Anxiety. Need I say anymore? Most normal people battle with some worrying throughout their life, but what about those of us who battle with more than “worrying”? The battle between intrusive thoughts, mind-numbing feelings, or constantly feeling like you need to be more, just more. The never-ending road of Fear.
My senior year of high school I begin to realize that my silly habits were actually signs of deeper problems. I would open and close the kitchen cabinets three times after taking something from inside them, so that no one would break into our house at night. I would and still make sure “I love you” is the last thing my family hears from me at night, just in case I die. (Even writing this I feel like a jinxed myself and something terrible will happen tonight). During this year in my life my little brother was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD. I listened to my mom talk about his symptoms and how this meant he had some mental illnesses.
“Huh…this sounded exactly like me”, I thought, “These thoughts and feelings aren’t normal”. Okay well that’s not exactly what I was thinking, but more or less the feelings going through my mind. I became mad that my brother could be diagnosed like this and receive help and comfort from my family when I had been dealing with this my whole life too. I shared with my family my worries and troubles, but not to the extent I wish I would’ve.
Flash forward to the following year, my first year of college. I had convinced myself that what I needed to do was face my fears. This meant attending a college away from home. What was I thinking?! I can tell you what I was thinking now: I can’t be that girl who stays home and attends the school in town. I will never be able to grow up if I’m at home all the time.
Yes, those shallow thoughts were my own. Keep in mind that if I would have attended the college in my hometown I would be debt free at the end of my four years, but I STILL decided to attend a college away from home. Because this was supposed to help me right? WRONG. My anxiety about being away from my family and them dying only increased. Seems logical right? I was terrified my first year.
Eventually with the help of my mom, I began to meet with a counselor at school. Things began to change for the better. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attack Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and OCD. Yeah, even I call myself crazy sometimes.
Having weekly meetings helped me navigate through the fake truths in my mind being fed by Fear-yes, I capitalize Fear because it is a very real presence. I was beginning to see light in my very crowded dim mind. Now to clarify, I wasn’t depressed. Anxiety just has a way of darkening some days and leaving you feeling like you can’t do much to fight it. The crowdedness was the overbearing presence of intrusive thoughts about grades, humiliation, death, work, etc.
Flash forward again, to now, my sophomore year. I won’t lie and say I’m all better, but man have I made some progress! I’ve done a lot of self-realizing this past year and I’e learned two pretty darn cool things about myself.
First: if I don’t feed my anxious thoughts, they will not grow. Simple, right? NOPE. I’m still working through this today. If you struggle with anxiety and intrusive thoughts like myself then you know you can’t just “push past the negative thoughts”. There is no such thing as ignoring the anxious thoughts that pop up in your head when they are sooooo compelling that you can’t focus on anything else. I understand that and it’s something I’ve had to come to terms with. Anxious thoughts will more than likely be a presence in my life for awhile. They’re like a virus. So how do you starve this virus then? How do you rid toxins from your body? You give yourself medicine, you rest, you take probiotics, you use essential oils, there are so many ways to get rid of unwanted bugs in the body. So why can’t you get rid of bug in the mind. Listen up folks cause I’m about to tell you how you can quiet those pesky thoughts.
Truth. Easy peasy lemon squeezy as that, just the Truth. But why you may ask is Truth capitalized? The same reason I capitalize Fear. The Truth is a super real force. For me the Truth is that of God and His word. However, I believe that no matter your religion, or non-religion there is a Truth out there for you to find that can help starve your anxious thoughts. It could be breathing techniques, meditation, etc. Mine is as follows: “Do not worry about anything, instead pray about everything” Philippians 4:6. Every time I am faced with a difficult situation, an anxious thought, or an intrusive thoughts I repeat this verse over and over like a mantra. I am then reminded that all I need to do is pray and my anxiety will be taken from me by my Savior. No matter what your Truth is, Fear will always be a liar. Fear is the belief that something bad will happen. Truth is the absence of Fear.
Second: Having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. After spending 16 years of my life thinking my irrational thoughts were normal and everyone got them, I proud to say I’m not normal and yes I have irrational thoughts. Not everyone will be supportive of your mental illness journey. I still face those who tell me that I have “normal anxiety that everyone has” and I must remind myself that we each have our own journeys. Also no one will ever be able to understand the happenings inside my mind because it’s mine and only mine.
I am definitely not anxiety free yet. Last week was my first week back to college after winter break and the night before was spent in tears hyperventilating because I was terrified of returning. Now, having finished that week I can look back and realize how silly that was, but at the time the Fear was so real. Anxiety and OCD aren’t simple. This is a journey I am pushing forward in and am doing so unashamed of the way I was made. For anyone struggling with similar mental illnesses, talk to someone! If you have congratulations, you’ve taken the first step in your journey and I am so proud of you! Now find your Truth and embrace your imperfectness!