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Why I Cried When My Therapist Told Me Not to Isolate Myself

No one wants to broadcast their panic attacks to the whole school, mall, workplace, or wherever they may be. However, for many of us with anxiety, it becomes an all-consuming fear — a fear of letting others see the darkest parts of us, letting someone watch as we crumble.

I was never a “social butterfly” as a kid. I always had a few close friends but never a huge group, and I never went to parties. I loved a good trip to the mall with my girls, and the occasional sleepover. That is until my anxiety hit.

My mind told me to stay away from everything and everyone. It taunted me with the thought of panic attacks where I would be trapped with no escape. At first, it laughed at the thought of a crowded mall; soon it laughed at even the thought of people coming over. I slowly watched as my friends went to parties; my answer was no to every invitation. So, as I invited my friends over for the hundredth time, trying to convince myself I wouldn’t cancel this time… My therapist said something I wasn’t expecting.

She said I would always have anxiety, and it would always try to steal my joy. So I had to live, even if I was only living in between my panic attacks, because if I didn’t then it would win and I would isolate myself. She told me I needed a life outside of my anxiety, and that is when I cried — not because what she was saying upset me, but because I knew she was right, and what she was saying was true.

That same day, I did not cancel on my friends. I didn’t cancel, and I felt just fine. I didn’t have a panic attack, no one looked at me and I didn’t feel trapped. Anxiety keeps us on a small leash, and the more you avoid the smaller the leash gets. However, if you pull hard enough, sometimes it comes just a little unstuck and you can breathe a little more. Push for that.

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Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia