Double exposure of beautiful girl and autumn landscape

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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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

I’ve always, always been anxious. My whole 22 years on this Earth have gone by in between fantasies of possible catastrophes and nail bitting. With that being said, it’s clear why I don’t like planes that much. I adore traveling and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many places, but that involved (for obvious reasons) getting on an airplane after hours and days of struggling with that. Because the mere idea of flying wakes up millions of scenarios in which my anxiety convinces me I’m going to die tragically in a plane accident. I know the statistics, I’ve seen them; I know I’m safer in a plane than in a car. But still, it’s a risk. It represents danger, therefore my mind will take this and explore all the possible things that could go wrong.

I’m used to that. But thanks to a major depressive episode, I’ve never been as suicidal as I’ve been in this ultimate stage of my life. So when I went to my psychiatrist’s office and he asked me, “How are you feeling towards your upcoming trip?” I found myself confronted with a whole new universe.

I’m leaving to Europe for a couple of days next week. And as amazing as that is, that means being on an airplane for over nine hours. Panic rises. For a whole week now, I’ve been imagining how many things could possibly go wrong in the flight and how many ways I can possibly die. Thanks, anxiety, for those vivid catastrophes playing over and over in my mind. Anyone with anxiety can probably understand how this causes me numerous panic attacks, nausea and profound fear, and basically my only wish is to cancel the trip and hide in my bed until I feel safe.

Interestingly, though, I’m also suicidal. Therefore, the idea of tragically dying in the middle of the ocean by a plane crash doesn’t sound so bad. It’s like the suicidal me is feasting on my anxieties and panic-attack-inducing, catastrophic imaginings. This is new. I feel like I’m a walking contradiction.

So the only thing I could tell my psychiatrist, laughing from the confusion, was, “I’m terrified of dying in the plane, and I also want it so bad.” Because that’s how it is. It makes absolutely no sense, as I’ve found with many things in the mental health world. And I feel like my brain and energy are being torn apart between two opposite poles: the one that, with absolute fear and panic, feels in jeopardy and wants to preserve my life — and the one that thinks it’s all too much and would like to push an “exit game” button.

I’m writing this not because I have an answer or a solution or an idea on how to deal with this irony. I do it because there’s so much literature on the relationship between depression and anxiety, but I’ve found little on suicidal tendencies due to depression and the relationship of this symptom with anxiety and its own baggage. And the reality is it can be exhausting to be living this irony. I’ve found it’s one of the many “perks” of battling anxiety and depression at a time.

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If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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