Why I'm Not Disguising My Anxiety Anymore

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

I’ve always been an introvert. I sit in the shadows while others dance around me in the light. I’m the moon who has to wait until night comes in order to shine. My whole life I’ve been fearful, lacking confidence and brittle at the best of times.

This was before I was diagnosed with anxiety.

My anxiety took who I was and twisted it into something that issued cruel, binding, unpredictable, emotional and physical punishments. Yet somehow, I subconsciously inflicted my own pain.

I was comfortable as I sat in the classroom, silently, without a trace. Until I could no longer bear sitting there any longer than a dozen breaths in and a dozen breaths out. I’d be trying to breathe, but I felt suffocated from somehow forgetting to breathe. My body was my enemy. My brain was my enemy. The panic attacks came slowly, then all at once.

Encompassed by pain, tears and worry, I was desperately hoping for an end to it. I felt broken. I felt trapped, like there was a lock on my health and each day it would get tighter or looser. I felt like I had no control. I would flee from uncomfortable situations, which only distanced myself more from those around me. They wanted to help. I couldn’t handle the thought of the emotional scars I’d enveloped myself with, being disclosed. I would burst into tears impulsively, due to feelings of a lack of safety, security and comfort. I was tainted at my happiest and at my lowest. I didn’t trust myself. I never knew when an attack would come and I lived in fear of my own fear.

Anxiety can isolate you, making you feel like you are in a cage and everyone else is looking in, watching you slowly deteriorate, as your thoughts corrupt you. Deep beneath the surface, you are battling with yourself, with no explanation.

I immersed myself in the happiness of others, but not my own. I appeared OK but I was not OK. Would anyone know how much my anxiety corrupted me, if they saw nothing but a fake smile? Countless thoughts of worry encompassed me. They’ll never understand. They’ll never believe you. They’re going to leave you. My vulnerable, “I’m fine,” was really a cry for help. It took time, but I eventually realized everyone deserves to get the help they need. I am not my mental illness.

Communication is the biggest help. Distance is the worst.

I bore my wounds. I was exposed. The weight of my illness no longer fell on just my shoulders. I didn’t need to run away and hide, fighting my attacks by myself, because someone was always there. They knew my anxiety was not a personal attack on them.

No one should have to fight this alone. Holding onto the positivity in your life can bring so much happiness, while erasing the negativity can bring you closure. You may not always have answers and that’s OK.

Positivity, patience and praises became the instruments of my recovery.

I still experience anxiety and I still have occasional panic attacks, but I am doing OK. The suffering has diminished. It is bearable. I was picked up, supported and brought on a journey. A journey of health, happiness and comfort. A journey I never got from being alone.

I accepted my mental illness when I could no longer hide. And I became strong.

I don’t need to disguise my pain anymore.

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

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

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Kilav.

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What It Meant for Me to Go to a Twenty One Pilots Concert as a Person With Anxiety and Depression

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I’m a rather big fan of Twenty Øne Piløts (TØP), mostly for the meaning of their songs. Tyler Joseph, the lead singer, sings along with upbeat instrumentals, but with deep lyrical meaning.

Most people know them as the band behind the hit songs “Stressed Out” and “Ride,” but others know them for their message. “Fairly Local” is about knowing what it’s like to be in the depths of depression and having to be there for enough time to be “local.” “Stressed Out” is about insecurity, and wishing for the childhood innocence we had before the stress of having to make money. “Ride” is about how dying sometimes seems easier than living, but having something or someone to live for is the challenge of life or “ride.” “Ode to Sleep” is about dealing with the demons that keep you awake at night. Their songs all have strong meanings, which some people may not understand.

I found out about them when I heard the song “Oh, Miss Believer” from their first album, “Twenty One Pilots [Self Titled]” released in 2009. The song hit me hard as I was in a rough spot in life. A year after the album was released, my grandfather died from lung cancer. He meant the world to me, as he was the one there for me and guiding me through hard life challenges.

“Oh, Miss Believer, my pretty sleeper / Your twisted mind is like snow on the road / Your shaking shoulders prove that it’s colder / Inside your head than the winter of dead.”

He died in my favorite season: winter. I felt better knowing someone knew what it felt like. So, I followed their music and stories. When the EMØTIØNAL RØADSHØW world tour was going to be in Australia, I grabbed my money and bought tickets.

The show was last night at the time I’m writing this, and I never felt so alive. Getting to see the show was amazing, from the tricks to light shows and more. I was screaming like everyone else and wasn’t singing the lyrics, but screaming them out, my heart racing. I was so happy I started crying. They have been one of my favorite bands for years — possibly even my most favorite — and getting to watch Tyler rock out on piano and ukulele as Josh poured his heart into his incredible drumming skills was something I never thought I’d see.

I was so, so, so happy that even my anxiety didn’t bother me. The crowds were nothing. Screaming and jumping around is something I never do, but I did it without a doubt. I was not even myself, as my mother would say. She has witnessed me having an anxiety attack from getting asked simple questions that seemed too hard for me to answer.

Tyler kept asking if they were doing OK, but they weren’t — they were doing so incredibly amazing that words cannot explain. Once the show was over, I was left with a feeling that was stronger than my darkest times in depression … and I was also left with a lost voice.

I would like to thank Tyler and Josh for their amazing performance last night, and for making me the luckiest person in the world for getting to experience such a concert. Thank you for making me feel happier even through that dark cloud of anxiety and depression, just by listening to a simple song. Knowing people have gone through what you have and make it out is inspirational and motivating. You two have made me believe I can manage my mental illnesses and get through life without cutting it short.

Thank you.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via Twenty Øne Piløts Facebook page.

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Dear Anxiety: I've Admitted I Have You, Now Your Days Are Numbered

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I hate the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

I hate it because it means when people actually need help, they may not seek it for fear of judgment.

I hate it because people may ignore their own feelings when the world is telling them to just “deal with it.”

I hate it because people may be ashamed to admit they need medication to get through a period in their life – or forever.

I hate it because people who are brave enough to get help may be mocked or ridiculed by some.

I hate it because, for most of my life, that person living in fear of judgment has been me.

Until today.

This afternoon I found myself in tears on a doctor’s office table, explaining how I’ve struggled with anxiety for pretty much my entire life. How I was told I was just shy. How I was told to take this vitamin or eat this food. How nothing I’ve ever tried has worked.

I talked about my anxiety in crowds. My anxiety in small groups. The irrational thoughts that overwhelm my mind, always thinking about the worst-case scenario. Replaying conversations obsessively. Trying to convince myself I’m being irrational but my brain doesn’t listen.

It shouldn’t have taken me as long as it did to take this step, but now I have, I feel lighter.

I walked away today with a prescription and a referral for therapy — something that up until recently I would have been ashamed to admit. But 2017 is about taking care of me and taking control of my life, no matter what anyone thinks.

I don’t know if I’ll need treatment for a season or for a lifetime, but I am so excited about being healthy and happy. A better mom. A better wife. A better friend. A better person.

Today I learned it’s OK not to be OK. I learned it’s OK to get help if you need it. I learned taking care of your whole self is nothing to be ashamed of.

And I’ll be better for it.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Follow this journey on Socially Awkward Mom.

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Image via contributor.

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3 Mantras I've Learned in the Art of Saying 'No'

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I’ve always been a people pleaser. From a young age, I had a lot of anxiety when it came to any kind of confrontation, having to disagree or say no to someone or something. Since beginning therapy, my therapist told me something that has continued to stick with me. She said, “Erica, you’re an adult. You do not have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable or anxious, regardless of the circumstances.”

Therapy has taught me many things, but one of the most inspirational lessons has been the art of saying no. I’ve learned not only is it OK to say no, sometimes it’s the right choice for you.

Here are some new mantras I’ve learned in the art of saying no:

1. Stick up for yourself.

This is something I’ve always had trouble with. When you’re a people pleaser, sticking up for yourself becomes difficult. You come across the anxiety of making others angry and for me, having others not like me. I’ve always had a good deal of anxiety when it comes to how others see me and the act of sticking up for myself directly affects that. It’s so important to know when you’re being disrespected and protect yourself, rather than let a situation build and build until it either explodes or ruins a relationship. Yes, sticking up for yourself could ultimately ruin a relationship anyway, but if someone has a problem with you protecting yourself, they weren’t a good friend to begin with.

2. Know your worth.

Please understand you do not have to put up with anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Anxiety affects everyone differently and people who have more serious bouts can feel anxious for smaller things and that can be hard to understand for people who aren’t in the same mind frame. If you find yourself becoming anxious or uncomfortable more often than not, it’s time to assess the situation and know you deserve better and more understanding.

3. It’s OK to move on.

This is probably the toughest lesson I’ve had to learn. More recently, I’ve found it easier to stick up for myself or remove certain people from my life who aren’t treating me respectfully, but the tricky part is moving on from it. With my anxiety, it becomes a struggle to fully move on once I’ve made the decision to say no to a relationship. However, with therapy I’m learning healthier ways to remove myself from uncomfortable situations. I would rather have fewer friends and a more positive outlook on life, than be surrounded by negative people who don’t treat me with compassion and understanding.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via David De Lossy.

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29 Things That Are 'Supposed' to Help Anxiety, but Don't Always

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We all know what’s supposed to help us with anxiety: meditating, deep breathing, counting down from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…

But just because something is supposed to make us less anxious, doesn’t mean it always does. Everybody who struggles with anxiety is different — so not everyone is going to respond to “typical” anxiety-reducing methods in the same way.

And that’s totally OK.

To find out different things that don’t help people face their anxiety, we asked our mental health community to share one thing that’s supposed to help anxiety but doesn’t work for them. But consider this your anti-anxiety reducing list… at least you’ll know that if you can relate, you’re not alone.

By the way: If any of the techniques below do help you — that’s awesome. This is a judgment-free zone!

Here’s what they told us:

1. “Coloring! The adult color books make me stressed out with all of the small pieces. I’m also afraid I will color outside the lines.” — Elise W.

2. “Talking to a friend. I feel like instead of listening to you they try to say their anxiety is worse or everyone goes through that, etc.” — Whitney P.

3. “When someone tries to ‘sooth’ me by touching me or holding me. It’s sensory overload. And then they get mad at me for freaking out over it or not letting them touch me.” — Shelby S.

4. “‘Take time for you.’ One of my main issues with anxiety is that I don’t physically have enough time even to make sure I wash my hair every week. Being forced to stop working/studying to sit and do nothing is the least relaxing thing possible.” — Lauren W.

5. “Talking it out. I start to feel more anxious that I’m being whiney or a burden. And then other things come up I wasn’t anxious about before, but now I am, and the more I talk the worse it can get. I wish friends would understand sometimes me shutting down and not talking isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually helping me.” — Jennifer D.

6. “Deep breathing. Everyone says breath in through your nose, hold your breath and then release through your mouth. All it does is makes me feel worse. And when I tell people it does not work for me, they are always like, ‘Well just try it again, maybe you are not doing it right.’ I think I know my body best and I know what works for me and what does not. And deep breathing is not one of them.” — Liz J.

7. “Going to the gym — I compare myself to others. Plus, I get worked up about how much I should be exercising, what kind of exercises I should do and I never get a routine down. I’m all over the place.” — Mary K.

8. “Not thinking about the future. If I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, I get even more stressed, to the point that my anxiety is higher than when I was thinking about the future.” — Serena C.

9. “Yoga and mindfulness! I think if that works for a person, that’s great, but for me all it does is make my anxiety worse because it’s so quiet and I’m not focused on anything that takes my mind off my anxiety. The anxious thoughts keep piling up until I’m on the verge of panic. I’m much better taking an aerobics class or doing something that takes complete and total focus off the anxious thoughts. A quiet environment and letting the anxious thoughts just ‘pass through’ my mind — it gives me anxiety just thinking about it!” — Jennifer S.

10. “Breathing exercises, counting and grounding techniques that require close attention to the body/physical sensations. They trigger flashbacks and more panic every. single. time.” — Jessa L.

11. “Listening to guided imagery/meditation tracks. The usual talk about, ‘You can release the worries of the day’ and the fact that it’s supposed to make me fall asleep but doesn’t, makes me feel inadequate and like I can’t even go to bed correctly. I resent the idea that my concrete worries are not legitimate, which is what I always feel like guided meditations are saying.” — Jennifer K.

12. “Counting. It doesn’t work because I count so fast, I get no benefit from it. If I can make myself count slowly (sometimes, I can, sometimes, I can’t), then that might help, but usually I’m counting at such a ridiculous speed that it can’t possibly help anything. Also, prayer. If I try to pray with an anxious mind, I often end up spiraling into anxious thoughts concerning what I should/shouldn’t believe, and all the what ifs of religion.” — Johnna R.

13. “Getting some alone time. I always wind up thinking about things that happened or could happen or might be happening right now.” — Park A.

14. “Art therapy. I love the idea of art. Painting, drawing, crafts. I’m such a perfectionist, I can never finish a project because I give up in frustration.” — Alea D.

15. “Taking a hot bath — I usually love a nice hot bath, but if I’m having a high anxiety day, it makes me feel even more like I can’t breathe, and I panic that I’m going to drown.” — Sarah B.

16. “Going to my therapist. I know I’m supposed to feel free to say anything and discuss my issues week to week. But I always feel like he’s going to say the same things my anxiety already tells me: my problems aren’t that bad, I’m right that no one likes me and everyone thinks I’m a burden.” — Jeffrey C.

17. “Exercise. I know there are a ton of benefits to it, but getting my heart rate up often tricks my body into thinking I’m having a panic attack so I stop. It’s a shame, since I know the long term effects would help me a lot.” — Caroline T.

18. “I recently had a full body massage thinking it would be relaxing and help calm my panic and anxiety… if anything it made it worse. The quiet and stillness gave my anxiety ammunition to throw even more unwanted thoughts at me.” — Danielle B.

19. “Yoga. The entire time I’m thinking about if I’m doing it right, comparing my stance to everyone in the room or instructor on YouTube, annoyed that I don’t bend that way, falling all over the place… ” — Amber T.

20. “Writing down my thoughts. This allows for me to re-read what I wrote and it also allows me to dwell on my thoughts which is not always a good thing as that can bring me more anxiety.” — Kaila G.

21. “Relaxing. Everyone says I need to relax more, but it stresses me out because I could be doing so many other things with my time.” — Cyndal M.

22. “DBT [dialectical behavior therapy] work including all those damn acronyms! First I gotta remember the acronyms , then what they stand for, then do what they stand for! Those things bug the crap outta me!” — Debbie S.

23. “Music. We have music playing at work and when a song comes on that I don’t like I’m instantly on edge and can’t focus on anything but the song.” — Angie H.

24. “Putting on headphones and listening to music sometimes makes it worse. I get anxious that people are talking about me when I can’t hear what they’re saying.” — Isaac F.

25. “Fucking fidget cubes.” — Cecily F.

26. “Turning your electronics to silent… then you’re wondering, what if something has happened? You won’t know until morning. Then you sit on your phone until your eyes can’t stay opened. And fall into a panic-free sleep. Wake up tired, drained… but do it all over again. The fear of not knowing.” — Chevon P.

27. “Cleaning! You always have people say they clean when anxious, but it just upsets me more because I either see an endless supply of what needs to be done or what I clean is dirtied up again in a day.” — Courtney H.

28. “Sleeping. I’m often told to just take a nap when I’m feeling anxious but it only adds to my anxiety because my work gets even more delayed.” — अभिषेक .

29. “‘Focusing on the positives.’ I’m positive I’m anxious.” — Nerris N.

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