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The 'Homework Assignment' Helping Me Learn to Love Myself

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Do you go to a therapist? I’m sure most of us do, that’s why we gel as a community, right? We are a unified tribe that all need a little help from our friends to get by.  

As someone who struggles with anxiety, my “mental hamster wheel” often turns inward with self-hatred and verbal abuse. My most common default is negative thoughts about my body. I struggle with loving myself. A lot. However, I am trying to learn to love me. All of me. Because I’m tired. I’m tired of beating myself up emotionally for not being “thin.” I am tired of trying to look “normal” and pretty. I’m tired of not loving me regardless of what I look like. I want to love me because my daughter is watching and absorbing, but I also want to love me because life would be much better if I did.

Now we come to the main purpose of this story. How do we learn to love ourselves? I have spent many hours in therapy, and I’ll tell you, I think I might have finally found something that helps. After my therapist gave me a homework assignment that didn’t quite work for me, I revised it. Hers was an “I choose not to weigh today because…” kind of paragraph. I was to read it in the mornings when I would usually weigh and beat myself up for the number on the scale. I learned quickly it just didn’t motivate me. What did wind up motivating me was rephrasing my paragraph and writing a “why I choose to love myself…” paragraph.  

So today, I’m sharing with you something I hope will motivate you to write your own paragraph no matter what you struggle with. This is my paragraph. I hope it inspires you.   

Today I choose to love my body because it has never deserted me. I choose to love my body because it has carried me miles and miles. I choose to love my body because it has made two beautiful children. I choose to love my body because it doesn’t deserve to be hated. I choose to love my body because it houses me. I choose to love my body because it has carried me up the steps of the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China. I choose to love my body because we are partners. I choose to love my body because my kids think it is a safe space. I choose to love my body because my body gives love to others and it deserves it the same in return.   

This is not a permanent fix. I still struggle. I still have to pull out my paragraph, but it’s there. When I am feeling down about my body and I read it, it truly helps. I call it “positivity brainwashing.” May you brainwash yourself with positivity today and every day henceforth. You deserve to love yourself, and I do to.  

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Thinkstock photo via g-stockstudio.

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What I Mean When I Say 'I Don't Feel Good' as Someone With Anxiety

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I stare at nothing, zoning out and forgetting about my surroundings. I bite the inside of my mouth without realizing. I hold my stomach in pain out of habit. I only get out of my trance when the people closest to me ask if I am OK. Each time I respond with “I don’t feel good” or “Yeah, I am just not feeling well today.” These statements are very true but the closest people to me have no idea what “I don’t feel good” really means.

I stare into space trying to forget about the anxious thoughts in my head. I may be worrying about a homework assignment or I could be worrying about something that happened five years ago. Most of the time, I have a tornado of thoughts swirling through my head, a mixture of daily worries, self-doubt and fear of failure. My heart races and pounds in my chest as I can’t sort out one thought from another. I bite the inside of my mouth as a nervous tic, thinking about the to-do list I could be working on. My stomach is in knots as I think about the large crowd I have to be in tomorrow or the presentation or test that lies ahead. I’m holding my stomach to try and control the nauseous feeling as my anxiety becomes worse.

My thoughts start to sort out and I start to think of myself as a failure. My head is telling me how I am never going anywhere in life, how I will never find a job after graduation and how I will never be as successful as I want to be. My thoughts continue as they tell me how secretly nobody likes me, how everyone talks about me behind my back. I start to question if I have done something wrong, maybe I screwed up and I am no longer loved. I start to feel alone and hated.

I can’t stop these thoughts and they become too much. My heart races more and my breathing quickens until I feel like I can’t breathe at all. The room feels like a big black hole and I am slowly getting sucked into it, being pulled apart until I can’t feel my body anymore. My boyfriend grabs onto my face and looks in my eyes and keeps saying my name until my breathing finally slows down. I can feel my body again, I can see my surroundings. I am tears and lucky to have someone to hold me.

“I don’t feel good” does mean what it sounds like, but it also means so much more.

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.

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Thinkstock photo via kotoffei.

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Why We Need to Take 'High-Functioning' Anxiety Seriously

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When you imagine anxiety, what do you see? Shaking, crying, screaming? Panic attacks, hyperventilating, incoherent sentences? For some people, this is what it is like. But it’s not always the case.

What does “high-functioning” anxiety look like?

It looks like you have your life together. You smile, your clothes are freshly pressed, your hair is shiny, your arrive on time. You try your hardest, finish your work on time, help others and have hobbies. High-functioning anxiety makes it look like you’re busy living your life — and you are — to a certain extent.

For me, it’s keeping busy so I don’t lose my mind. The more I do, the more tasks I assign myself and the more things I can keep in control, the more I can control my anxiety.

The issue with not speaking out about high-functioning anxiety is the risk of people thinking it’s not real. And it is. Because I live it. And countless others live the same life. And when we need to take a sick day, when we are brave enough to take some time for self-care, we need to be taken seriously. I’m not faking being sick. I’ve been faking being well.

Just like the belief every person with an eating disorder needs to look like they have an eating disorder, the ability to be high-functioning doesn’t negate the anxiety. I was in desperate need of a mental health day, but I was too afraid to call into sick to work because I knew nobody would believe me. Because they couldn’t see it. This is the downfall of having an invisible illness. The trouble with having a disorder that masks itself as “just fine.”

Looking at me, you wouldn’t know I struggle with self-harm or eating disorders. You wouldn’t ever guess I have suicidal tendencies. Behind my work ethic and ability to do my job is a girl struggling to breathe because of a small typo in a tweet or because my lipstick might be one shade too bright. I don’t know how I can be high-functioning, I just know I am.

It makes it that much harder to ask for help because I don’t think anyone would believe me. I don’t want to be labelled as the girl who cried wolf. I want to be taken seriously. But until we even acknowledge high-functioning anxiety exists and it’s a real illness, it will never be part of the conversation. And without awareness, we can’t ever move forward and ask for help.

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Thinkstock photo via brickrena.

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Anxiety: The Man at My Door, a Poem

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My old love knocked on my door tonight,

“No,” I mumbled as I turned off the porch light.

I kept on, but then he knocked again,

“Oh darling,” he whispered, “please let me in.”

From my head to toes, my body froze,

“For a minute,” I said, turned up my nose.

He waltzed through the door with such confidence,

He acted like he said every word he meant.

He flirted with captivating charm,

I knew better, but I was not at alarm.

He was a man I wanted to please,

He reached for my hand, putting me at such ease.

I want him back, I thought to myself,

Regardless of how he is bad for my health.

He kissed my lips, filling me with lust,

Saying all the right things, he was easy to trust.

He reached for my hand, saying, “Let’s go,”

He wanted one thing; he would not be my beau.

Pushing him, I pointed to the door,

Screaming, “Get out, anxiety. We are no more!”

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Thinkstock photo via lolostock.

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The Text That Rescued Me From a Wave of Anxiety

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Last week, a post I wrote about my battle with self-harm was published. I think my message was important and it was good I put the story out there. But after it was posted, I went on this anxious spiral of thoughts. I panicked about being known, about people knowing this intimate secret I have. I was scared I would be attacked online. I have been shamed and criticized a lot in the past for my struggle with self-injury. I expected it would happen again. I got caught up in all these panicky thoughts and kept checking the comments for someone attacking me.

My anxiety spiraled in other directions. I was scared about people knowing me, scared about the world judging me. I became intensely self-critical, beating myself up for a million things. My thoughts raced and spiraled in angry circles. I was up late and had difficulty sleeping.

Late at night, as my anxious thoughts spiraled, I sent a friend a text about what was going on in my head. Of course after I sent it I panicked I said all the wrong things and now my friend would think me neurotic and unstable. I knew my friend would be asleep.

In the morning, I woke up with an emotional hangover from a night of panicked thoughts and hardly any sleep. I checked my phone and found this text from my friend.

“I understand the difficulty, these are personal and painful things for you. I can only speak for myself and say I don’t view you any differently, just in a positive light. For anything you’re troubled by, I just want to see you get the support you need and deserve.”

He also sent me an image of a quote. The quote said, “I love when people that have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the fire.” — Stephanie Sparkles

I kept staring at my phone. I was amazed by the compassion and understanding in his words. I expected him to read my late night text and think, Wow, this girl is crazy. But instead he responded with understanding and kindness. I thought he would see me differently, but he said he saw me the same and even “in a positive light.” He cared. He wanted to make sure I got enough support. I love the quote, though I felt it didn’t apply to me because my problems are inside my head.

I read his text over a few more times and then hurried off to work. When I came home, my friend texted me, asking how my day was going. I was happy he still wanted to talk to me.

I don’t think my friend knows how much his texts helped me that morning. I read his words and came back to myself, ready to take on the world again. Thanks to my friend, now I’m braver about being my authentic self.

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Thinkstock photo via Ivanko_Brnjakovic.

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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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