Anxiety feels like a constant war being fought in my mind. It affects every part of my life, both physically and mentally. My brain is consumed with negative thoughts about myself and it’s a battle to fight through each of them. Here are the most common ones:
My girls have seen me cry, they’ve seen me have panic attacks and they have sometimes (OK, a lot of times) been on the receiving end of my anger that often comes out when I’m extremely anxious or stressed. Cue the mom guilt. My brain tries to convince me I’m doing permanent damage to them. Surely, I will be the reason they need therapy later. When I truly start to question this, I remind myself that yes, they’ve seen their mom cry, scream and fight some intense panic attacks. However, because of those struggles, something really good has come from it: they have a mom who understands mental health. Who will be there for them 100% should they ever face something like this, and who will try to be an example to them by helping other people around me who are struggling.
I have this huge worry that my anxiety makes other people around me anxious and because of that, it makes me feel like people must not want to be around me. Who would want to be around someone that makes them uncomfortable? Even as I type that, I know how untrue it is. I feel incredibly lucky to have an amazing family and a strong support system who remind me how much they love me for me. It’s about finding that support system and weeding out the people who bring you down. Most importantly, I’m learning how important it is to love myself. I’ve heard that for a while now, but never really understood its importance. I can’t rely on other people for self-love and I believe it all starts here in some way. I have a long way to go, but I know how important it is to stay on this journey and continue to move forward. My daughters are my greatest motivation. I want nothing more than for them to love and respect themselves, so it’s important for me to lead by example.
I often stop and think about all the things I’m grateful for. I used to be really good about practicing this, practicing gratitude I guess. However, before it didn’t really feel like “practicing.” I was just genuinely grateful for everything I had. I didn’t question anything. However, since struggling with anxiety and panic disorder, I question why I have those things. Mental illness can make you feel like you’re not worth love or nice things because you feel like you’re a burden to people, like you’re not deserving because of them. I also question why certain people choose to be in my life. I can start to believe all the negative thoughts about myself to the point that I question all my relationships. In my better moments though, I want to scream at myself, “Screw that! You deserve what you have just as much as the next person. You have worked your butt off so just try to be grateful and stop questioning it.” Ha, if only it were that easy, right? I do genuinely believe that, though. I just have to remind my brain every so often. I worked hard to get here and I’m trying to practice celebrating it, instead of questioning it.
This one really messes with me since I write and share my story publicly. I can’t tell you how many times I have rewritten a blog post or an Instagram caption over and over, only to end up convincing myself not to share anything altogether. How could anyone truly care about what I have to say? Why even put it out there? What makes me so important? Why do I think what I have to say is of any value? Maybe I should just stop sharing my story, even though I feel so passionate about it. I hear these lies a lot. Thankfully, I don’t usually give in to them. The other side of my brain knows how much sharing my story might help someone else, and I’m on a mission to make sure other people struggling know they’re not alone.
Oh yeah, this one’s fun…I should start by saying I do have some deep, underlying issues regarding my confidence (or lack thereof). I believe they come from things that happened in my childhood, but my anxiety doesn’t help the problem. Lately, if I feel anyone is looking at me, I become consumed with thoughts about why. What’s wrong with me? Do I look funny? Is there something wrong with my clothes or something on my face? I’m working hard on this one and it goes back to learning how to love myself. I’m a work in progress, and that’s OK.
It’s extremely common for people with anxiety to also be considered perfectionists. We are constantly striving to be this “perfect” version of ourselves, to be liked by everyone and to always be the best. Unfortunately, many people who strive for perfection often succumb to a downside of this trait: setting standards that are extremely high and almost impossible to achieve. This unrealistic bar sets a person up for failure, disappointment and negative self-evaluation. Because of this, it’s hard to ever feel like I’ve done a good job at anything. You can read more about anxiety and perfectionism in this awesome post by Katharina Star or check out my blog.
And I don’t mean “going crazy” the way people say it when they’re stressed or overwhelmed. My anxiety makes me seriously question my sanity, especially during my panic attacks. When you’re experiencing a panic attack, your body enters flight-or-flight mode when there’s no real danger. It’s an extremely physical experience and it truly makes you feel like you’re losing your mind, because a part of your brain still understands there is no danger. For me (and for many), panic attacks can show up out of the blue. These are particularly hard to understand. One memorable one started when I was just watching TV on the couch with my husband. My body started to shake, similar to the chills. Then, it became harder and harder to breathe until, bam! A full-blown panic attack happened. I ended up on the kitchen floor in a ball, with my arms wrapped around my legs. This happens often. I think it’s a way of self-soothing. My body wants to run away and literally escape from wherever I am, and sometimes forcing myself to sit down is the only way to help. However, I always come back to my favorite quote, “this too shall pass.” When I’m having a panic attack or a particularly bad day, I remind myself that it won’t last forever. My panic attacks always end. The day always goes on and I am always OK.
I get extremely anxious in situations like when a server brings you something different than what you ordered. I also have an incredibly hard time asking for things I may want or need. I’m overly concerned about bothering the other person and I worry way too much about what they will think of me.
My ultimate fear is that somehow my brain and my constant battle with mental illnesses will drive my family away. This lie is a painful one because it feels so real. I still struggle with my mental health and unfortunately, my family and those closest to me are most affected by it. They are the ones here when I’m screaming because I’m so frustrated or angry at myself or at a certain situation. They’re the ones who see me struggle to breathe and run out of the room. They’re the ones who are affected when we can’t go somewhere because of “Mommy’s anxiety.” It sucks, there’s no tip-toeing around it. This lie hurts. However, what helps me with this is talking to my family. I am extremely open with my husband and my oldest daughter, even though she is still very little. I keep it light, but I also want my daughter to know it’s not her. I feel it’s important for her to know her Mommy is fighting something inside that no one can see, but what matters most is that I will be OK and I won’t give up this fight.
I know in my core how false this is, I really do. Yet, this lie still likes to make an appearance every so often. When you’re in a particularly dark place, it can be hard to feel strong. It’s not usually the word that comes to mind when I describe myself in those moments. However, the longer you live through each anxious situation, each day you were severely depressed, each panic attack, each manic or depressive episode — it’s another day you made it through something more difficult than most people can understand. That, in my opinion, makes people who struggle with mental illness extremely strong. We fight battles every day people can’t see.
Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on this! What lies does your anxiety tell you?