Ever since I can remember, worrying about about things was my specialty. When I was younger, I worried about doors being locked and ovens being left on. Through highschool those worries changed to straightners being plugged in or candles in my room being blown out. Even when I had checked all of these things a million times. It was never good enough to feel satisfied.
Even though I am the baby of the family, I’ve always worried about keeping everyone safe too, especially my parents. I remember eight year old me putting a pillow under one arm, pulling my comforter off my bed and dragging it with the other behind me into the bathroom. I would set up a bed in the bathtub and keep watch until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Even though everyone morning I would find myself back in my bed, tucked in tight, I felt good knowing that I protected them, even for just a little bit.
As I got older, my fear for my parents starting attaching itself onto other things. Notice I said attaching. The fears weren’t real, but my anxiety was desperate to get attention. I headed off to college, desperate to make my parents proud of me and desperate to prove to my brothers that I could do it. I noticed after my first few weeks that I wasn’t feeling quite myself. It was like my body felt indescribably off all of the time; I started feeling like I was walking in an endless foggy tunnel. Little did I know that my first panic attack was about to happen, but at the time, I had no idea what a panic attack was. My hands started to clench together, my heart was racing, pounding out of my chest, I started sweating and I felt this buzzing start running through my body. The room started going blurry and I felt I was trying to see the world through a static television channel. I genuinely thought this was how I was going to die. Many panic attacks later, I would find myself changing schools.
When I returned home, I spent a summer recuperating in my parents house and found that a few rounds of counseling would be enough to get me through. I spent the next five years still anxious, still negatively coping, but things were mostly bearable. Trying to suppress the problem rather than fixed it worked for some time. Unfortunately, it perpetuated many unhealthy habits which only seemed to feed the fire of my anxious thinking. Skip forward to my third year of teaching and everything changes. I started obsessing more than I ever had in my entire life. My compulsions were beginning to take over and interrupt my ability to function normally. I spent hours a day on internet forums that only contributed to my anxiety and soon found myself being sucked down into a black hole of anxious thoughts.
I was so worried about my life ending, that in a way it already had. I was the epitome of having nothing left to lose. This was the moment that I decided I had to make a change. I couldn’t live like this any longer.
The truth is, that I don’t have any promises, no cure alls. Unfortunately, you will not find a one-trick-wonder here. In my experience (and trust me, I spent a lot of time looking for one), it just doesn’t exist. We are all delicate systems and each of us needs to find our own balance. What I do have to offer are stories of my failures and my successes, so that hopefully you can find peace faster than I did. It was undoubtedly a long hard road to recovery. It took almost a year of hard work and rewiring my brain to think differently until I changed my old habits, and created newer, healthier habits. In the end, it was so worth it. I got my life back. Let me just repeat that one more time. I. Got. My. Life. Back. I owned it. Anxiety didn’t. End of story. That’s not to say the two of us don’t have our run ins here and there, but this time, I have all of the tools I need brave the storm.
I know you can do the same,