woman looking at the grand canyon

Dear Me,

The sun has probably gone down and you’re laying in bed trying to shut your eyes tight and forcing yourself to go to sleep, but your mind is racing at a million miles per second. Your muscles tense up and can’t feel anything, yet somehow seem to feel everything. All the tension is then released, and it feels like your body just ran 15 laps nonstop.

You probably didn’t have much to eat all day because your appetite just all of a sudden disappeared. Even the thought of eating makes you extremely nauseous. It’s not like your friends will notice if you skip a meal or two. Soon two skipped meals turns into four which turns into eight, which turns into days with just enough to keep you barely standing during the day.

You are constantly afraid. Fear is your middle name. Too scared to leave the house, too nervous to drive a car, too frightened to be involved with everyday life. This irrational fear has taken a hold of your mind and doesn’t seem to put your thoughts in order correctly. All your “what-ifs” come into play, and everything turns for the worst in your head. It causes you not to do anything. It causes you not to be.

You don’t know how to explain what is wrong, even to your closest of friends. You want them to help, but you can’t seem to figure out how they can do so. You decide to push them away because just the idea of somebody thinking something is wrong with you causes your anxiety levels to raise. You suddenly feel self-conscious about everything. You feel like you’re not valuable enough to them, as if they will get bored or tired of dealing with your issues. You’re screaming for help on the inside, but nothing except “I’m fine” comes out of your mouth. Why? Why is it so hard to surrender?

​You wonder what it is that makes you feel this way; your not-so-perfect family, your not-so-simple heartbreak, or your not-so-ordinary failures. You don’t know how to react, you don’t know when to react. You feel too much. Enough to make you so tired and drained that you eventually don’t feel anything at all. Enough to make you feel numb.

You start to think of yourself as “crazy” — crazy enough to think you’re not worth anybody’s time, anyone’s love, anything at all.

But you’re not.

It’s OK to not be OK.

As hard as it is to believe that you are, you’re not. As you are reading this you are probably agreeing with how sane you know you actually are, but your feelings are telling you something completely different. Your constant battle with your head versus your heart is back in full-swing. It’s OK. Keep trying, keep working, keep striving towards becoming better.

But don’t let it define you. Don’t allow yourself to believe that you are anxiety. It comes. It goes. You come. You go. You live. You move on.



Follow this journey on Boldly Bee.

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This is for the people who start to write an honest Facebook status… and then delete it at the last second, afraid they would be oversharing. As much as we want to be more authentic online, it’s tempting to make our online world match how we want others to see us. This means for people with anxiety and depression, much of our inner world isn’t shared online, and is instead kept hidden.

To see what people with anxiety and depression would post on Facebook if they could post anything, we asked people in our mental health community to share brutally honest Facebook statuses. Because although we don’t have to share everything on Facebook, it’s still important to share — you may just find you’re not alone.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “People think I’m happy and outgoing and pleasant all of the time. Especially at my job. But to be honest most days I could break down and cry at any second. My anxiety makes me feel like everyone hates me and is judging me constantly. And most days I believe it with all of my heart. Most days, I feel like no one is ever going to understand.”

2. “I can’t put into words what I’m feeling. How can I explain to you how I’m feeling when I don’t even understand it myself? Pretty accurate for many of my days with anxiety and depression.”

3. “It sucks the life out of me. It makes me a person I don’t like. It makes me a bad mom. It makes me feel completely useless on this planet. I always thought I would get better. Twenty years later I’m not. I don’t believe I ever will be, and it’s a scary thought to live with.”

4. “Very simple: I hate having anxiety and depression, but what I hate the most is that family and many people don’t take it as seriously. That makes me feel lonely many times. No one seems to care, or they think it is not a big deal.”

5. “More often than not, I feel that way too. I get annoyed at me. I get frustrated with me. I get angry with me. Believe it or not,  I get tired of me, too. Tired of the anxiety. Tired of the sadness. Tired of the stress. Sometimes when I’m alone, in my dark, lonely mind, even I hate me too.”

6. “It’s very lonely to have the constant companions of depression and anxiety because only I hear the critics’ words in my brain. Both have caused me to miss out on some of my life’s most precious moments (bonding with my children, enjoying time with my spouse, having friends, just being in a moment). I feel like a failure as a mom, a wife, a friend and a human being. They turn me into a crappy friend who flakes on commitments. They stop me from reaching out to support my friends and family when they need me. Generally… life with anxiety and depression is exhausting and disappointing.”

7. “Having them both tears me apart. I worry about every little thing, from not getting out of bed to not replying to people’s texts. But then depression makes me feel so sad, tired and deflated that I don’t have the energy to do anything. It’s like a war against yourself.”

8. “Am I crazy? Is everyone looking at me? What are they saying about me? Do my clothes look all right? Maybe I need a shave? Shall I go gym? If I go gym will it be OK? What will I do? Who will be there? I can always go tomorrow! Maybe a run instead? It’s too cold for that and plus I have no headphones for music. I should be doing more than this. But you climbed a mountain last year. Yeah I did, didn’t I, why no plans for this year? Shall I plan something? Let’s plan something. But you can’t do it then, you don’t have the right equipment. I need some money. Money isn’t everything! Yeah but you only get one life, live it to the max. Be happy. Am I happy? I don’t seem happy! Sometimes I am. I need to clean the front room and wash my car. Can do it tomorrow. But you always say that! Do it today! I don’t have the energy! Get off your arse! I need to eat healthy. What is healthy? Got nothing in and I am not going shop looking like this! Will just chuck a pizza in! Pizza tastes good, but have I eaten too much? I need the gym tomorrow now definitely. God, I am tired. You won’t sleep though. I will if I try. What am I thinking that for? It makes no sense. Oh, it’s 2 a.m. I need to be up early. I need to sleep. Shall I meditate? Still thinking! Goodnight!”

9. “I’m so lonely. I can’t tell anyone how I’m actually feeling because it just makes things worse, so I lie to everyone about it. I feel so isolated and exhausted. I smile and pretend everything’s OK, when I just wish there was someone close who could listen, understand and not make me feel like I’m crazy.”

10. “I’m exhausted! And no I don’t need sleep. I’m emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. And it’s the same thing day in and day out. Just some days, I’m better at hiding it.”

11. “I may seem like I have it together, but I don’t. Inside I’m in a million pieces and I’m trying to glue them together, but my anxiety and depression keeps pulling me apart over and over again.”

12. “I don’t know why I feel anxious, I can’t give you a reason or explanation. Damn, I wish I had one myself! All I know is it feels like everyone is staring at me and judging me and any second now I’m gonna get a call telling me my fiance/daughter/son/any other person I care about is injured/hurt/dead, and I can’t stop thinking about it.”

13. “I often feel so lost in my own mind that this life is no longer my reality. The thoughts in my head, the demons that strike — they are my reality. Like a wave crashing into me, I can’t breathe, the water is slowly filling my lungs and I’m so afraid that I’m not going to make it out…”

14. “I’m so tired of wearing my mask in public. To the outside world, I look like I’ve got my shit together, but I’d be so embarrassed if anyone walked into my house.”

15. “Sorry if I message you too much. Sorry if I don’t message you enough. I spend all day thinking every action I take has to be the wrong one, so sometimes that means I don’t take any action. And I know that’s wrong too.”

16. “I don’t plan to get out of bed, let alone leave the house this weekend, but when you ask about my plans I can spin a good story even though it’s exhausting.”

17. “Even though I’m laughing, sometimes I’m still hurting on the inside. I keep waiting for someone to look into my eyes and see the pain, but it remains hidden behind the mask I wear. Social situations wear me down. I feel like I have two different people inside of me: one wants nothing more than to enjoy your company, and the other believes she’s not worthy of your love and would like nothing more than to hide under the covers and sleep all day.”

18. “Behind my smile is too much, and it would scare anyone who saw.”

What would you add?

Explaining anxiety disorders has gotten easier over the years, but still continues to be a difficult endeavor. Many people can’t comprehend what is happening inside of the body, let alone what shows on the outside. After six years of being diagnosed with anxiety, I often find myself avoiding explaining anxiety to family and friends. But it is out of curiosity they would want to understand, so I always tried the best I could.

Often times, my monologue went like this:

“When there is a perceived threat, adrenaline is released to prepare the body for the fight-or-flight mechanism. When you have an anxiety disorder, the body is always mentally and physically prepared to fight the stimulus. This is exhausting, because there is no actual threat or stimulus.”

I never got much further then this without the other party drifting off. I soon realized that in order for someone to understand a concept, they have to be able to relate it to themselves in some way. So I came up with an explanation using what every person has used at least once in their life: an umbrella.

Having an anxiety disorder is like always carrying around an umbrella, but not any typical umbrella. The umbrella of a person with an anxiety disorder is heavy. It has to be dragged around wherever you go. The forecast could be sunny and bright for the rest of the week, but that slight possibility of rainfall means the umbrella doesn’t leave your side. Not ever.

So while there is no threat of rain, the umbrella still has to be there. You have to carry it around work. It has to always be with you in class. You can’t concentrate on homework because the weight of the umbrella is too much to bear. You get tired of carrying the umbrella around every day.

In more severe cases of anxiety, the umbrella doesn’t just have to be carried around, but it has to be open. It has to be protecting you from the rain that may not exist. This creates a shadow, a barrier that separates you from the world. In these cases, we can become depressed. The open umbrella doesn’t allow us to experience sunlight. It is even harder to close the umbrella again, but it is a relief if and when we finally do.

The worse part of having an anxiety disorder is that the umbrella feels like it will never goes away. It can only become lighter. Medications, therapy and a support system can take some of the weight away, but never all of it.

If you are a friend or family member of someone with an anxiety disorder, remember to ask us first if and how you can help. You may try to help carry the umbrella, when we really just need to sit, rest and take a breath. Please remember that you are not useless, and we appreciate your support. Sit with us until we are ready to get back up and carry the umbrella again. When we are ready, with your help, I promise we will go further then we ever have before.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

I have wanted to write this column for a while, but it’s so hard to find the words to describe anxiety attacks. It’s even harder to write about this topic when I know that anxiety presents itself differently in everyone, brought on by different triggers that manifest in many ways. Add in that these topics are taboo in conversation. Yeah, I have anxiety about writing about anxiety, but here we go.

This is what an anxiety attack feels like for me.

I mentioned in a previous column the symptoms and feelings I had when I forgot to take my anti-anxiety medicine one morning. Some of those things included feelings of bees buzzing in my head, my mind swimming with thoughts without any clear focus. I described my body feeling like Jell-O and my head and fingers feeling miles apart as I typed. But there’s more. Inside these moments, my stomach is twisted, a cold, hard knot that seems to sit in my pelvis instead of where your stomach is supposed to sit. My hands get clammy and sweaty. My legs feel heavy. My mouth is filled with extra salvia. Every sound and every movement around me seems 10 times louder than I know it actually is. I feel trapped, even in an open space. I can feel my whole body tense up. I want to run. Sometimes I dry heave. My cheeks flush with embarrassment, even when I’m alone.

Deep down, I think I feel shameful about these attacks. Why do they have to happen to me? I don’t know, but I’ve been trying to come to terms with these experiences since they began more than a year ago, and I started seeking help about two months ago. During these moments, my thoughts are racing with my biggest fears, moving so fast I can’t hold them long enough to analyze or worry about one single thought. So, I worry about all of them, all at once. I think that’s where the real feelings of anxiety stem from — not being able to work out the solution to one problem in the moment, and having the weight of multiple feelings and worries weighing me all at once. (I pray this is making sense to someone.) There’s no reason why my anxiety attacks happen when they do. Yes, I can identify a list of triggers, and I think, as I assume most people do, the things I have anxiety about are realistic. Again, that’s the problem and the reason why I think people like me struggle to deal with anxiety. It’s realistic to worry about how you might pay your bills at the end of the month; it is not realistic to worry about being eaten by a tiger if you don’t live near a zoo. But some people do worry about the tiger; their experience is valid, too. We all are valid. Your fears are valid. There is no worse feeling than feeling trapped within yourself, within your mind. If you’re struggling, I am here for you, and I wish you courage, strength and luck in getting well. Never be afraid to get help. There are resources out there. Click here for a hotline you can text for help. I love you.

This post originally appeared on Cerebral Palsy News Today.

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Thinkstock photo by eggeeggjiew

People will say, “just make him go.” And, “Let him know school isn’t a choice.” And, “He’ll get over it.” Maybe those words would help… if my child on the autism spectrum didn’t have anxiety and depression.

When your child is having a panic attack at the thought of going to school, “just make him go” doesn’t really apply.

When this happens on a daily basis, “just make him go” doesn’t really apply.

And when you do eventually every single day get him to school, “just make him go” doesn’t really apply.

Instead it is reminding your child to slow down. Reminding him of the friends he will see that day. Asking him what he is afraid of. What is behind all that anxiety. And hoping today he will have the words to tell you.

Because often the anxiety is just a wordless, nameless “I just can’t face it” feeling.

And behind it all?

You know that once he is at school he does well. He has supportive teachers who just love him and care for him and will give him the space he needs when he needs it. Who meet him where he is at and don’t pressure him to be someone he isn’t. Who understand his anxiety and depression and ASD and work with him and give him loads of support.  And who report all the great things he did each day, all the smiles, and friendships, and fun.

Slowly, with hugs and reassurance that he will be OK, my son gets ready for school. We discuss bringing a stuffie from home in his backpack for reassurance as he gets dressed. His body slowly relaxes. His face shifts from fear to calm. We pack things up for school, put on shoes and jacket, get into the car.

Another brief moment of anxiety: “Idon’twanttogo. I don’t want to go.”

Reminding him that the day is short and then it will be over. Going through the routine of the day.  Reminding him of the stuffie he has in his backpack if he needs it. He gets in and buckles up. We get to school and walk to the lines.

I walk him over to his teacher. There is a “routine” to our hand-offs. My son needs predictability. He thrives on it. Two hugs and two kisses for Mom. Then he gives a hug to his teacher and holds her hand for a while. The teacher gives me a silent questioning look: “How did it go this morning?” I give her a shake of the head. We have a silent conversation. But he’s fine now, with his teacher.

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Thinkstock photo by tatyana_tomsickova

From the outside, as a person with anxiety, I, for the most part, always seem content in my ways. On paper, I have nothing to worry about. I always appear to be on top of things, surrounded by people who care about me, ready to take on the day with full force. There are other sides of me, however, that aren’t always visible to the naked eye.

It’s the crying to sleep at night, worrying over something that cannot be fixed.

It’s the panic of not getting a reply to a text message.

It’s the misery of misinterpreting one question on an exam.

It’s letting the small things that can go wrong take over the bigger picture.

It’s the constant fear of being called “needy” or “fake” if I ask for additional support.

It’s the constant paranoia of other people’s opinions of me.

It’s being told not to worry when my mind will not stop.

It’s being told not to care about what other people may think of me, while my mind is focused on the opposite.

It’s the difficulty I have in trusting anyone with my true self.

It’s the thought of someone bringing up a past event that I don’t want to think about.

It’s having to leave a college class to cry in the bathroom for not understanding one concept.

It’s an internal battle that goes on within my head.

What you don’t see is as much of a part of me as what you do see.

It’s not that I want to hide parts of who I am. It’s more that I don’t feel like bothering people with what I consider to be minuscule problems on the grand scheme of things. The problems I encounter may be significant in my life, but I feel uncomfortable having the attention thrown on me on the spot or for my friends to feel like they have to stop everything they’re doing to look after me. Sometimes, however, this is exactly what I need to help overcome any issues I may have, even if I am too afraid of judgment that may arise from other people.

I often feel when I do let people in to see both sides of me, they tend to leave me at my times of need. I either cannot open up properly or they look at me in dismay when I do and don’t know what to say to calm me down. Sometimes all I need is that shoulder to cry on. Other times I need to hide away and wait for my phone to go off for someone else to check in.

The times when I don’t speak up are probably the times I am most vulnerable. I feel at times I could vanish and no one would even notice. I know deep down this is not the case, but anxiety can sweep in and override any rational thought I may have and lead me into the darkest of moments. For the most part I am fine with myself, but it is very unpredictable as to when and if my anxiety will strike. It can be as simple as turning on a switch; it can go one of two ways and without force, it is impossible to reverse the effect it will have.

The little things that keep me going may be too small to even notice for most people, but they’re what help me get up in the morning. The smallest act of kindness can make the voice in my head change from, “Why do you even bother with all of this?” to “Hey there, this is what you’re here for. Keep going.”

The strength someone with anxiety has is unfathomable to those who don’t have it. We can seem like the most down-to-earth people around, though our condition can be extremely taxing on our psyche. Getting through a day without going into a state that makes you feel ill is an achievement in itself. Even though it may not seem like much, being able to get up every morning and get out the front door to do your day-to-day routine while your mind is fighting its own battle is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Be proud of the little things as well as the life events that will define your future. Every step is a step in the right direction.

Running away from my problems and investing my time into trying to help with someone else’s issues is something I used to tend to do instead of facing my own demons. I have learned this leads to disastrous consequences in the long run. Until I was left to deal with myself on my own after a particularly turbulent year, I wasn’t able to tune into my anxiety and face it with the courage and strength I needed for years. Once I faced it, it got a lot easier to manage. My anxiety is still here, but I have learned to embrace it in the most positive way I can. Accepting it as a part of my life is a lot easier than constantly having to pretend it doesn’t exist, even if it’s the last thing I want to admit.

Staying strong is hard, but the rewards are worth it. Embracing and becoming comfortable with each part of yourself is the the hardest part, but life is meant to be a climb. When you reach the top, the view is great.

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Thinkstock photo by Marjan_Apostolovic

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