Recently someone asked me about a point in time in which I went through turmoil. This thought has been rolling around in the brain banks all week. Why did I tell this person about my anxiety? I told other stories as well, really hard moments and the processes of moving through them. Of why it was bad and how it got better. Of how it helped shape part of the person I am today. But I keep coming back to this thought…
To my elephant in the room.
She is at the center of every hard moment in my life.
Courage is remembering that something or someone is more important than my own fear. This is what I tell myself when I get scared. When the little voice in my head tells me I am not worthy, I don’t deserve to be happy, or that no matter what I do, I will fail. When she gets so loud that I can’t hear anything else, I repeat those words to myself. Courage is remembering that something or someone else is more important than my own fear. Someone or something is more important than my own anxiety.
That I am more important than she is.
I’ve spoken openly about a lot of things on this blog. Some of them I’m more comfortable vocalizing then others. But my anxiety has only guest starred as a passing thought. Unfortunately, she is here and no matter how much I’d like to divorce her and implement a restraining order, she won’t go away. So I’ve learned to live with her. She is my constant companion but rarely has something nice to say.
She is in my earliest memories. I didn’t have a name for her until about ten years ago. I was at work and I could feel the pressure building in my chest. Her voice was so loud that I couldn’t hear the person on the other end of the phone. When I finally let the phone click off, tears spilled down my cheeks and I gasped for air. A single sob escaped before the phone rang again and I had to go back to work. I couldn’t breathe or think and I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t hear my shift partner tell me to breathe. I couldn’t even hear her tell me to get some air or ask if I needed a medic. I remember being at my desk and then being outside, slouched against the wall, rocking full sobs and physically shaking so hard I scared myself.
It was my first panic attack.
I would go on to have many more over the years.
I was diagnosed with anxiety by my doctor and was put on a medication that made me really tired. In fact, it made me not really care about life. But if I didn’t care about all the things that were causing me to panic, I saw it as a good thing. I remember wanting to curl up into a bed cocoon and never get up again. To say that this medication didn’t work for me is an understatement. Later I would be prescribed something less potent and with the help of my doctor, I was able to get to a place where I no longer needed to be medicated daily.
Learning that my anxiety would likely never go away, has been one of the biggest hurdles of my life. Learning how to quite her voice, how to ignore her, how to not beat myself up on the days she is louder than my other thoughts.
I’m still learning.
I have been in relationships where my anxiety is the ultimate reason things didn’t work out. Or at least that’s what she let me believe. The last person told me I was “in my head” and I needed to “sort through my hangups” and maybe it was “just timing”. You know, if I’d sort my stuff then maybe we could make something work later. I also found out after the fact, that he’d cheated on me, but not before my anxiety beat me up so substantially and made me believe it was all my fault. Two weeks before he proposed to the woman he cheated with, he confessed that he’d made a huge mistake. No one knew him better than I did. He made me believe if I’d only learned to hid her better or be rid of her completely, it might have worked out. I began to believe, if I’d only pushed past her thoughts maybe I wouldn’t have fucked up every relationship I’ve been in. If I learned to use my voice in the moment, instead of needing time to processes, I’d be almost normal. The thing is, I’ve found myself with people who need answers and responses right here right now. When I need someone who can let me go at my own pace. Someone who is willing to give me the time to processes when I need it and comforting hand when I’m ready to talk. As much as I hate my anxiety, she’s part of who I am. I can recognize that I have picked incompatible partners in the past. I need communication and I need someone who is patient with me. It wasn’t all my fault, but I can learn from these experiences and I can be better. I can hold to my value system and I can express my needs.
The hardest lesson is learning it’s okay to be me and to ask for what I need. My own self worth has been hard earned.
I have accepted that my anxiety is part of who I am. She is not going away, no matter how much money I offer her to leave. I am upfront about her now. I want the people close to me to understand and not just accept her with a nod. Walking that fine line between, I’m a functional adult and I’m awesome, but also there are things that sometimes give me issue. Because while she’s quiet right now, she won’t always keep her mouth shut. I do my best every day to keep her in check. Some days are better than others. Some days I forget she’s there. But then there are days where her voice is so loud.
I can’t focus.
I deconstruct conversations and actions.
I pick apart everything I said, everything someone else said, and regret the ways I went wrong.
There are days, I don’t want to pick a place to sit in the coffee shop because the one I usually sit at is taken. The back up is also taken and if I sit somewhere else then I know her voice gets louder. It’s dumb. I know how dumb she can be. I also know that this is just the way she is.
I accept her.
I accept me.
I love me. <== This one took me a long time to do and I refuse to stop now that I know how.
My anxiety rarely has a mean thing to say about someone else. She’s far to polite for that. She gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. She is a master story spinner and she can make any and everything my fault. With me, she is vicious. She will blame me for things I couldn’t have possibly caused. She has teamed up with my residual Catholic guilt and they tag team me in my darkest moments.
So what do you do Miranda? How do you mitigate these thoughts and push forward? How do you learn to trust people? How do you make it through the darker days?
Good questions internet void.
I would be afraid of the world if I let myself. I’m afraid of things all the time. I may appear fearless, and I take pride in that facade, but I am not. I remember that courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is remembering that something or someone else is more important than my fear. I do things that scare me every day in the hopes that it will become easier.
On rough days, I look at myself in a mirror and tell myself, I am worthy of love. I am amazing. I am not a fuck up. I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. There are people in my life who love me. There will be people who won’t understand and that is okay. I didn’t really need them in my life in the first place. I can take away the positives and walk away. I am better off without them. I am worthy of happiness. On really rough days, I take it step by step. I don’t think about everything that might be. That would be turtles all the way down.
Trusting people is hard. I don’t have a large circle of people who I can truly call a friend. But the ones I do, I trust explicitly. It’s a conscious choice. I choose to trust them every single day. If I come to a point in my life where I can’t, I confront it and decide if I need that person in my life anymore. Trust is one of my core values. If I can’t trust you, then I listen to her. To my anxiety. If I can put faith in my trust of someone, then I can quiet her voice. I trust that person and I know she is the liar. It’s when I can’t trust someone, that her voice gets loud. Too loud. It becomes a battle and I’d rather not fight with her every single day. My life is more important than that.
Trust is hard.
Trust is a choice.
I take it seriously.
On darker days, I lean on my support system. I have four of the best friends a girl could ask for and a mom worthy of awards. They know what to say, how to bring me down off that proverbial cliff. How to make me feel my emotions when I need to and how to just sit with me quietly when all I want is companionship. They push me in healthy ways. They remind me to have courage. To live every single day. To find happiness in the little things.
Life is made up of a million little moments. It’s the little things that have always been my favorite.
My name is Miranda and I have anxiety.
If you have anxiety and you don’t know what to do, please consider talking to your friends, your doctor, or calling a helpline. You are not alone.