What made you “have anxiety?”
I have always been a “more anxious” person. As far back as I can remember I know I had feelings of anxiety that seemed to be not normal. I used to worry about my family dying, I worried about getting sick, things on the news would make me terribly anxious. There were several incidents I remember as a child where I got myself into a total state about things that when calmly looked at with someone else, were totally illogical things to be worried about.
So I have always been a worrier. People have teased me for that and made me feel that I’ve had to hide it. I’ve bottled it up for a long, long time.
My daughter’s birth and the sudden responsibility for another human life overwhelmed me. Her birth was traumatic and there was a brief incident shortly after she was born where she struggled to breathe. I think that triggered the start of postpartum anxiety and depression for me. I spent 18 months terrified to go to sleep in case she stopped breathing when I wasn’t watching her.
Therapy helped, medication helped.
My official diagnosis came about as a result of seeking help for physical symptoms of anxiety. Referrals into the mental health service, assessments, talk therapy, one on one counseling, all helped.
I think what really happened was after a lifetime of bottling up worry and not knowing how to deal with it logically, and being a type-A person, a people pleaser, always wanting to make everyone else happy, living my life the way other people felt I should, that suddenly, a few years ago, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to live my life to please other people. That doing things that made me anxious or unhappy to make other people happy was not how I had to live my life. That meeting the demands of others when it wasn’t what I wanted, was not law. Realizing that I could be obliged to myself before others, and that I was important and that what was going on in my head wasn’t “just me”.
It catapulted me into a spiral of trying to find my identity, and what I wanted to be and do, not based on the expectations and needs of others.
It freed me, in a sense, but it also has become a temporary prison that I’m working my way out of.
I will probably always be a worrier, but for the first time in my life, the contents of my head are spilling out because I simply cannot keep them inside anymore. And that is allowed and ok.
In reality, I should have learned how to process my anxiety and my worries many years ago, so I’m catching up. It’s harder work, trying to fix a lifetime of damage, broken thought processes and mindsets.
The contents of my head are out, sometimes that’s hard for me to process, and cope with. It’s hard for those around me who don’t understand or don’t know how to help me.
No one can fix me. I don’t anyone to. I am working on myself. It’s a slow, painful process sometimes.
So, yes, I’ve always been an anxious person, but that doesn’t make me broken, mad, fragile, a recluse, a pity case. It makes me a person dealing with an illness just like someone deals with arthritis or a broken bone that needs healing.
I am much stronger than people think, although sometimes I have to battle hard and I fall down and fail. That’s life, though, I think?
Learning to live and find a better me, that’s my goal. Anxiety and me. Me and anxiety. One day, maybe we will part ways, that’s what I hope. Until then, if you’d like to walk with me, ask me questions, ask me what works to help me, try and understand like you would if it was a physical injury. Don’t treat me like I’m a basket case. Don’t push me to do things you want when I make it clear I don’t want to. Respect my needs even if they don’t meet yours. Let me fight my battle, but remember I’m still a friend, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a person who contributes to society who simply struggles with anxiety. Also, don’t blame everything on my anxiety, because whilst it is part of my life, I refuse to let it rule me when I can.
If you don’t understand, just ask.