I started this blog because I wanted to connect to people, share my thoughts, and maybe make ‘em laugh a little. But I also want to be real. The fact is, there are no simple, sweet, lemonade-y methods when it comes to managing your mental health. Today, I’m sharing my mental health story with you.
Here’s my truth: I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. When I say anxiety, I’m not referring to a case of butterflies, extra nerves, or sweaty palms. I’m talking waking up in a cold sweat unable to breathe in the middle of the night, bursting into anxious tears on vacation with my boyfriend’s family, having a panic attack in the middle of Universal Studios, straight up, medically-diagnosed anxiety. When I was growing up, my anxiety was so bad that I threw up on every first day of school. I even threw up on the way to my first date because I was so anxious about it (sorry, High School boyfriend! Promise I popped a tic-tac!)
To people who don’t struggle with anxiety, or as I call them, the normies (just kidding), anxiety is often viewed as a case of bad nerves. (I could go on a whole rant about how people incorrectly use the term “anxiety” as a term for nervousness and how damaging that is to the validation of anxiety as a whole, but I digress). Many people don’t know how truly, deeply, awfully paralyzing anxiety is. When you have anxiety, everything that makes you anxious can feel like a immovable boulder sitting on your chest and pinning you down. Sometimes it can take me 3 hours to write a 3 sentence email. I will read over a text asking a close friend to hop on the phone roughly 20 times before I send it. Don’t even ask me how long it takes me to build up the courage to make an appointment over the phone! The list of challenges goes on and on.
While anxiety has always been a part of my life, I didn’t know there was a label for it until I was in my 20s. My 20s! I went over 20 years without knowing that anxiety was a disorder and that everyone didn’t feel the helpless way I did about basic, everyday things. Often, I looked at other people going through life and wondered how they all coped with it so well, when I felt so trapped by by own mind.
My first introduction to the concept of anxiety as a disorder happened when Buzzfeed was having a “Mental Health Awareness Month” (Buzzfeed isn’t always just quizzes about what kind of hot dog you should marry), and I came across some articles about anxiety. I was blown away by how much I related to them. When I researched more and discovered anxiety isn’t just a feeling – it’s an entire condition. And it’s what I was struggling with. It wasn’t until I defined my condition that I realized that were resources available to help me, and that maybe I didn’t have to live my entire life feeling the way that I was feeling. Finding out what I was dealing with gave me the validation I needed to seek help, and gave me hope that relief was possible. Labeling my anxiety changed my life.
That’s why I want to be real about my mental health story. If I had known about my anxiety sooner, I could have reached out for help sooner. I could have felt better sooner. I could feel better now.
I want to leave this on a positive note, so I want to clarify that I’m doing SO MUCH in my mental health story than I used to be. Where I am now is miles and miles ahead of where I used to be. In this series, I’m going to follow up with many posts about my personal mental health journey: anxiety management methods, therapy, medication, etc. For now, I just want to say – if you’re struggling – you are not alone. And things can get SO MUCH BETTER.