor and admitting something I felt was SO embarrassing.
I began Running. I read that the endorphins you produce from exercise would produce positive feelings to help ward of stress and I began running 2 miles every single day. I lost weight and I began to feel more like myself again but the anxiety never went away.
While exercise definitely improved my overall quality of life and greatly reduced the frequency of my panic attacks, I was still left standing in the grocery store feeling like there was no way in hell I could make $50 get us all of the groceries we could need. What if I didn’t want chicken tomorrow? What if we didn’t really need the lettuce? What if we eat all of this tomorrow? What if. I couldn’t make these feelings go away.
I finally worked up the courage to go to the Doctor in 2015. I sat in the room waiting for the Doctor taking deep breaths. When he walked in I couldnt say anything. I just cried. When I was calm enough to speak, I explained how I felt. He explained that Anxiety disorder is actually very common. Millions of people accross the world suffer from this condition. There was nothing I needed to be ashamed of. I just needed to learn to control it. I was prescribed the lowest dose of Xanax for panic attacks and another daily medication I elected to not take.
I have fought anxiety every day of my life and most days I win. Since being prescribed Xanax my medication has expired twice. I keep it on me in case I need it and its much more rare that I do. Even leading up to our wedding, I was able to mostly control how I felt. However there are still some of “those days.”
See, the worst thing about anxiety is that nothing about it makes sense.
I had 4 and a half days off with my family for thanksgiving and somehow managed to give myself a panic attack twice.
My husband and I have great jobs. We own our house. There is food on our table every night. We have reliable vehicles. We have tons of friends and family that love us. I love my life. Nothing about how I feel makes any sense to me. Yet here I sit with a 500lb weight on my chest.
I promised it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. So here it is.
Lets start with the ugly.
I hate myself for having anxiety. I feel so idiotic some days. I call my sister Tiffany or my sister Madison or My mom and I can sense they don’t know what to say. It doesn’t make sense to them either. Some days I still feel really depressed. I hate the way I feel. There are days when I just need to cry. When Anxiety wins.
This past weekend we had Christmas photos scheduled for our first married Christmas card. The dress I ordered from Lulu’s came in on Friday and it was too long. I didn’t have a backup plan and we were supposed to go Tailgate for the Carolina vs. Clemson Game early Saturday. My husband is my best friend so he immediately understood and we made plans to get to the mall for 8am to pick out an outfit for our photos on Sunday. We were hoping to pick something out and still get down to the game and quickly realized that would more than likely not be the case.
The ugly is that my sister Tiffany and I were back at Belk at 6:30pm that night to exchange the white sweater I purchased that morning for black.
The ugly is that my poor husband picked up his shirt and shoes at 8:10 AM on Sunday morning from Kohl’s right before our photos at 10:40.
The bad is that even though I know I sound crazy, I can’t make my brain stop. I felt uneasy the entire drive to our photos. I felt a lot better right after but OOHH don’t worry it wasn’t for long. Anxiety reared its ugly head again that night when we went to pick out a Christmas tree.
Some days I don’t really know what to do to fix it. I went to the gym yesterday and ran on the treadmill for an hour. The weight on my chest never fully dissolved.
The bad is that I am still really embarrassed that I suffer from this condition. I still catch myself lowering my voice when I mention my anxiety. Until this post, I’ve only ever shared how I feel to 4 people in my life besides the occasional joke about not being able to make up my mind.
The bad is, there are still bad days and bad weeks. No matter the circumstances. I’m very fortunate to have this life and there are still bad days.
The good is, most days I WIN. I overcome how I feel. I count to 3 and pick something.
I don’t let myself think too much about my choice. I call someone in my circle and explain how I feel and they listen to me and help me rationalize my feelings.
The good is that I have a circle. My sister Tiffany, My sister Madison, My mom, and My Husband Andy. These are my best friends. These four people know my crazy and help me the best they know how. The good is that I love these people and I am so thankful for each of them every single day. Even on the bad days. Even when I can tell they don’t know what else to say.
The good is, I love to run now. Its part of the day where I can run so hard my chest burns in a good way. I always feel a tiny bit better after I run and it allows me to eat pizza and gummy bears.
The good is that I know the bad days are short lived. I can get past them and I will have more good days. Tomorrow is a new day and it does not have to be affected by today.
The good is I’m not alone. There are Millions of people in the world who suffer from an Anxiety disorder who are like me.
The good is I am on my way to finding clarity. I have come so far from where I was in that doctors office in 2015.
If you’re reading this, I’ve won again today. It is truly terrifying to write this all out on paper for the world to read. If I post it, I’ve won today. I’ve overcome my fear (at least for now) and I’m making a baby step towards conquering my anxiety.
This is me. This is a big part of who I am and my daily life.
I hope that this post encourages any of you struggling with anxiety in your day-to-day life. Know that you are not alone.
I know I still have a long ways to go, but I know I can get there.
I hope that my sharing my journey sheds some light on a mental disorder that is actually very common but not widely understood.