I’ve battled anxiety for almost as long as I can remember. I’m in my early thirties now, and I distinctly remember being anxious shortly prior to middle school – so for the majority of my time living so far…I’ve been anxious.
That really sucks to say. Even as someone who blogs and talks about anxiety non stop – I feel a sense of embarrassment when I talk about how long I’ve been battling this nonsense. If my twelve-year-old self was to see me now, I can’t help but think that she’d be disappointed in me.
Sure, I’ve overcome a lot in the last few years – but when I think about the life I could be living if it wasn’t for my anxiety, I easily and quickly slip down the slide into depression. I never thought I would be so defined by my anxiety…but here we are.
I’d like to think I’m more than my anxiety – but every single part of my life is touched by it. Does that mean I’m not functional? Of course not; I’m functioning semi-normally like everyone else (and I mean, covid has really leveled the playing field, now that the majority of those around us are also battling anxiety). But it does mean that my life feels tainted by this dark cloud that despite years of work and effort still hangs over my head.
“You’re more than your anxiety,” I hear the encouraging friend over my shoulder say. But am I? What do I do that doesn’t make me anxious? What part of life doesn’t induce anxiety? I continue to take medication for my anxiety, but even that jumpstarts the vicious cycle of overthinking that accompanies my anxiety. “Will I be on medication forever? What are the side effects of that? Am I damaging my body by being on meds this long? What a disappointment I’d be to my younger self if she knew I was still on medication.”
In an effort to not make this blog post a total downer, let’s play devil’s advocate with ourselves, shall we?
What if I didn’t go on medication. What would my life look like if I was battling anxiety off medicine? Well, let’s think back to three years ago when my panic attacks were happening so frequently and so intensely that I couldn’t leave my house. Would my kids be playing soccer right now? Well, probably not – my husband’s work schedule is unpredictable, so there are inevitably times where I’m required to tote the kids around if they’re needed anywhere.
If I wasn’t on medication, would I be able to do my job as efficiently? Looking at the nature of my job (which is naturally, let’s just say…very anxiety inducing) – probably not. I probably would not have been able to accept this transfer back in January, and if I did – at the very least – it could have triggered my panic attacks again.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I do love writing. But lately I’ve also been very fulfilled with my school studies, now that I’ve begun my Master’s degree working towards a licensure in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. If I never had that first anxiety attack, if I never had that first panic attack, if I never took myself to counseling, did the work, experienced the help and the progress that my counselors assisted in…would I have been as drawn to counseling? Would I be sitting where I am now, relating and encouraging clients who struggle with the same issues? Lord, I do hope that this is the one thing that makes it all worth it.
The process of acceptance is hard. I’m clearly not there yet. I don’t want to accept the fact that this may be something I struggle with forever (cause geez, forever is a stinking long time). When I think about forever all at once, it seems depressing and impossible. But when I look back on the progress that has been made – slowly and consistently over time – I feel a glimmer of hope. And I hope you do too. I hope you can look at your life and see the progress you’ve made. And better yet, if you feel like you haven’t made progress, or haven’t made “enough” progress, I hope this encourages you to keep working – because progress is absolutely possible (but it does take time – don’t rush the process).
I guess the moral of the story is that yea, there is more to me than my anxiety – but my anxiety does make up a lot of who I am. And maybe that’s ok – because that anxious person is still capable, and is using her anxiety to help other people. And maybe that’s enough.