couple holding hands on beach

Love of my life,

I envy your ability to socialize. I am jealous of how you can walk into a crowded room and immediately make a friend. I’m jealous of how you are able to walk up to a random person and start a conversation. Or how you can walk up and confidently shake a stranger’s hand. I am amazed by the countless amount of friends you have and how you know someone everywhere we go. You are like a social magnet, someone who everyone likes on their first meeting.

I wish I had your ability to work nine hours a day and still want to go out at the end of it and get a drink or two. Or your ability not to need any time to relax or reflect on your day. I am jealous of how you can run on so little sleep and still function throughout your day. I wish I could act like a “normal” young adult like you do, but I can’t.

I wish you understood the pit in my stomach every time I go out with you. I wish you would understand why I am quiet when we are around your friends. It’s not because I don’t like them, it’s just my fear of being judged for saying something wrong. I wish you understood why I broke down when you told me I might have to walk into a wedding by myself. I wish you understood why the smallest thing can spike a panic attack or why one minute I’m smiling and the next I’m fidgeting and biting my nails.

I wish you wouldn’t ask me why I woke up anxious, because I don’t know the answer to this question. I wish you understood there is no reason why I woke up with my heart racing and the empty nauseous feeling in my stomach. I wish you realized the smallest comment can cause a panic attack after a hard week of holding my anxiety in. I wish I enjoyed going out, making new friends and staying out late, but I don’t. I wish you wouldn’t tell me to “just close your eyes” when I can’t fall asleep. I wish you understood that one-on-one conversations with strangers horrify me. I wish you could understand these things but I know you try your best.

I don’t know why I sit at my own family events nervous about where I am. I wish I knew why I can’t eat much at a restaurant or eat in front of your family. Or how the simplest days can make me exhausted. I wish I didn’t think every person we meet is secretly judging me, when I know they actually aren’t. I wish I knew why I can’t eat before we go anywhere. I wish I could give you the answers to these questions.

It’s hard for me to keep up with the few friends I have and I know you secretly think I need more friends. But I am happier this way with the few friends I call my second family. I know it seems like I’m overreacting over my nervousness of presenting a project when it haunts me for days. I know you get annoyed when I tell you I passed with flying colors when you say, “You worry too much.” I know it seems crazy when I worry about a new job for a week straight, but it is just the way I am. I know it is hard for you to understand.

I know you tell me every day there isn’t anything wrong with me. You tell me I’m not crazy, but there are days I don’t believe that.

I hope you don’t find me clingy. I hope it isn’t too much when I miss you the second I leave your side. I hope you don’t find it annoying when I can’t go places without you. I hope it doesn’t seem crazy when I cry after being apart for only one day. But I have never had someone like you before, someone who can make me feel so safe.

I know life won’t be easy together. I know my life will always involve overthinking and stressing over the little things. I know when I graduate college and start working full-time, it won’t be an easy process. I realize many achievements in our lives will be scary for me, but I am thankful I will have you by my side.

I am sorry for the nights I do not speak. I know you think I am mad at you when I’m not talking to you. But I promise I am not mad at you. It is my way of processing my day. I am sorry for the times I randomly start crying while watching television. I tell you I’m overthinking but you always blame yourself. It is never your fault, just my anxiety.

I hope I do not cause you worry. I know how much you care about me, but I don’t always want to be a concern on your mind. I hope you never find me to be a burden, I know I can be a lot to handle. You tell me to stop worrying about your problems, but this is not possible. Your problems are my problems.

Thank you for being my shoulder to cry on. Thank you for holding me through my panic attacks. I know it scares you when I’m lying helpless, unable to breathe. Thank you for missing out on things for me because I know it bothers you. Thank you for trying your best to understand me. Thank you for trying to help me, instead of trying to change me. Thank you for pushing me forward because you know my full potential. Thank you for realizing how hard I work. Thank you for being the one person I’m truly comfortable with. I know I can always act like myself around you. Thank you for always believing in me. Thank you for being my best friend and most importantly thank you for loving me for who I am.


The love of your life with anxiety

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I often feel like a burden to those I love because of my anxiety. I struggle in asking for accommodations to be made on my behalf because I feel like I am inconveniencing someone. It can be difficult for me to reach out to my friends because I fear the anticipatory anxiety that accrues prior to us spending time together, causing me to consider canceling our plans. I would never want my friends to think they are triggering my anxiety. It is the action of going to public places, especially crowded ones, that makes me nervous.
As much as I yearn for profound human connection, I simultaneously fear it. I am afraid of being judged and criticized. When I am in public, I carry with me a constant worry of being watched even though I know the people surrounding me are busy with their own days. Thus, at the end of a day, I often feel drained of energy, both mentally and emotionally, because I’ve had to build up a sense of courage for each commitment.
Even though I sometimes experience setbacks, I view each day as a new and bright opportunity to take another step in managing my anxiety so I can live comfortably with it. I acknowledge that my anxiety will always be a part of me, but that’s just it. It’s only a part! My anxiety is not all that I am. I used to feel shameful about my anxiety because it makes me self-conscious. Over time, I have grown to accept my anxiety because it contributes to who I am, yet it doesn’t make me who I am. I ultimately decide that. Also, I aspire to instill a sense of hope within others who are dealing with anxiety or other mental health struggles, for there is always a silver lining, even if it only begins as a dim glimmer.
For instance, my dear family and friends accept me for who I am, for all that I am, including my anxiety. They do not judge me. They remind me I am a gift, not a burden. It truly is a blessing to be reminded that you are loved and that you are lovable. My anxiety causes me to view myself in a self-deprecating manner. Yet, when I look at myself through the eyes of my support team, I see a different “me.” I see my value and my purpose. I firmly believe that if you accept, believe in, love, and embrace who you are, you will be able to do anything! Remember, you are a gift, and you have so much to share with this world!

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I grew up with fairy tales. Not the Grimm Brothers, but the Disney fairy tale princesses. The delicate, gentle soul who is waiting for her prince to save her. I was lucky to be born into an era where the feminist movement is strong. Little girls don’t need saving. We are not damsels in distress.

What if the princess were to save herself? What if the hero we needed was inside of us all along?

Even so, we’re not taught about vulnerabilities. We’re only shown heroes and heroines showing courage, unparalleled strength and the ability to overcome adversity. We aren’t shown vulnerabilities or the struggles that come along with asking for help.

I was brought up in a household where I was taught weaknesses must be defeated, hidden and buried deep. You can’t be perceived as weak, especially as a woman. What’s that saying? You have to work twice as hard to get half as much? You can’t show weakness because that is when people will come take advantage of your situation.

My family, my entire extended family, is full of alpha males and females. We are not to accept defeat, and we are not to show any weakness. If you need to cry, then do it behind closed doors. If you’re nervous, then find a way to get over it because you need to do it anyways.

I first developed or rather first became aware of my anxiety when I was in my initial year of university. Along with the stresses, the massive life changes and added responsibility, I felt scared and out of control. I found refuge in controlling my eating, in alcohol consumption and in mindless shopping splurges. I was no longer at the top of my class, nor was I the smartest one in the room. There were better, smarter, more well-adjusted people all around me. I felt small and insignificant, and as classes got harder, I felt like a failure.

The worst part was I didn’t have anybody to talk to. My friends were going through their own stresses. My sister was too young. My cousins didn’t understand. A lot of them didn’t even believe in mental health. I didn’t know how to seek help nor did I want to talk about my struggles because I didn’t want to seem weak.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned it’s the complete opposite. It takes strength to ask for help. It takes courage to show vulnerability. The ultimate act of courage: being open and vocal about your needs, fully knowing others might tease and ridicule but doing it anyways

I don’t think vulnerabilities are weaknesses. I think it’s the first step to growth. Being vulnerable means being self-aware. It means being aware of where you are, how you feel and being honest with yourself. Asking for help is the ultimate form of strength because it shows maturity, trust and honesty with yourself.

“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” –- Tyrion Lannister

Vulnerability and insecurity are common and normal. This act of courage should not be taken lightly. Whether through friendly conversation or seeking professional help, it must be commended.

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I am far from being a morning person. If I could, I would sleep till late afternoon so I didn’t have to face them. I know I can’t, so I drag myself out of bed and get myself to work. Some mornings are tougher than others. Some days, the anxiety has my stomach in such a tight vice I cant move.

I think many will agree that mornings aren’t fun, but this can be exacerbated for someone with anxiety. My bed turns into a safe zone. Tucked away beneath my covers, the world is only a hazy reality. I know it’s out there, but my worries seem slightly more manageable from the safety of my bed.

I forgot for a while what that felt like. I thought somehow I had escaped waking up to the anxiety-driven dread that makes it near impossible for me to get out of bed. I woke up this morning feeling that way. Anxiety and depression never fully go away, I’ve discovered. Sometimes, things happen in life that can make it come back; sometimes it may show up for no reason.

The best thing I can do on those mornings I can barely get out of bed is to face my fears and take those first few steps out of bed. It’s terrifying, but I’ve found somehow once you get out and face the world, you can realize it’s not as bad as you thought it might be. I can do it, we can do it, and it’s going to be OK. I promise.

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“I was busy; but not in a way most people understand.

I was busy taking deeper breaths.

I was busy silencing irrational thoughts.

I was busy calming a racing heart.

I was busy telling myself I am OK.

Sometimes, this is my busy — and I will not apologize for it.”

— b. oakman, “Anxiety Doesn’t Knock First”

So, today I was”busy.” Most every day, I am “busy.” I’m really not sure why this has to happen at the most inappropriate times. All I know is I feel very sad and very lonely. I often say to myself, “How do you feel lonely, Kelly? You have five children, a boyfriend, and a mother and sister who text or call a million times a day.” I try telling myself I’m not alone, but it doesn’t work; the loneliness just intensifies. I am lucky in the sense that I understand what is happening, and I try reaching out for help from anyone I can at that particular time. Today, I tried reaching out, only there was nobody available.

I went out hoping it would calm me, but it didn’t. I had no other choice but to reach out, so I parked the truck and tried contacting friends and family. All I need is someone to talk with, to tell me everything will be fine and I’m safe — just someone to remind me I’m OK. As I started texting in hopes of reaching someone, everyone was busy with their own day-to-day lives, which is completely understandable. I don’t often say when my anxiety has taken control of me, because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone.

After trying to calm myself for an extended period of time, my sister finally called and managed to somewhat calm me. It seems my sister is the one person who can calm me. I am and will be eternally grateful to her, but I feel like such a burden. She has her own life, and then I call and she drops everything to help me. I feel like I probably cause her anxiety, and I’m so sorry for that. I feel like a burden to so many. I feel like people say, “Oh gosh, it’s her again; it’s always her. Does she think everything revolves around her?” I wish I could handle the anxiety and depression on my own; god knows I have tried, but I can’t. I don’t believe it makes me weak. It takes a lot of energy to go through an episode; it mentally and physically takes everything out of me. Once these episodes pass, it can take a day or two to recover. I am usually exhausted and have feelings of guilt for days. Add to that five children and an infant who is still not sleeping through the night, and I am yearning for sleep.

I never know when these episodes will happen. It seems things just build up inside and decide to explode when I least expect it. It’s the calming down that’s the hardest for me. With Christmas last month, I struggled a little harder. I struggled to pay my bills. I struggled to buy Christmas gifts, I struggled with not being with four of my children at Christmas (for the first time in their lives, which was 11 years). I struggled with my family being separated at the one time of year when I feel families are supposed to be together. I’ve had to struggle with emails from my lawyer’s company wondering when I’m going to make a payment. I struggled with the fear of my cancer returning and reliving those days over and over in my head. I could list the struggles for days, but where does that get me? It gets to a place of being “busy,” and “busy” is not where I want to be. I long for the day that anxiety and depression are no longer a part of my life!

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A version of this post originally appeared on myunexpectedjourney2016.

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