Today, this is a picture of a sticky note and whatever paper was near my laptop during my virtual therapy session. It is ripped to hundreds of shreds. This is just a small handful. I was talking about something triggering and felt extremely anxious. I couldn’t look at my therapist on the screen, and my fingers couldn’t stop ripping apart the paper. Shred after shred. All while my hands were shaking. But, forget about today. Let’s rewind a bit.
At age 6, I remember telling a family friend that I could walk a thousand miles. I cried and hyperventilated for days after for telling a lie. It sounds funny, but I was feeling genuine fear and extreme guilt thinking about how stupid I was for lying. At 6 years old.
In elementary and middle school, I remember laying in bed at sleepovers panicking. Thoughts would run over and over in my mind about my house burning down, or an intruder hurting my family. I remember a good amount of times where my friend’s moms would have to drive me home in the middle of the night. I would have to tell them I don’t feel good, because how could I explain that I was in a state of body-freezing fear with irrational thoughts taking over my mind?
In high school, I would answer every single text, and make sure I was the last one to reply. I worried about my friends. I remember car rides by myself thinking about how one of them might get hurt, or worse, die. These thoughts would come out of nowhere and I would cry. I would sob. Sometimes, this feeling would take over and I couldn’t breathe. It felt like the whole entire world was against me and you couldn’t convince me otherwise. It only got worse.
Scenarios in my head re-run over and over again about any mistake I have ever made. I think about what I could’ve done. What I could’ve said. How I could’ve been better. And then the fear of everything bad that has ever happened to me comes back. Trauma. Relationships. Past friendships.. You over think every single miniscule thing. Hell, I've edited this blog like nine times already just thinking about the words I'm trying to say. Oh and it just gets worse when I try to drown out the thoughts with substances too. They're amplified.
“You’re a terrible role mode for your siblings. You’re an awful friend, and girlfriend. Oh, and the worst daughter. You’re overall just a terrible human being. You’re actually pathetic. No one cares about you, and you clearly can’t do anything right. Ever. Everyone’s going to leave you. Abandon you. Maybe you should leave first before they leave you. Seriously, why do you even keep trying?”
These are just a small handful of the things anxiety would, and still does, say to me.
I would convince myself it was my fault that my father left my family. And that it was my fault that my mom struggled with her mental health. And that I wasn’t there enough for my siblings. I was useless. A disgrace.
Anxiety makes you feel unlovable. It makes you hard to love yourself. It makes you feel very hard to love. It makes you feel like, quite literally, the universe is against you. Like fear is sitting on your chest staring you in the eyes and you can’t push it off. It’s heavy. It’s sneaky. It’s painful. It doesn’t have an answer to “why?” It makes you feel like you have no control.
And that’s exactly it. Anxiety is an abuser, a manipulator, and a liar. It is the bully that tears you down and makes you feel like you’re not enough. It’s the thief that steals your self-esteem and happiness and ability to enjoy the present moment.
And when you mix depression in? You see, anxiety makes you feel like the whole world is against you. I think I've said that once or twice already. Depression, on the other hand, makes you feel like the world wouldn't even notice if you disappeared - not one single soul. They are quite dangerous together. They make you feel so insignificant, small, and vulnerable. They intertwine between the feelings of panic/fear and numbness/extreme and utter sadness. They are your worst enemies, yet they act like your greatest friends.
They also love to make you feel like a walking paradox. You can have the happiest day, yet your mind, heart and soul are still a mess underneath. You still feel that inner sadness and fear. It lingers until the next time it takes over. And you just wish the happiness would last a little bit longer.
You get stuck in the comfort of the numbness and pain sometimes. It's hard to explain. It's complex. And maybe that's why there's so much stigma surrounding mental health. But if you know it and experience it, you know just how real it is. And how scary it can be. I may not be able to answer your questions "Why are you feeling depressed?" or "Why are you anxious?", but I sure as hell can tell you it isn't just "all in my head".
But, you know what they say? Kill them with kindness. With love. Look in the mirror and say, out loud, I can do it. I am enough. I am not going to let you make me feel guilty, insecure, and worried beyond belief. I am not going to let you make me live my life in fear. I am going to love myself. I am going to embrace my mistakes. I am going to love my hardest, because those in my life love me and value me even despite my flaws or mistakes or how often we talk everyday. I am loved. I am brave. I am in control. And I am not going to let you own me anymore.
I am going to feel you as you come, and I am going to let you go. I am going to practice healthy behaviors to help myself grow, and to strive for a journey of embracing positive mental health. I am going to commit to being self aware and engaging in self-care and/or self-calming tactics. I am going to continue my treatment (whether that be therapy, medication, and/or beyond). And I am going to fight. I’m not a fighter, but I’ll fight for what I love, and I love living my life in the moment without fear of the past or the future. I am so much more than my anxiety.
I will survive. It says it right there behind the shreds of paper. And you will too. It gets better. And I'm not just saying that, I mean it. Fear is a friend who's misunderstood. And deep sadness cannot exist without pure joy. Life is a journey. And a precious one at that despite all of the challenges along the way.
Some advice to you, and to myself that I need to take more often, would be to chase the good as it comes. Feel it, absorb it and embrace it completely. There is always good in the bad and bad in the good. See the good. Embrace what sets your soul on fire. I mean, the things that make your heart feel tingly and your eyes stream happy tears. Traveling is that for me. And, of course, spending time with people I love.
And most important, commit to yourself. Whatever that may mean to you. To me, it means truly believing that I am so much more, and committing to my healing journey. It's not easy. I'm not gonna lie to you. In fact, it's really damn hard. But I can promise you it's worth it. That's why it's called a journey. You will always have some road blocks along the way. They are inevitable. Some major, some small.
But the nature you see, the places you visit, the souls you form connections with, the feelings you feel when you aren't feeling numb, the laughs you burst out into, the dances you groove, the foods that make your mouth water, the music that flows through you, the movies, books and stories you learn to love, the smells that warm your body, the feeling of a warm hug (as Olaf would say).. Or how about squinting your eyes and looking at Christmas lights. Or driving to get an ice cream cone with music blasting in your little beat-up car screaming the lyrics at the top of your lungs with your best friend. Or seeing someone you love smile that real genuine smile.
All of these things. Every single one. And all the ones you just started thinking of after I said mine.. They make it worth any road block or mental struggle I ever will have to face. The mind may be at war, but your heart is always there to send reminders. You just have to listen.