Healthy Living

What I Learned From Living With Anxiety

“It is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society.” - Andrea Gibson

I am not normal. What a lovely way to start.

When I say that I mean, my brain functions in a way that makes some roll their eyes at me. “You’re overthinking it,” is what they’d say. “You worry too much. Things will work out.”

I’ve had people I love tell me that it’s all in my head, that if I began seeing a shrink, I’d never stop ― that it’s all a money-making scheme. I’ve been told maybe I’m this way because of the meds, maybe I should stop taking them but there have been days where I’d wake up and wish I didn’t.

If you’re going through this, you’d know how little it takes to go from being the best version of yourself to one that wants to hide in bed, and at the same time, feel the guilt of not making progress, the fear that everyone’s ahead of you, the anxiety that you’re getting nowhere in life. Our minds are a wonderful place, eh?

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day and I am done being afraid of being stigmatized. I’m done worrying about what parents, relatives, friends, coworkers, future employers and strangers will say.

Here’s what I’ve learned from this:

1. If it hurts, talk about it ― Or write it down. Putting it out there and being able to see it for what it is will help you be less afraid of what’s going on inside.

2. Have the right crew ― We all need support. It’s difficult to trust someone to listen and not grow tired of your pain but the right people are there. They are few and rare but trust me, they’re the unlikely ones in your circle.

3. Find your therapy ― This is another way of saying ‘do what makes you happy’ and I know the toughest bit for us is in the ‘doing’. But you must. On the hardest days, especially, you must. If cooking brings you joy, do it. Love running? Go for miles. Want a cookie? Eat two! Okay, maybe not so much that last piece, but try to find something enjoyable and healthy.

4. Be ― This may be the hardest thing for me but it’s something I’m learning. With mental illness, even on the best days, we are bracing ourselves for the worst. Let’s try to enjoy the good parts, even if it’s just for five minutes before you allow your mind to go racing again. Train yourself by starting small and saying, “I deserve this five minutes of complete bliss, laughing at cat videos and not thinking about anything else.” There. You did it!

5. Seek help ― Whether it’s taking meds or therapy, you need it. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. My doctor wasn’t trying to downplay it when she said, “It’s like a cold, but a very long cold and oh also, it’s in your brain. Your brain has a cold and you need to hug it, give it warm soup and lots of tender, loving care. So I’m going to give you something to help with that.” I loved the way she described it because it didn’t make me feel like there was something wrong with me. I’m having a ‘brain cold’, okay? Leave me alone.

There are plenty of people who are struggling and we can help each other by first acknowledging that we feel the same way too. That they’re not alone in this, and neither are you.

You deserve happiness, whatever that is for you. You deserve to be able to breathe in life and wake up wanting to live it to the fullest. You deserve good thoughts and great friends. You deserve a good night’s sleep where your thoughts do not burden you. You deserve to know that everything you feel is okay.

Everything. You. Feel. Is. Okay.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.