I wish I could say that anxiety isn't a part of my everyday life... every waking moment. I am an outgoing person, and if people who know me well knew that I lived with such anxiety problems, they would probably find it all hard to believe. How can someone who is such an extrovert become so crippled by anxiety that they sometimes find it hard to function?
I can't explain why I am so anxious. My anxiety ranges from moderate to crippling, and I feel like I am always on high alert. I recently read this article, which covered the topic of high functioning anxiety. I shared it with my husband in hopes that it might help him understand that I am not just a majorly overreacting weirdo. Many of the points in the article struck a chord because they described me, and what I live with every day.
I'm not afraid to go out, or to be around people (I love small talk, and love to be around people)... but I am always afraid of the strong possibility that something bad might happen to me or my family. For instance, I am terrified of being in a car accident. I have never been in one- not even a fender bender, and am so afraid that I will be in an accident with my kids in the car. I pray EVERY TIME that I get into a car, or my husband or kids do, that we will safely reach our destination. EVERY TIME.
And flying on a plane... don't get me started.
I am afraid of being involved in an active shooter situation... really terrified, almost to the point that I don't want to be in a movie theater, a coffee shop, or any place that doesn't have an easy to get to exit. I am terrified beyond belief that someone will walk in with a gun and open fire, and have visualized over and over again having to throw my child to the ground, and throwing myself on top of him, to protect him.
I am afraid of being attacked and not being able to defend myself. I live in a mixed neighborhood in the inner city. I love its charm and historic presence, and love that it's a neighborhood in transition for the better... but I won't take my kids to the neighborhood park in the daytime (or anytime) without my husband.
I am afraid of being impaled or blown up while driving on the highway. Let's just say that I've seen Final Destination a few too many times.
I am afraid of letting others down. I am an extreme people pleaser, almost to the point where I let others walk all over me and take advantage of my kindness. I will do anything to prevent someone from being disappointed in me.
I misconstrue criticisms, and they cut through like daggers to the heart. I can't handle criticism of any kind- constructive or otherwise. I hate competition & will avoid confrontation at all cost.
I have silently suffered through what felt like a terrible betrayal, and have been hurt so deeply that my once unwavering faith was very shaken. This caused me to believe the lie that I just wasn't good enough and honestly made me feel completely worthless. To this day, to walk into the trigger place of my anxiety is hard. The memories, the hurt feelings, the unanswered questions that I have still haunt me. To be in a position of involvement that meant the world to me, and to have it stripped away with no rhyme or reason has been one of the saddest and hardest things I have ever lived through.
And don't let me leave out the many sleepless nights. My anxiety causes insomnia. I am already exhausted from my daily life responsibilities, and then cannot fall asleep, because I am instead worrying about what comes next for me. Night after night of not sleeping means that it can sometimes be hard for me to properly function during the day. I have two small children and a husband who rely on me, not to mention others who are counting on me.
Two of the reasons I get up every morning...
...and here's another.
Anxiety is a real thing. It can be coupled with or lead to depression. I was ashamed of my anxiety. It caused such problems for me and my husband that it was damaging our relationship and home life. I was losing interest in the things I loved, and shrinking away from the people I loved, including my husband and son. I didn't want to admit that there was anything wrong, but after months of feeling an incredible weight on my chest, after feeling like my world had been ripped apart, and my identity had been stripped away, I broke down and saw my doctor. We talked a lot, and I let her know that I was going through a major change- a shock to the system, feeling like I lost my right arm. She described what I was going through as 'traumatic,' because my depression stemmed from a sudden change... a loss. We agreed that I would have to find a way to work through it, but in the meantime, she placed me on a low dose anti-depressant, and again- I was ashamed and didn't want anyone to know about it.
I stopped taking the medication after I became pregnant with Baby S, though my doctor assured me it was probably fine to keep taking it. I just didn't want to take the risk of anything potentially causing harm to my baby girl. It was a tough pregnancy, and postpartum life has also been tough- baby blues, and all. Once I stop nursing Baby S, I will probably resume taking the medication that worked so well to help me find the right balance, again. All this time, I've kept it under wraps, almost like a dirty little secret. I have come to realize, however, that mental health issues are really coming to light, and that staying silent about my story doesn't help me, or anyone else.
Mental health concerns aren't something to stay silent about, friends. They're serious, and if you or someone you know are feeling blue, or are feeling incredibly anxious, please find someone you trust to talk about it. There's no reason to feel ashamed about feeling depressed or anxious. Life is hard- it tosses us into unforeseen situations all the time. Some deal with them better than others. I don't handle upsets to my routine or my life's plan very well. My husband is amazing... he is my rock, and helps me to see the lighter and brighter side of every situation... even the bad ones. My kids keep me smiling... even on the days where I feel overwhelmed. My family showers me with love all the time. Jesus walks with me- through the chaos and confusion, and helps me to know that it's all going to be okay. Spending time in prayer and in God's Word reminds me that God's timing is perfect, that I am a beloved child of God, and that my life has a purpose. God has a plan for me- and He has one for you. I truly believe that, and hope you do, too.
If you or someone you know might be struggling with anxiety, the baby blues, depression, or any other mental health issues, please utilize this list of mental health resources. Please don't stay silent. Talk to a friend or a loved one, and if you need additional help, please seek it. I'm so glad I did. Always remember, you are loved, and you have a purpose here.
This is the face of anxiety, and that's okay.
Wishing you good health and happiness, always!