There isn’t a day I don’t feel anxiety to a varying degree. It could be a whisper of existence while I walk into a store or a loud thunder when I have to drive somewhere out of my comfort zone. It could be a breeze like flutter that blows by when I have walk into work from the parking lot or can be a crashing wave when I’m home all alone with my thoughts.
My anxiety is like two opposites.
I have days where the light, sunshine and warmth radiate happiness and I can live with the low level static noise of anxiety. On those days I just might feel a flutter of butterflies in my stomach if I have to make a phone call. It doesn’t really affect me. I’m happy and thriving, loving life and “high-functioning.”
I have days that feel dark and lonely and full of fear. On these days I feel like I am being attacked with irrational thoughts and fears. I just do my best to get through each day one thought at a time. Often during these times, I am staying close to home, spending longer times meditating, reading and doing what I can to get through. I’m talking to people in the Mighty Community and trying to just keep my head above water.
What I always try to remember during those days is “this too shall pass.”
Living and thriving with anxiety is just something I have gotten used to. It is part of who I am.
It has helped me be compassionate and caring to others who have anxiety. It helped me to be supportive and encouraging while I was a counselor. It continues to allow me to offer insight and awareness to others trying to understand what it’s like.
It has brought me valuable meaningful friendships with others who “just get it.”
I can’t tell you how many times I am able to recognize the silent symptoms of anxiety. I understand the language of fidgeting, hair twirling, feet tapping, avoidance of eye contact many people with anxiety get. We have a silent language people with anxiety learn.
This knowledge is a gift. I never used to feel this way, but anxiety has made me a kinder person. It has allowed me to take my experiences of the hardest days I have survived and be a cheerleader for those feeling hopeless.
I trust others who have lived through similar experiences more than someone who just tries to understand from reading a few books or taking a few courses. There is much to be said for the phrases “I understand” and “I know what it’s like.” They offer a deep sense of relief.
I never used to talk about or share my days of struggle. Then one day I was drowning in my own despair and a kind stranger from the online Mighty Community threw me a life raft when I spoke about my pain. They said things like “me too” and “I know how you feel” and “you will get through this.” I believed them because they opened up and shared similar thoughts, feelings and stories of survival. It gave me hope.
In this moment, I realized the value and importance of not just shining bright on your good days, but letting yourself be vulnerable enough to be seen on your bad days.
I can now throw this life raft to many others on days people feel they are drowning.
Together we get through this. When I’m well, I am source of strength for others and when I am struggling, I look to others to hold me up.
This is the Mighty Community.
It’s what we do. It’s how we are able to face our mental illness without shame and gives us an opportunity to pay forward the support we have be given.
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