I struggle with anxiety.
No, not in the “OMG I’m so stressed out and anxious about this test,” kind of way either. The clinical and constant kind of anxiety.
I am being treated for anxiety. Generalized Anxiety Disorder was the label stuck on it, specifically.
I’m open and expressive about my story. I don’t do it for pity or compassion from those who know me either. I don’t want to be pitied. I just want to tell you my story. This article is to help me and others. In fact, my website as whole is turning into a testament to my journey, and the different strives I am making towards my own recovery.
One of the reasons I do this is because of the stigma. For a long time, I was terrified to ask for help. Even though panic attacks, tears and and social anxiety were ruling my life, it was really difficult to do.
I thought that if I talked about it, it meant something was wrong with ME…me as a person. Obviously, anxiety is a struggle that shouldn’t have to happen even though it does. But I believed that the anxiety was completely my fault and a negative part of myself. I was constantly canceling plans at the last minute because I couldn’t get out of bed, or I felt too embarrassed. I couldn’t separate the anxiety problems from myself.
Eventually my boyfriend, now fiance, Max, helped me make an appointment, after I had already cancelled the first one. He walked me to the appointment and waited outside. The doctor gave me medication for depression and anxiety. At the time, I felt small. I felt like a broken person.
But then things started to change.
Over time, medication helped, but I also began to learn how to control it with other coping mechanisms.
Sharing your struggle is an empowering exercise, and so is sharing the lessons that you have learned along the way. Here are a few of the many ways living with anxiety has actually helped me grow.
1. It taught me to ask for help, even when it’s difficult.
The best thing you can do for yourself is use the resources you have available. Tell people how you’re feeling, lean on them, believe in them and their ability to support you.
The second you realize there is power in numbers, the easier it becomes to feel OK.
2. It taught me how important it is to take care of me.
You have to prioritize yourself. Self-care isn’t selfish, and you can’t drink from any empty cup. No one can.
3. It challenged me to stand up for myself.
I had to learn to articulate my feelings, set boundaries and stand on my own two feet. Not everyone is going to validate you, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dismiss or walk all over you.
4. It forced me to be comfortable in my own skin.
You learn to love yourself when you finally accept who you are.
5. It led me to actively discover new passions and to find joy in life again.
I’ve started taking walks and doing yoga routines. Tried new recipes. I’ve worked on my writing, on painting and music. I even adopted an emotional support pet.
ESA pets are life savers for those who are dealing with depression and anxiety and are animal lovers–which I am. To be able to travel with your emotinal support animal, you just need an ESA letter, which is an official document given by a licensed professional based on your condition.
I’ve also worked on relaxing–on breathing.
On RESTING, and giving myself the grace to rest.
You have to do what is best for you, and trial and error sometimes is the best path forward.
Anxiety sucks. It really does. It has been one of the most challenging things I have ever experienced. It can be debilitating and exhausting, but it can also empower you, especially when you know you can rise above it.
That is why I wanted to post this article, and why I have written many articles about my journey. I want to show that it isn’t something you should be embarrassed about. Mental illness has a negative stigma. It’s getting better, but it still exists. Some even believe it’s a completely destructive force that can’t ever be beat. They see it as a deal breaker for success and happiness. I’m here to tell you otherwise.
My struggle with anxiety empowered me and taught me. In a lot of ways, it’s made me a better person. I believe I can get past the ways it holds me back, and if you struggle as well, so can you.
If that person is you, know that I didn’t get this way overnight. It took me a long time to confront and then openly discuss my own struggles. But I do so to give some kind of piece of mind to readers who live with the same difficulties.
I hope this post leaves you feeling like you can conquer your own demons as well, because trust me, you can do anything. The sky truly is the limit, and even the most painful parts of life can teach and empower you to be the person you’re meant to be.
A note from Sara: This article was originally posted on SaraStrives.com in June 2016. Since then, I have written more articles about my mental health struggles. Check them out if you want to hear more! Thank you so much for reading.