Mental health conversations are finally becoming mainstream–thank God.
People are beginning to realize the more we talk about it, the better we’ll feel. The less weird it’ll be to say, “I can’t go–I have an appointment with my therapist.” And the easier it’ll be to accept that sometimes, somedays, you just need a break.
I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was a kid. The first time I experienced an attack–limbs violently shaking, stomach tightening, tears streaming–I had no clue what was happening.
I was 9.
I’d just left my therapist’s office (yes I’ve had a therapist since 8) and was experiencing complete emotional overwhelm. I was lying in the backseat of my dad’s car. I distinctly remember him asking my brother what was wrong–why is your sister shaking? I remember squeezing that little section of palm right between my thumb and pointer finger because I read once that it helps soothe pain.
I thought I was having a really, really bad headache.
I took deep breaths. I squeezed myself into the smallest ball of human possible. I pressed my spine deep into the backseat, maybe I can disappear if I just try hard enough. I learned the art of crying silently that day.
If we met today, you might find it hard to believe that anxiety’s cloud still follows me around. All the time. Sure, some days I barely notice it–it’s more like a shadow a few steps behind, minding his own business.
But other days? It’s in every droplet of air I breathe. It’s expanding my lungs and flowing through every inch of my body. Mixing with each thought, each word, each moment.
Some days anxiety feels like curling into a ball with my face pressed against a pillow while hot, wet tears pool against my nose.
Some days it’s a tight grip clenched around my chest that won’t let up unless I scream or run or simply go to sleep.
Some days it’s being mad at myself because I feel like I’m drowning but there’s literally nothing going wrong in my life. Why am I so selfish?
Other days it’s constant ups and downs I can’t explain with words but am fully aware of–I know I’m acting weird, I get it, but I can’t tell you why.
Sometimes it’s a fixation with a moment that passed a long time ago. An utter need to go back and fix it, relive it, do it again–better this time.
Sometimes it’s not wanting to see a single soul but knowing being alone would be unbearable.
Most days it’s an inability to let things go, to accept flaws, to move past a mistake.
Most days it’s repeating “nothing” over and over when absolutely everyone asks what’s wrong because I don’t know where to start.
Most days it’s an obsession with being on time, with saying the right things, with being everything to everyone at every time.
Most days it’s wondering if everyone is secretly waiting for the right time to walk away. If no one feels the way about me that I feel about them. If people think I’m a fraud, a fake, nothing worth mentioning.
Most days it’s being able to logically evaluate the situation and understand it’s just my anxiety talking and she’s a mean, mean gal.
But that doesn’t make it any easier. Because it’s certainly never easy. It just gives me a solid foundation on which to move forward.
Here’s the deal: Anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, whatever you’re dealing with–they all suck. They add a certain weight to life that sometimes feels unbearable. And it’s nearly impossible to ask for help because most of the time you don’t even know what you need.
But just like a cold, the flu, or a broken leg–we can cope. We can remedy situations as best we can. Learn what reduces the pain and allows us to function. Find ways to avoid situations that make things worse–people that make things worse.
We can learn to respect our own space. To give ourselves permission to take what we need, when we need it, no matter how other people feel about it. We can try to put words to what’s going on in our chest, head, heart, so the people around us can attempt to understand.
” I feel like I can’t breathe. I need a few moments to be alone.”
“I feel like I might fall apart. Can you please just hug me?”
“I feel like my legs just can’t hold my weight. Can we stay in tonight?”
“I’m dealing with a lot of my own things right now, I don’t think I have the emotional energy. Can you call me another day?”
Today, anxiety feels like recognizing how lucky I am to travel across the world whenever I feel like it but sitting in the airport wanting to cry because one time I broke up in an airport parking lot and I’d do anything to go back and be just a little bit nicer. (Ridiculous, I know.)
Tomorrow, it might feel like nothing at all.
But even on days it feels I’ve been buried, I’m still happy as hell to live the life I’m living. And I will continue to fight through all the moments that try to convince me otherwise. I hope you do too.