I was officially diagnosed with anxiety in the fall of 2017. However, the more I educate myself about this mental illness, the more I realize that I have been dealing with this for quite some time.
I can’t really say that one thing in particular brought it on. No childhood trauma or anything like that, but I believe it’s been building up through the years. What I do know is that stress is the enemy! Now I know what your thinking and I’ve heard it too “everyone has stress”, yes, I agree with that statement 100%, however constant stress, I don’t care who you are, WILL break you!
So what does anxiety look like?
It doesn’t look the same for everyone and some days are different than others. Sometimes I had panic attacks where my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest and I felt like my hands were shaking. I would get instant headaches, was irritable one minute and sad the next. Being around people was exhausting. I felt like I had lost who I was, I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. When I went to see my doctor I had thought she might just do some blood work and check my vitals. She immediately put me on a medical leave. Someone once said to me that “it must be nice to be off work”. No….no, it wasn’t nice, feeling like you want to scream and tell people to 'F' off isn’t nice. Feeling like you just want to sit in a corner and cry isn’t nice. Feeling like you want to run away, isn’t nice. I wasn’t on a vacation, I’ve been on a staycation and this felt nothing like that. I was also asked if I was better now. This wasn’t something that you get cured from like a cold, most people don’t understand that, this is something you manage for the rest of your life.
"Sometimes I had panic attacks where my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest and I felt like my hands were shaking"
What do I look like now with anxiety? Well…for the most part, I look like me. I’m not medicated because I chose not to be. I smile, I laugh, I am always there for whom ever needs to talk, I’m a loving wife and mother, and I’m a professional. I was able to make significant lifestyle changes that has made a huge difference in my health. This doesn’t mean that I don’t deal with my anxiety anymore. I still have days that I feel very anxious, that I can’t focus and feel like a scatter brain, that it feels like your being pulled in a hundred directions at once and it’s so overwhelming that you end up not being able to do anything. Sometimes it’s regular life things that bring it on and sometimes it comes out of no where. But I understand it better and I can take control and manage it as best I can with self care strategies.
What are my self care strategies?
1) I made a significant career change which I believe has been the most important factor in stress relief for me.
2) I put myself as a priority buy ensuring I am exercising and eating the best I can to take care of my body. We’ve all heard the saying, “you only get one body”, well it’s true, you HAVE to take care of it.
3) I am just starting to learn to practice meditation. This is new for me but is honestly a game changer. Just taking the time to use breathing exercises and just be quietly.
What have I learned?
1) I am not alone. The more I open up to the people around me the more I realize how many people deal with similar situations, and it somehow gives me some peace of mind that I am ok.
2) Sometimes my anxiety creates more anxiety. The mind can get really loud and start to compound a list of never ending worries. I have to work very hard at taking control of my thoughts and I am stronger than the anxiety.
3) Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. I was resistant at first to talk to a phycologist, but they were able to help me acknowledge why I was feeling anxious and show me that it wasn’t my fault.
4) I needed to make a lifestyle change. If I didn’t do something to change my health would be in serious jeopardy. People who have high levels of anxiety are more prone to depression. My family needs me so I had better learn to tame this beast.
5) I am ok. I sometimes don’t feel like it but I am stronger than this and I have a great life, even with anxiety.
I struggled, A LOT, in the beginning with admitting I had anxiety because I was worried that people would look at me differently or say that I was faking it (another classic sign of anxiety), but I realize that I can use my experiences as a power and by sharing my story I CAN help others who are going through the same thing I am. By talking and creating awareness we are changing the way mental illness is perceived.