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My story, or at least my current one, is an intricate braid made up of trials, a growing faith and anxiety.
What do I mean? Here’s the backstory.
I’ve always been a worrier.
I’ve written about this before, although probably sugar coated somewhat.
As I’ve gotten older, what was once merely “a worrier” turned into more.
As an adult, I now have anxiety.
It’s not a secret in my close circle of friends and family; me having anxiety. But it isn’t something I’ve talked about publicly at all before this.
I don’t know why I feel ashamed of admitting it beyond my inner circle. I think I’ve felt that as the public face of my business, I have to project this perfect image of what I am or who I am, and so I have never felt like I could write openly about my journey and struggles with anxiety.
But you guys, I know I’m not alone in this anxiety boat.
In today’s world, I think anxiety is more prevalent and more debilitating than ever.
Why are we afraid to talk about it? To say we struggle with it?
I have sweaty armpits right now writing about it, so even though I am ready to write freely about it, I still feel embarrassed admitting my battle with anxiety.
Struggles with anxiety comes in many forms and many severities. People have different triggers and people have different ways of coping with it. But the bottom line is that many people struggle with it and there is a lot of shame that goes with anxiety.
A little about me and anxiety
I am a Type-A person, and value cleanliness, organization, and methodical ways of doing things.
I also have a tendency to be obsessive about things. For example – when I first bought a DSLR camera, I carried it around everywhere, read everything I could find on the internet about photography, and within months, started a business – one I still operate today.
Add to that, I’m also an introvert which means that along with being allergic to many social situations, I also spend a lot of time inside my mind. [Just kidding, I’m not allergic. I’d just rather stay home most nights than go to any kind of large gathering or good grief, any kind of networking event.]
I think they call it introspective – I spend a lot of time in my own head, thinking ALL THE THINGS. My fellow introvert friend and I describe our brains as being very busy, and very, very complicated.
These traits are not bad traits, and in many cases can be an asset. I’m not being hard on myself either. I like the way I am – Type A and introverted – most of the time. 🙂
However, over the years, the above characteristics, combined with being a worrier by nature have created some obsessive “circular thought patterns.”
When I get fixated on a particular worry, I can’t. stop. thinking. about. it.
My mind will focus on it and obsess, and no matter how many times I try to distract myself from it or tell myself it’ll be ok, or I’ll worry about it when it comes [cross that bridge when you get to it], I can’t stop.
Well, I used to not be able to stop.
As I’ve grown older, my childhood worry morphed into anxiety. I don’t know when it changed or how to define the change. But I can tell you without a doubt, I’m not just a worrier. I have anxiety.
Anxiety and a Phobia
Over the years too, I also developed a specific phobia.
I think the word “phobia” is thrown around flippantly in modern society. “Oh yeah, they’re commitment-phobic.” Or, “I have a phobia of socks with sandals.”
True phobias though, are life altering. They are … well – I think I might have to write a blog post just about phobias.
**Also, just as a caveat right now – I am NOT a therapist or any type of medical professional that can give ANY type of advice. This is not advice. I’m not telling you what to do in any form. I’m simply writing about my own life and what I’ve learned. I hope this wards off any trouble that could pop up. If you want to know more, seek out a professional.
So, here I was – in my upper twenties with a phobia and battling anxiety. Sure, I still lived a mostly full life, and I was an entrepreneur and wife/daughter/friend/doggie-mama etc.
But there was more going on. There were roadblocks to what I wanted as MY LIFE.
Last August, I decided that enough was enough and I didn’t want to live only part of a full life. I had tried everything I could think of and I’d read lots about to “handle” my anxiety on my own. And it hadn’t worked.
So, I found a therapist in my area.
My Therapist and I
People seem to have a stigma about therapists. Maybe it’s the movies that make it seem like only the people who desperately need it seek out therapists, or that you just gush about your problems while laying on a couch, while someone says “and how did that feel?” with a notepad and pen on their lap.
I’m of the firm belief that everyone, in some way and at some point in their life, could greatly benefit from seeing a therapist of some kind. I’ve seen more than one in my life. If it helps you feel less intimidated to call them “counselors,” go for it.
The therapist I found in August also happened to be a Christian therapist, but that wasn’t really on my radar at the time. I simply wanted someone who speciazlied in adult anxiety.
Fast forward a few months and many therapy sessions; the foundation had been laid to chisel away at the mass of anxiety that had built up in my life. We had started discussing ways to handle external anxiety triggers, and we had begun to discuss my faith life as well.
And then November came along and my mystery illness suddenly happened.
Health happens to be a major area of anxiety for me in the first place. And then I was smack dab in the middle of my worst nightmare…
God clearly knew what ahead for me when He orchestrated events that led to me finally deciding to seek therapy in August.
The foundation was set and I was already going regularly when my illness came.
Where I am at now with anxiety
It’s been over four months since the illness onset and nearly eight months since I started seeing my therapist.
I’m still going to therapy. I still have anxiety and I still have a phobia.
But I’m baby-stepping toward recovery. Or healing. Or whatever you call it when you are released from a phobia and you learn to moderate your anxiety so it no longer is a major factor in your life.
I have lots to say about anxiety in future posts. Things I particularly struggle with. Things I’ve learned. Things I wish I knew.
If you’re reading this, and you struggle with anxiety, you are not alone. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.
If you have a phobia of something, do not be ashamed. Phobias all sound completely ridiculous when they’re spoken out loud. Phobias are irrational and don’t make sense. Trust me, I know.
If you are struggling, it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to live with it forever and you sure don’t have to muddle through it alone.
Seek help. If you don’t want to see a psychologist or psychiatrist, there are many other therapists and counselors that you can see. There are many types of therapy providers and types of treatments.
As someone who sat and suffered through years of shame and stubbornness, and then finally crumpled and decided to take steps toward healing, don’t wait. It doesn’t get any easier by just waiting.
Anxiety doesn’t have to define you.
And if you’re struggling, let’s ditch the shame that goes along with it. Some people struggle with headaches, others with IBS. Some people have allergies, and others have diabetes. Anxiety struggles are no different. It’s not your fault and it’s not as easy as popping an Ibuprofen or taking a few deep, cleansing breaths and carrying on with your day.
I’m with you.
I see you.
You are not alone.
Let’s stop the shame.
–If you know someone who is struggling with anxiety, or feeling shame about it in particular, please share this post with them. We can help each other by removing the shame that goes along with an already crippling battle.–