“Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.” – Astrid Alauda (If only it were that easy sometimes.)
This is a blog I’m not sure I ever thought I’d write. But after some recent conversations with so many beautiful, strong, open people in my life, I realized that it’s time.
Tomorrow I get to meet Dr. Brené Brown! Do you have ANY idea how AMAZING that is? Maybe that’s what makes it easier to be extra vulnerable tonight. If so, thank you Dr. Brown, again, for making it a little easier each time.
Okay, enough stalling.
Anxiety. Generalized Anxiety. A diagnosis that many of you may not know I got as a teenager. Now, for those of you that have never heard me say that out loud, you may be thinking to yourselves, “Well that makes sense.” Or, “I KNEW it!” Either way, there it is, it’s on the interwebs forever…where I think it should be and it doesn’t define me.
Months ago I heard about The Semicolon Project, in extension, The Semicolon Tattoo project. I was intrigued, I was relieved, I was at peace. Finally! People were talking about my Voldemort (my “he” that shall not be named). For those of you that aren’t familiar but are interested, check their website out here: http://www.projectsemicolon.org/.
A brief definition from their website if you don’t currently have the time:
“Project Semicolon (The Semicolon Project) is a faith-based non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire.“
There are so many people out there struggling with some sort of mental illness, addiction, depression or anxiety, and not talking about it just makes it worse. I know. Because I AM her. I am YOU. I am US!
I guess it’s time to talk about it. If you don’t struggle with any of this I think it’s easy to dismiss, difficult to understand and almost impossible to relate to. We know that. That’s why we don’t always talk about it. But that’s what makes our battles more difficult and more painful.
I finally realized something was wrong when my claustrophobia got to the point of out of control. It was no longer funny that I couldn’t sleep in a tent. It was no longer funny that being locked in a closet as a joke for more than 10 seconds made me literally flip my shit. It was real and the pain in my head, my chest, my stomach and my mind was debilitating.
Being diagnosed at about 15 or 16 with Generalized Anxiety Disorder was more embarrassing than anything. By definition, GAD is “an anxiety disorder marked by chronic excessive anxiety and worry that is difficult to control, causes distress or impairment in daily functioning, and is accompanied by three or more associated symptoms (as restlessness, irritability, poor concentration, and sleep disturbances)” At such a young age how can people know that about you and think you’re “normal”. It was hard. Being medicated for it so young was something I kept hidden from most people. All I wanted to do was convince myself that I would get to a point in my life when I wouldn’t have to take medication, then I’d be “okay”.
For years I was on and off of medication. Most of the time I was okay, but when my dad got sick it was too much. Back on medication. Then the mental battle began again, “When will I be ‘okay’ and be able to be off the meds? I can be ‘normal’.” Please note that I’ve always gone to therapy to help with the condition. I don’t think that popping a pill is an answer in and of itself. I work SO HARD on myself, to control it, to talk myself down, to breathe, to help others be patient with me, but it’s just not that easy.
Over the past 3 or so years, it has showed it’s scary face again, more often than before. I’m older now, with more responsibility, more to lose in this world and with that load comes a lot of stress and, at times, uncontrollable anxiety. For those of you that can’t relate, I can only share the words of others that have put the feelings into words better than I can:
From an Elephant Journal Article you can find here, “You wake up with that heavy flutter in your chest and a feeling of doom. And the hardest part is that sometimes you don’t even understand why.Work becomes challenging with even the smallest task feeling like a major chore. And reaching out is difficult since the last thing you want to feel like is a Debbie Downer.
From another Elephant Journal Article you can find here, “It feels like the pain of your past is being folded into the joy of your future—and you’re left, somewhere in between, unable to grasp the present. It’s blurring the line between that which is possible and probable, quietly fighting to uncover even the slightest crack in the most brazen of armours. It’s the way you somehow always manage to find one; magnify it, expand upon it—allow it to justify the tidal waves of self-doubt as they build, bend and break to shore. It’s your needing closure to that which you hold open. It’s harboring a silent resentment over the hypothetical scenarios of your own writing, leaving them to play out on a manic loop—sparking a groundless sense of panic which swells and consumes all remaining sense or logic. It’s your questioning even the purist of intentions, deeming yourself forever unworthy—not only of that which you desire, but of that which you’ve already received. It’s tripping over your own laces, tied voluntarily between each shoe…It’s the way you plant such damning evidence in amongst the unassuming beauty of everyday life; setting yourself up as victim and condemning those you love as criminal. It’s anticipating the emptiness to a glass currently full; the crumbling of a wall that remains standing—the eventual end to a feeling finally returned.”
The only thing I can add to that is that it feels like there is a fireball in the pit of my stomach, a dizziness that not even a roller coaster can cause, a nausea that bad seafood can’t create, a sweat from a 110 degree day and a headache worse than any hangover all covered in panic and a racing mind that sends you along falling dominos into a black hole. It’s scary. It’s lonely. It’s dark. It’s painful. It’s hard. BUT, I’m trying my best. I’m doing the BEST I can. So, if it happens around you, please be patient with me.
Why am I writing about this? Why am I sharing this? Because it’s time. It’s time to open up and let others that may relate know that there are others. It makes it a little less scary and I feel a little stronger putting it out there. It doesn’t need to be something I only face in my alone time because that’s not usually when it’s the worst. It’s a REAL battle, nothing to be embarrassed of and the fact that I can get up every damn day and put my feet on the ground and choose to fight my own mind, to live my own life is something to be proud of!
This is my Semicolon story, and I’m choosing not to end it, but to continue to begin it again, every day. An author uses a semicolon when they could have ended a sentence but have chosen not to. That speaks volumes across so many levels to me. Since I heard about this Project I have wanted the tattoo. After watching this video today I am officially ready, now I just need my quote.
To my friends and loved ones, this isn’t a cry for help. It could seem that way if you can’t relate. I’m fine, I’m great actually! I’m happy, I’m successful and I LOVE my life! It’s just that some days, for me, are a little harder than others. And there is NOTHING wrong with admitting that 🙂 I just feel EVERY THING! I feel it a little stronger, a little deeper and a little longer than others. That’s all! I’m not sure I’d change that about me either. My struggles don’t define me, they just help to make me the woman I am.
To any one out there, especially to young kids and teens that are struggling with anything that makes them feel alone…you aren’t and you are NOT your struggles! Your story is NOT over yet! Put a semicolon, not a period. Get up one more day and start it all over again. Life is worth it. It may be crazy but damn isn’t it also BEAUTIFUL?
You rock Lauren! Thank you for putting it out there and sharing. I have had my own struggles with this lately and have certainly done my sharing of pushing it down. Appreciate the reminder 🙂