You wake up thinking, today is going to be a good day. The sun is shining and birds are singing. You think yourself into the best of moods- everything is unicorns and rainbows and butterflies. You think today I will do all the things on my to-do list, today I will be a mothafuckin Khaleesi. You lay in bed and plan out your day, bit by bit, imagining how each scenario will go, assuring yourself today will be undoubtedly bad ass.
Suddenly, the winds outside your window pick up. You flinch, yet continue in preparation for your day. You brush your teeth, wash your face- shit, the face wash you use is almost out, why didn’t I get some more? You keep going about your routine, turning on your “go to” power house playlist. Just as you start to get into that anthem, your connection gets lost. So you sing acapella.
Just kidding, your coffee is now cold because you spent the longest time trying to fix the shitty connection that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Somewhere in those precious minutes, the voices you worked to quell down as you laid in bed, the voices of “not enough” and “are you sure?” have found their way back to the surface. And yet, you still have to get the things done on your to-do list. You still have to go to work. You still have to be in a good mood because no one likes a negative Nancy- except Jonathan and Steve. You drink the cold caffeinated life source and do it all anyways. You’ve become excruciatingly good at the facade.
This is my reality. A reality where something so minute can alter the course of the day. The reality of living with anxiety. Some days I wake up with the confidence of Amy Poehler or the infectious joy of Jimmy Fallon, ready to conquer the world and even if something goes unplanned, I laugh and go about a different way. But some days, some days I wake up only to be triggered by the smallest misstep or dent in my routine. Those days are manageable, practiced. Then there are the days where it’s hard to get out of bed at all. The ones where food is of no importance, only a box of kleenex.
Even so, I am a mothafuckin queen.
I share this to not garner pity but to shed some light on the fickle flick of the mind tied to a person with anxiety. You wouldn’t tell a pregnant woman she’s fat or a Jedi that you’ve never seen Star Wars. You definitely wouldn’t tell an individual with a physical disability, “Oh, you’ll be fine. You’ll get over it.” And if you knew about me or the millions of others
suffering fighting, I’m sure you would be compassionate and understanding because I believe in the human spirit.
So, how can you do your part as a citizen, a friend, or a loved one of a person coping with anxiety, depression or any other stigmatized mental health battle?
Be there like the cast of Friends, only better. You don’t have to coddle them. If there’s anything to NOT do, it’s coddle because there is nothing worse than being babied or pitied for something you’re trying daily to control. You can literally just sit there in silence and that is more of a comfort than you will ever know.
Be genuine. If you don’t get it, that’s totally cool. I don’t expect you to. But please don’t pretend to know “exactly” how I feel, then give an anecdote that unintentionally belittles the situation. We all have our shit. Mine is absolutely not more important than yours. But we are different. Let’s understand one another and have an open and honest relationship.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of times, I may not have the answers but I will always do my best. As I mentioned before, we can learn together.
Please, do not take it personally. It’s really, really not you. Sometimes, we’re just in it.
Unapologetically, live your life (and let me live mine). I’ve found that people with anxiety are some of the most passionate and intense individuals I know. Meaning, we feel. We emote. Often times, we don’t just like something, rather it manifests itself more intensely than that. When I love a film, I will IMDB the shit out of it and watch it way more than deemed the normal viewing requirement. The pure joy and excitement in those 112 minutes or so is often times a respite for me. It seems small, but don’t rain on my parade if you think something is weird and I won’t rain on yours. This also goes for life in general. Let people do what makes them happy and don’t be a douche about it.
Now, I’m not going to wear a banner or tell every person I see about myself, because my anxiety doesn’t define me. I do everything you do. However, I do feel as though we should open our eyes a bit and see that there are so many people living with unseen and unheard mental illnesses and by being a helping hand- an ear, a voice, a love unconditional- you can make the difference.
For those of you who are like me and like millions of other humans, it takes time. It takes support and understanding to not only end the stigma of mental illness, but to also find the correct path to healing and fighting. When I realized these horrible, heart stopping, hyperventilating events were panic attacks, I sought out help. It wasn’t easy. I fought with myself and my family. It’s not something that anyone had *openly* experienced in my life. So, was I just dealing with repressed teen angst? It had to just be a phase, right? I mustered up the courage and off I went.
The medical professional I went to see gave me a prescription within the first fifteen minutes of meeting me. This race to medication before we had even had our first date really messed with my head for a while. I didn’t take it but should I? Was I really that fucked that he noticed right away? Medication and antidepressants can be absolutely wonderful, life-saving even, but it is your body and your choice and if it doesn’t seem right in that moment, then don’t go for it. Trust yourself. I didn’t take it. And for me, it was the right decision at the time. The professional that followed wasn’t bad, we just didn’t mesh well and that’s okay. It takes time and patience for you to find the best fit, like a relationship or a pair of jeans- don’t rush that shit.
In the meantime surround yourself with loving, supportive and funny individuals who make, even the darkest of days a little bit brighter.* Find something you love and never let anyone shame you for it. But most importantly, live like the Khaleesi (or John Snow) that you truly are.
*You can always reach out to me if we’re friends but also if we aren’t real life friends just yet, check that contact form out. Here if you need an ear, a smile and/or a support system because we’re all in this together. Also, here are a couple of quick resources:
If it’s an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or if you need immediate assistance go to: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call their number 1-800-273-8255
Some tips on day-to-day anxiety management: https://www.adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress
Let’s learn: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/mar2016/feature1
A dose of cuteness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg