Looking back, I think I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. It evolved or manifested itself in different ways, but it was always there. In elementary school, I just thought I was “over-thinking” or being “too uptight” about what people thought of me. In Jr. High and High School I thought I was way too focused on food and counting calories. In my junior/senior year of college, I realized what true anxiety was and it began to take it’s toll. I was planning a wedding, student teaching full time, taking 12 hours, on the Executive Board of my sorority, leading a trip to Haiti, trying to find a job, and struggling big time with my eating habits. I was barely sleeping, becoming manic at night, I could barely eat anything, and was incredibly irritable with anyone around me.
Over the first year of our marriage, my anxiety became a road block for Will and I. Being in a new town, starting a new job, and losing a baby brought the anxiety to new levels. I was distant, tired, and extremely insecure. Will lovingly pointed out my behaviors, noticing when I would push him away. He gently asked what I needed and let me pour out my soul to him. I began to feel more comfortable talking about the anxiousness and the overwhelming feelings I was experiencing. Through the next year, I took control of my anxiety by taking back the power it had over me. I started to recognize my triggers and build up my mental stamina to cope. Some days are better than others and I still struggle to this day with crippling anxiety, but I realized I couldn’t let it win. There was so much I had to lose if my anxiety won.
If my anxiety won, I wouldn’t leave the house, afraid what other people would think of me.
If my anxiety won, I would lay awake at night replaying conversations, worried I sounded like an idiot.
If my anxiety won, I would stay at school until 10PM making sure every single child had their individual plan to master absolutely everything.
If my anxiety won, I would never let Will drive anywhere out of fear that he would get in an accident.
If my anxiety won, I wouldn’t let Winifred explore on her own in case she gets hurt.
If my anxiety won, I would eat only celery, because “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips”.
If my anxiety won, I wouldn’t have fingernails or nail beds. They would be destroyed by the coping mechanism of picking and biting.
If my anxiety won, I would never post pictures of myself because I didn’t lose the baby weight.
If my anxiety won, I would never sleep. I would be glued to Winnie’s side to make sure she was still breathing.
If my anxiety won, I would never stop cleaning in case someone randomly stopped by for a visit.
If my anxiety won, I would be calling my OB or Pediatrician for every little thing because it could be a BIG thing.
If my anxiety won, I would never eat with anyone else because the sound of them chewing would bring out the fiery beast.
If my anxiety won, I would go crazy trying to spend equal amounts of time with the ones I love so they won’t resent me.
If my anxiety won, I would be a shell of a person.
I could go on and on, but the truth is it wouldn’t do me any good. If I go too far down the rabbit hole, it becomes a super dark place. There is way too much joy in my world to go down the dark rabbit hole. God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams and I’ll be darned if the enemy is going to steal my joy! I’m so grateful for Will and my doctors for hearing me, supporting me, and encouraging me to do what is best for my mental health.
We are stronger together. When I kept my struggles a secret, I got swallowed whole. When I shed light on the darkness, the shadows ran away. If anxiety is something you struggle with, you are not alone. It is real and you are heard. Talk to someone, do things that make you feel stronger, don’t give up. You are loved.
I work through this daily. I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever fully be in control of and I’m ok with that. The small victories will be HUGE victories.