She's telling me not to share my truth. She's telling me that I'm an outcast and no one will ever understand me, no one will ever love me - but they'll pretend that they do, out of pity or willful deceit. She's convinced that no one really likes me or wants me around, like I somehow ruin experiences just because I exist. She thinks I inconvenience others so I should put their needs before my own. She believes I'm less than others so I need to prove my worthiness.
I don't know what I ever did that would cause anyone to dislike me, at least without first getting to know me. I'm a good person, I know I am. Why does she only see the worst in me?
She's constantly imagining the worst-case scenario. She's fixated, stuck in her negativity. I try to get her to see the truth (which is so much less painful than her reality) but she just keeps going farther down the hole, creating and replaying visions of discomfort, agony, or fear. Like being in a horrifying car accident and losing the ones she loves. Or getting attacked in the middle of the night, her life ending before she ever really got to live. Or coming to the realization that she is being deceived by the people she loves and thought she could trust...
I've known her for as long as I can remember. She's had a hard life and I understand why she is the way she is... But none of her fears are real and I can't convince her to see that. She's lost, her mind in overdrive. She's hyper-aware of everything, overwhelmed and convinced that everyone can tell she's freaking out. I know that no one can tell (her suffering is invisible to most), and even if they could tell, I know they wouldn't pass judgement because she's an amazing person and she has a lot of people who care about her - I only wish she knew that.
Despite all of the love and support she receives, she still struggles to keep herself afloat. Her chest feels tight and heavy. She can't breathe. She can't move. She's in pain and she can't escape it. In her teenage years, her pain manifested in terrifying panic attacks and social anxiety. Back then she didn't know how to pull herself out of the hole without hurting herself. She hurt herself for a long time before she learned how to cope with the depth of her emotions.
Years have passed since then. She's grown now and she's come a long way since her teenage years. She has healthier coping mechanisms, but sometimes they're still not enough.
Sometimes deep breathing helps. Sometimes meditation helps. Sometimes she can release her mind and body from her pain and suffering. Sometimes she can't.
Sometimes she becomes lost in her inner turmoil and suffers for weeks at a time. But she doesn't want anyone to see her at her worst, especially because she knows she'll eventually bounce back - she has good moments too. So when things get tough, she has a tendency to hide. Her body and mind in pain, she suffers alone because she doesn't want to inconvenience her friends and loved ones.
I love her and I'm there for her if she needs someone to pick her up when she falls. I am her honest and compassionate voice of reason but sometimes she just can't hear me. Sometimes the wave of emotion is too much and she's swept off her feet. She's far away, out of touch from herself and everyone around her, barely able to keep her head above the water. It breaks my heart to watch her silent suffering but I can only wait for her along the shoreline because if I step into the current with her we'll both be lost at sea...
She is my anxiety.
But I am not her.
I spent the better part of my life trapped inside my head, unable to muster the courage to express how I felt inside. Afraid and unsure of how to let anyone in, I suffered alone.
When I was 22, I ended my first serious relationship, we had been off and on since we were 16. The relationship was a painful learning experience (I'll go into this another time) and when we separated for good, I had no idea who I was. I had spent my young adult years with him, always chasing what he wanted to do, trying to keep up with his lifestyle. After separating, I suddenly had nothing...And so began my journey to self discovery.
It took me many years to grow into the woman I am today. Some know my past and have witnessed the major changes I've undergone over the years. To them, I'm a completely different person, I made it out alive and well. Others have just entered my life and are surprised at my continued battle with anxiety and depression. I bet they wonder how someone so happy-go-lucky and friendly could have such a troubled past?
I believe that my pain, however much it tainted my perspective or tore at my heart, gifted me with a level of depth that only those who have suffered can understand. Like a pendulum swinging from side to side, the greater capacity we have for pain, the greater capacity (and appreciation) we have for pleasure.
My years of suffering forged the empowered woman I am today. If I had never struggled, I wouldn't appreciate the life I now have in the same way. I believe that my pain tore me apart but - remarkably - made room for something else to grow from within, something beautiful. I believe the same is true for you and everyone you know. We are all capable of rising above whatever is keeping us from living our best lives.
It's not an easy journey, it was never meant to be. And unfortunately, the longer your reality is tainted with anxiety, depression, insecurity, or hopelessness, the longer it takes to unwind and rewire your mind to think differently. But hear me out: you can rise above.
If you believe in the process and you trust yourself, you can and will rise above.
Author's note: I share this deeply personal truth because I believe that my story can inspire and set fire to changes in the way we perceive mental health. If you resonate with this post or if you believe this can help in any way, please share it with your friends and loved ones. Not everyone is at a place where they can openly talk about their emotions and experiences, but I know that if I connected with others who understood what I was going through, it would have made a world of a difference for me. My heart goes out to all affected by mental illness. Stay strong <3