This is my first blog post and it’s a vulnerable one for me. I’ve been suffering with anxiety and depression for 24 years, a fact that I don’t share with many people…until now. It’s been a long, exhausting, uphill battle with mental health. I’ve spent years in and out of therapy, on and off medications. I’ve been there, done that.
My history with mental illness (as far as I know) started when I was 10. I grew up in an environment that didn’t support self-help or counselling. Feelings were taboo. They were never discussed. Everyone kept them tightly under wraps. At the time, I believed that if I sought out counselling, I would be admitting I was weak. Of course I want to be strong…so I thought I just had to figure things out on my own.
Fast forward a few years, and not much has changed.
What does anxiety feel like?
For me, anxiety is:
- Constant negative thoughts. I berate myself until panic overwhelms me. For instance, I’m a dog groomer. I had a client rebook because her dogs were “still good”. How did I react? I thought…did I screw up their haircuts? Did I go too short? I bet she hates how I styled their faces. I’m a terrible groomer. People say I’m good but I’m really a fraud who doesn’t know what I’m doing. People are going to see through me. They won’t want me to groom for them anymore. (For the record, I’m a new, yet skilled groomer. My clients like the work I do. I’m unable to accept new clients because I’m booked solid. I’m not actually a terrible groomer. These are the lies anxiety tells me.)
- Blowing something mildly embarrassing out of proportion. For instance, if someone comes to my untidy house, I jump to conclusions about what they’re thinking. I assume they’re judging, laughing at or pitying me.
- Flakiness though I never mean to be. When I’m invited to birthday parties, dinners, baby showers I say yes. When the event rolls around, social anxiety takes over. Who’s going to be there? What if I say something stupid? Will something happen to make people think I’m a bad mother? Of course, they’ll think I’m a bad mother. I AM a bad mother. I should just stay home so I don’t have to deal with any of that. And often I do.
- Tension. I clench my jaw on days when stress takes over and I’m trying to keep myself “in control”. By days end, my teeth hurt and I have a head ache.
- Unease. I’m rarely able to relax or feel content. I worry about the small things as intensely as the big things.
How does anxiety look?
But…As an outsider looking in, you would see nothing wrong. My anxiety and depression look like absolutely nothing. I have a beautiful home, beautiful family, I dress myself nicely; do my hair and makeup every day. I generally look like I have my life together.
But it’s a mask. It’s a mask I wear every single day. I don’t want people to see who I really am underneath it all. I don’t want them to look at me differently, treat me differently, or god forbid whisper about me when I’m gone. So I shut up about it. I put my best foot forward and I don’t take off my mask until the end of the day. I save the reality behind it for the handful of people closest to me. Even then, I only share the cliff’s notes version of what goes on in my head. I don’t share everything because I worry that I’ll be a complainer, or a burden and bring them down with me.
What’s life like now?
I gave birth to my daughter in 2015. Of course having a newborn is tough, but oddly enough, I was able to stay present and to some degree out of my own head. So my anxiety was under control for a while.
About a year after having her, I felt the anxiety starting to engulf me again. My mind was racing from the time I woke up, until I went to sleep. I constantly felt out of control and overwhelmed by life, and in turn, always exhausted. Sometimes at night I woke up from a dead sleep, panicking about something I did or said the day before, or something that might happen the next day. How awful is that? My brain plays tricks on me even when I’m sleeping. On a regular day, when I had nothing but a few cleaning chores to do, my heart would race. It felt like I was about to do a presentation in front of a million people and had nothing prepared. My chest tightened, I found it hard to breathe, and my vision blurred.
When the anxiety started again, I put my foot down. I made a promise to myself that I was NOT going down that rabbit hole again…for my sake, but more importantly my daughter’s. Anxiety hurts! It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts everyone closest to me. I want to protect her from that as much as I can.
Besides, I was tired of reacting to my life. I was sick of being a victim to my past and to my mental health. I was going to take back control.
I’ve been making some amazing progress in the last 6 months. I’m using some awesome tools and techniques to retrain and refocus my mind. I plan to share a series of posts over the next few weeks, detailing the steps I’ve taken to manage my anxiety. Honestly, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I need to make myself a priority by carving out time for self-care and personal development.
I’m still on the road to recovery but every day gets better. Every day I get more excited about life and the future! Would you like to join me on this journey on recovering from anxiety? I’d love to hear your story! Let’s start building a community of like-minded individuals, supporting each other through this process. Join my facebook page here so we can share stories, tips, and daily inspiration.