I’ve been struggling recently. As much as I try to deny it and ignore it, I’m having a hard time. As someone who has dealt with cyclothymia, post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety for years, this is nothing new. But it is difficult. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t.

Recently, my days have been getting longer and my thoughts have been getting darker. I have stress dreams which cause my sleep to be interrupted nearly every night. Some days my depressive and anxious symptoms keep me confined to my bed. Some days my thoughts wonder places I wish they’d never go.

The difference between where I am now and where I used to be is that now, I am actively working to recover. I want to get better. I want to graduate from college and fulfill the goals I have because I know I can. I focus on my recovery and take the steps needed to maintain progress. Even when the things happening in my mind seem unbearable, I know they will pass. I know I’ll have good days so long as I continue to move forward. I know I can get better because I have seen it happen.

To anyone who still struggles, even in recovery: you are doing a great job. You are still here, and that itself means you have survived the thick of it. We will get through this because we have the will and the drive to recover. There will be dark days, but those days will never blot out the sunshine from the bright ones.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a love letter to another person with your disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To the figure that haunts my life,

What did I do wrong? What did I do to make you haunt me? Did I do something to deserve your attention? Your evil? You cost me the job I loved, my friendships, my goals and aspirations for the future. I can feel you there all the time. Standing in the corner of the room watching me, waiting. Waiting for me to have a thought or feeling you can latch onto.

You tell me such terrible things. Awful lies that you make me believe. You tell me my headache is a brain tumor. That my palpitations are going to kill me. That I’m going to drop down dead. You’ve convinced me I’m dying at the age of 24. That one day my mom will come home and find me on the floor, or in bed, never to wake up. You tell me not to go out because I will die. You give me every symptom you can to make me as weak as possible. You tell me not to get out of bed. I can hear your voice in my ear. If I get up, I will pass out. If I eat, I will be sick. You tell me I’m not as good as my siblings. That I’ll never be successful. That this is it now. This is my life. Over. I am doomed forever to move between my bed and the couch, snapping at the people I love and feeling constantly ill. For the last year, you have attacked every part of my life.

But you are just like any other monster. You can be defeated. Every time I laugh, go out or achieve something new, I’m pushing you back. Every time I push, you push me. Trying to set me back, you sometimes manage to send me to my spot on the couch, or back to the doctors. But you will never take my dreams away. You will never take my family or my sense of humor. I will always be able to fall into the world of books and TV, forgetting you exist if only for a moment.

But most importantly of all: I am not fighting you alone. Every person you assault is fighting back against you. We are forming an army. When you hurt one of us, you hurt all of us. We are warriors. We are picking up our swords and shields and holding you off. You will not win. You will not beat us. I say this to you anxiety monster: We are coming for you.


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates around 18 percent of the population is affected by them. Odds are you know at least a few people living with anxiety, and you’ve probably dated someone affected by it, too. But do you know how to help them, and more importantly, what to say or do when they need your support most?

We asked our mental health community what they’d like to hear from their significant other when dealing with anxiety.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I love you. It’s all going to be OK.” — Aunt Sam

I love you heart

2. “How can I help?” — Gladys Ramos Diaz

Blank blackboard / chalkboard, hand writing

3. “Your illness doesn’t affect how I feel about you.” — Erica Enos

affect

4. “I wish I could do something to help.” — Berdie Howell Muirhead

5. “You are safe.” — Rosanna Lewandowski

6. “Don’t worry, I got this…” — Donna B Primeaux

7. “I understand you’re not ‘crazy!’” — Debra Klimowich Buffi

8. “’I’m here.’ Not much has to be said. Knowing someone has your back is priceless.” — Cailea Hiller

hand coffee background couple

9. “My husband ignores my unfounded, fearful worries, says something funny, and suggests we go out and do something fun. Works for us.” — Elise Burnham

10. “Keep it simple… Anxiety is overwhelming enough.” — Lee Lewis

11. “C’mon grab my hand, we got this together.” — Amanda Camara

12. “I may not always understand what you’re feeling or why, but I am here if you need me.” — Amanda Antonini

Couple in Love Sitting on the Bench

13. “Just let me know what you want to do and we’ll do it.” — Candace Seekford

14. “Say nothing. Get comfortable cuddling, relaxing, rubbing the temples or whatever. When you have anxiety, you need to feel safe, protected and loved through presence.” — Traci Chandler

15. “This isn’t something you have to endure alone. Your chaos is my chaos and together we can ride it out.” — Asia Brito

Red abstract blurred heart shape on frozen window

16. “‘It’s OK, take some time to yourself, I got the kids’ is sometimes the best thing he can say.” — Shannon Trevino

17. “’Breathe. It’s OK. I’m here. Take deep breaths.’ It helps when he plays with my hair or rubs my back.” — Brittany Thornton Ferrell

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

*Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity

Images courtesy of ThinkStock


Here are five things I’ve learned to do more of as a mom who lives with anxiety:

1. Be honest with the people who matter.

Although many times my anxiety coincides with stressful situations in life, there are equally as many (or more) times there’s a disconnect between how I’m feeling and what’s going on. I’ve found it helpful to be honest when friends or family ask me how I’m doing. I’ve explained that even when our lives are relatively low-stress, I can still have a hard time managing my anxiety. More often than not, it opens up a great dialogue and lets me highlight an often misunderstood aspect of my disorder.

2. Be kind to your anxiety.

I always remind my kids that although you don’t have to like everyone you meet, you do always have to try to be nice. Truth is, I would’ve benefited from using a bit of that wisdom sooner when it came to my anxiety. I’ve spent a long time separating myself from my disorder and being cruel to it. Harsh thoughts grounded in judgment and detachment were littered throughout my most challenging times. What I really needed to do was be more tolerant and patient with not only my anxiety, but with myself. I don’t like my anxiety disorder, but I’m trying to treat it a little better now that I’m a mother. With my children always at the forefront of my mind, I’ve changed my inner and outer dialogue to be softer and more loving in my darkest moments. I want to be a strong role model of self-acceptance for my kids, and what better way than with something I struggle with every single day. 

3. Don’t get caught up if people don’t understand what you’re going through.

The truth is, not everyone is going to understand how you’re feeling. It can be overwhelmingly isolating to dwell on points of separation — it’s much more helpful to accept any empathetic feelings that are sent you way. I’ve found that although the depths of my emotions can be undoubtably different than my loves ones, I’m still grateful they’re trying to connect with me.

4. Stop apologizing.

They say a great way to measure your depth of understanding of a given concept is to explain it simply and effectively to another person. I’ve found that sharing the truths of my life with my husband, especially on the topic of my anxiety disorder, has given us both the opportunity to better support each other. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a spouse or an acquittance with whom you feel a connection, instead of apologizing, explain how your anxiety works. It will deepen your relationship and empower you both to work together to better manage a disorder that can often times be far too much to face alone. 

5. Be as open as possible with your children.

As a woman and now as a mother, I’ve been taught that no matter how I’m feeling on the inside, I’m expected to keep a cheery and stable disposition on the outside, especially around my kids. I’ve spent a long time considering this widely accepted notion, and have since adopted a new mindset about how truthful to be with my immediate family and children. If I’m going to advocate for the destigmatization of mental health, it has to start at home. With age-appropriate terminology, conceptual language that speaks to their developmental stage and an open mind, I’ve found my children’s ability to understand and accept the challenges of others have expanded exponentially when I’m open about my challenges.

I feel proud to be a mother who is living with, and actively using, my challenges to teach my children about anxiety disorders. I hope that with my help, they’ll have the tools to not only to be more empathetic and supportive of others who may face similar challenges, but they’ll also be better equipped to identify mental health issues within themselves and, without any fear or shame, seek help.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Even though my diagnosis of anxiety and panic disorder didn’t come until my 20s, I firmly believe I’ve been dealing with an anxiety disorder most of my life. However, until I graduated from college and began working jobs, I never understood how big of a hurdle my anxiety would be in the workplace.

Work is a stressful place for many. According to an article in The Atlantic, workplace stress among employees in America can often lead to health problems like cardiovascular disease and other fatal conditions. A report from the American Psychological Association found that in 2014, 60 percent of surveyed, employed Americans cited “work” as their top stressor.

And that’s not focusing on a group of people with already existing mental illnesses like anxiety or depression — that’s just your average American.

I love my job. I really do — I have an awesome team, an inspiring mentor and I work somewhere that has a mission I believe in whole-heartedly. I enjoy the office, the culture and the community we work in. But work is either #1 or #2 (depending on the day) on my list of “things that induce panic attacks.”

This isn’t solely the fault of my job’s demands — I’m a perfectionist at heart and a very driven-to-prove-myself kind of person. Working long days with tight deadlines and critical work would stress anyone out — but for someone with anxiety, there’s a level of stress that goes beyond that.

One time at the office, about five months or so into my employment, there was a situation in which I had a full-blown panic attack at work, ending with me crying in the bathroom where a very important person in the company totally saw me. The reason I was upset was no one in particular’s fault, just a typical not-so-great day at the office with a bit extra drama than usual. But I could not handle it. And I just completely broke down.

I was so embarrassed and so ashamed. I thought for sure I was done. Who keeps around a cry baby who can’t handle a rough day?

The day ended with an apology from my supervisor, reassurance of my talent and skills and me heading home early to lay in bed until the next morning. Though to most people, the day ended just fine, I could not let go of the fact that I “failed.” I’d lost my cool in the place where my cool matters most. It was, quite literally, my worst nightmare (like, pretty sure I’ve had that dream before).

From that day on, I constantly wondered if my boss thoughts I was “crazy.” I was terrified of looking anything less than put together at work — I thought my status and job security depended on it. However, these “standards” were only set by one person: me.

I hit a pretty low point a few months ago and my stress was at an all-time high. I wasn’t doing a very good job at hiding it (though I was getting better at not crying at the drop of a hat). My boss pulled me aside at one point and point blank asked me if I was OK. I wasn’t. And I told her.

I don’t recommend this to everyone — it really depends on the type of relationship you have with your supervisor, and the kind of work you do — but I sort of word-vomited all over myself and basically spilled my guts to my boss about my anxiety, my therapy, my coping mechanisms and how I wasn’t coping so well at that particular time. I didn’t go into details about my issues in my personal life, just that I generally was having a hard time, and an even harder time keeping it together at the office. And you know what? I wasn’t fired! Hallelujah!

Instead, my boss was incredibly understanding, and even shared some of her own vulnerabilities with me. It was a very touching conversation. And, going forward, I didn’t feel like I needed to hide my struggles and emotions as much in the workplace (though I still aim to keep it pretty professional as much as I can). It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, and it’s all because I was honest, not only with my boss, but also with myself. I wasn’t crazy.

Just the other day, a few months since our initial talk, my boss pulled me into her office to talk (cue internal panic). All she wanted to tell me was that she had noticed I seemed more alert in meetings and was speaking up more in discussions. She wanted to tell me that 1) she noticed and 2) she was proud of me, and hoped this meant I was feeling better.

At that moment, I swear I felt my heart swell — just like the Grinch, it grew a few sizes that day.

It was one of the most empowering, empathetic, beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced, and I think about it often. I’m not sure if she understands the profound impact it had on me, but I hope she does, because I think about it all the time.

If you struggle with a mental illness in the workplace, you are not crazy, and you should never be made to feel like you are. Being honest with yourself, and maybe your peers around you, could be enough to put your fears to rest and help ease your mind about your anxiety. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Go cry it out in the bathroom, chug some ice cold water or take the day to lay in bed, but never doubt that you are worthy of your position, and damn good at your job.

Follow this journey on Naturally Sheyna.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about the first time you reached out to someone about your mental illness. Whether it was a friend or a professional, we want to hear about why you opened up, how it went, and why you’re glad (or maybe not glad) you did it. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


 

Anxious thoughts seem to pop up at the most inopportune moments — like when you’re settling into bed, trying to fall asleep. (Really, brain? We couldn’t have had this conversation a couple of hours ago?) When this happens, we look for ways to calm those thoughts. Sometimes that means opening a book or trying a breathing meditation, and other times it means reaching for our headphones and playing our favorite soothing songs.

We asked Mighty readers on Facebook for the songs they listen to when anxiety keeps them up at night. Here’s a sampling of what they suggested. A Spotify playlist is at the end.

1. “Invincible,” Kelly Clarkson

“I can take on so much more than I had ever dreamed…”

2. “Keep Your Head Up,” Andy Grammar

“You gotta keep your head up, oh, and you can let your hair down…”

3. “Brave,” Sara Bareilles

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live. Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.”

4. “Fight Song,” Rachel Platten

“This is my fight song, take back my life song, prove I’m all right song…”

5. “Swim,” Jack’s Mannequin

“When you’re not so sure you’ll survive, you gotta swim.”

6. “Diamonds,” Johnnyswim

“We are the brave…”

7. “Chandelier,” Sia

“I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry.”

8. “Warrior,” Demi Lovato

“I’m a warrior, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been…”

9. “I Won’t Give Up,” Jason Mraz

“I am tough, I am loved…”

10. “Breathe (2 A.M.),” Anna Nalick

“Just breathe.”

11. “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver

“Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.”

12. “Three Little Birds,” Bob Marley & The Wailers

“Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing will be all right…”

13. “All Will Be Well,” The Gabe Dixon Band

“All will be well, even though sometimes this is hard to tell…”

14. “Desperado,” The Eagles

“It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you.”

15. “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan

“The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind.”

16. “Little Balloon,” Jenny & Tyler

“No one is able to steal what is in your hands.”

17. “What a Wonderful World,” performed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…”

18. “Boat Song,” JJ Heller

“If you were afraid, my darling, afraid, my darling, I’d be the courage you lack…”

19. “One Call Away,” Charlie Puth

“I’m only one call away. I’ll be there to save the day. Superman got nothing on me…”

20. “Such Great Heights,” performed by Iron & Wine

“I hope this song will guide you home.”

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

What’s your go-to song to listen to when you’re feeling anxious at night? Add it to the comments section below.

 20 Songs People Listen to When Anxiety Keeps Them Up at Night

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