A woman walking past a glass sliding door

The First and Biggest Obstacle I Face Every Day as Someone With Anxiety

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Getting out the front door can be one of the hardest things I do all day, and some days I don’t even manage.

I am scared of leaving the house. It’s my safe, though slightly lonely and boring, place. But don’t underestimate the power of the safe place. The further I am from the house the more unsafe I feel, and the more anxiety I have.

I am OK with going with my husband in the car. The car acts as a mini safe house, and usually we take familiar routes or I’m in charge of the map, and I know exactly where we are, which makes me calmer. But long trips are hard.

Its easier going outside with company I trust. Then I can also manage to go further because they distract/calm me enough for me to not spend all my energy thinking about bad stuff that could happen, (fainting in a bush and not being discovered) or being in a heightened state of awareness (how long till I can get home, how much time) all the time.

But going outside myself, it’s a struggle. That door, that hallway, it’s a bottleneck for all my anxiety. What I won’t do to postpone passing through it.

I must have a drink, pee, lip balm, do I have my phone, is it charged, are the bunnies secure, I have the wrong socks, do I need a hat, what temperature is it, which route should I take, forest or road, how long, what If I meet someone, are the neighbors home to see me…

Sometimes this takes so long that it starts raining, I get hungry, decide to make dinner instead or just plain give up.

When I am finally outside I usually feel much better, and when I get walking, in nice weather with my headphones playing positive upbeat music, I sometimes even forget to be anxious. From time to time.

If I walk the same familiar route, when I know exactly how long it is, and how long it should take, I like walking.

When I get to walk totally alone, where no one can see me, I like walking.

When I feel my muscles working and feel strong, I like walking.

When I get to feel I’m one with the landscape around me, I like walking.

But the anxiety comes back when I start to feel tired, or start to think of exactly how far I have to go to get back home, how much time, how many steps.

When I walk in the forest, the anxiety lightens. I have to concentrate more not to stumble on something, there are animals to see, plants and trees, and I usually walk by my very favorite lake.

Taking a break on the little run down pier and feeling the water, putting my feet in when it’s not too cold, that helps. Its like the forest has a calm, serene aura that puts a dampener on feelings, especially negative ones. And the lake gives me positive energy, enough to get home. This works best alone.

But that door…

Follow this journey on Friday Frida.

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Thinkstock photo via Creatas

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5 Ways Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects My Everyday Adult Life

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When I was 18 years old, I told my therapist I was abused as a child for years. It took 18 years for me to utter the words. I moved far from home and thought I could run away from the memories, but it wasn’t true. I was living life with a generalized anxiety disorder, and facing my trauma was the only way to face my disorder. Since I have started on the road of self-acceptance, I have am seeing the small ways my trauma still affects my everyday life. Explaining my “strange” habits to others has always been uncomfortable and painful, but it is something I am learning how to do.

1. Jumping at unexpected touching. The other night my best friend was sitting beside me at a table and her leg brushed mine. After knowing her for five years, I still jumped quite suddenly. I hoped she didn’t notice, and I hoped she wouldn’t see it as a reflection of my feelings towards her. Even something as simple as an unexpected leg brush still sends my brain into panic mode. As safe or as comfortable as I feel around a person, I will always shutter when I receive any unexpected touching from others.

2. Finding excuses to end relationships. Keeping up a romantic relationship over three months is a big challenge for me. After just a few months, I typically get to a point in a relationship where the person just gets uncomfortably close. It often happens after the person has seen me in a vulnerable way, something I hate to show. Finding reasons to end relationships that are going seemingly well has become my specialty, and it is a hard habit to break.

3. Running from my past. My past trauma is not something I enjoy sharing. Even getting close to the subject brings up anxiety and memories I’d rather forget. The best way I’ve found to avoid it all together is simply not talking about the first 18 years of my life. Since moving 2,000 miles away from my hometown, I’ve visited home twice, and it has been incredibly painful. Even though I know it is impossible, I still find myself trying to leave those stories and memories behind.

4. Harboring resentment. Forgiveness is freedom, and it is something I am trying to find, but some days I just can’t. It is hard to not to blame the ones you expected to protect you from hurt. It is a struggle to not turn my pain into anger; it is a uphill battle to maintain relationships with my mom and dad.

5. Avoiding anything that remind me of him. I won’t listen to the Beatles, and I won’t eat oranges. Those were his favorites. When I traveled to Liverpool, my friends wanted to visit the Beatles museum. I made an excuse that I didn’t have enough cash. Facing something that gives me a flashback could send me into panic mode. Life after trauma for me often involves strategically avoiding flashbacks.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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Thinkstock photo by moodboard

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17 Secrets of 'People Pleasers'

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On the surface, it seems like you’re just helpful. Overly nice. Super agreeable. But for those of us who are real “people pleasers,” there’s occasionally something deeper behind the consistent answer of, “Yes!” Sometimes we’re putting others needs before our own — bending over backwards to help, while not thinking about ourselves. And while people pleasing is not a symptom of a specific mental illness, many people facing mental health challenges might find it’s easier to attend to others’ needs than deal with their own. Instead of facing themselves head on, they throw their self-worth onto others.

While it seems easier to say, “Yes!” sometimes part of a mental health journey is learning how to say, “No.” Acknowledging that you’re people pleasing and getting behind the deeper reason behind it is a great start.

We asked people in our mental health community to share one thing they wish others understood about being a “people pleaser.”

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I am a people pleaser because I want to avoid conflict. Even the beginnings of conflict can send me into a panic attack so please do not take advantage of me just because I seem to always say yes. I’m just doing this to protect my own sanity.” — Kira M.

2. “I wish they understood that if I do say no to something, I feel an extreme amount of guilt. I hate letting people down and I avoid conflict whenever I can. I hate that I can’t say no, but the guilt of it is just too much to bear.” — Jenn K.

3. “I am a people pleaser because I don’t want to give people a reason not to like me. Living with anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder, I tend to push people away unintentionally. Because of that I will go out of my way to please someone else with the hopes that they will be my friend. I wish people understood I am not trying to be clingy though. Sometimes I feel like I am trying too hard to make someone happy and that pushes them away too.” — Ashleigh T.

4. “It’s exhausting. It’s overwhelming when you feel like you’re being pulled in 10 different directions trying to help more than one person at a time. Also, it’s so hard to say ‘no’ and it hurts so much. The guilt weighs on you when you finally muster up the courage to actually say no.” — Brandy B.

5. “I wish they understood I just want everything and everyone happy. My mind of such a tangled web of thoughts and emotion and yet in a fog and unfeeling, that if I can bring even a little peace to the outside world, I am happy too.” — Christina G.

6. “I can’t say no. I want people to like me, so I will do whatever they want. I realize I’m most likely being taken advantage of, but if I say no, they’ll hate me. I also don’t like accepting things or having others do things for me, as I feel that I don’t deserve it.” — Kate S.

7. “I’m a people pleaser because I honestly feel like others needs are more important than my own. If everyone is OK then that will make me ‘OK.’ Please don’t take advantage of my kindness. Try to get me to see that my needs matter too.” — Tara R.

8. “I worry about what people are thinking about me, and what I’m saying or doing is often different than how I really feel. I’m a really good actor.” — Nick D.

9. “I please people because I don’t want them to in any way feel what I feel. I could not imagine being part of a reason for someone else to feel this horrible about themselves. I will do everything I possibly can to give anyone what they want — even if it hurts me to some extent.” — Adriana R.

10. “I know my people pleasing behaviors are not always healthy, but they’re a plea for acceptance and validation. If you love me and notice my unhealthy behaviors, come alongside me and show me I don’t always have to meet expectations to be loved.” — Rachel P.

11. “I have anxiety, but I also really feel like I need to please people, and when I let people down it makes my anxiety so much worse. I want to do everything for people and people always use me because of this. I wish people would understand how scary it feels for me to let people down. My family always tells me that I shouldn’t care what others think, but it really isn’t that easy.” — Meagan P.

12. “I’ve been described as a ‘people pleaser,’ and I think it’s my way of protecting myself. If others perceive me as this happy-go-lucky person who’s always willing to help they won’t see how much I’m struggling; I am petrified of being vulnerable, to have people know something so intimate about me. To a certain extent, it’s also because I hate myself so much, part of me wants to show others the love/kindness I can’t show myself.” — Natasha N.

13. “When I’m trying to make everyone else’s life easier, I’m really trying to keep my mind off how terrible I feel inside.” — Amy H.

14. “It’s really tiring and sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it and possibly putting my recovery in danger.” — Erin B.

15. “I am a people pleaser because I don’t want anyone to dislike me because I have a mental illness… just because I have a mental illness does not mean I am difficult.” — Sherrie T.

16. “I am a ‘people pleaser’ because my borderline personality disorder makes me fear losing you, therefore I’ll bend over backwards to do things that make you happy, even if it means sacrificing my own time and energy.” — Nicole P.

17. “I know I have disappointed people in the past by saying yes and then not following through because I had a panic attack or couldn’t get out of bed or didn’t remember due to my ADHD. It’s hard weighing the cost of disappointing someone by saying no versus saying yes and then possibly disappointing them when you have to back out at the last minute or just forget to do what you promised. I’m trying to set better boundaries.” — Nicole C.

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What It Is Like to Have a Psychiatric Service Dog

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“You always mess up.”

“Everyone’s going to think you’re stupid.” 

“Of course that didn’t go well, you’re a failure.”

These thoughts race through my head anytime I feel things don’t go exactly right or when I make a mistake. There are times when I won’t go somewhere because I worry everyone’s going to judge me. Panic sets in, and I start crying because of all the negative self-talk. At night when I’m trying to go to bed, “what-if” scenarios pop into my head, and I think how I would handle them. I can’t go to sleep because I have to plan what I would do in these scenarios that most likely would never happen.

When you look at me, you don’t see this.

You see a shy woman who seems to have her life together: a loving husband, pursuing her advanced degree, and a fulfilling job. The only thing that hints at something more is a German Shepherd next to me with a patch that says “service dog.”

When people think of a service dog, they will often think of people who are blind, hearing-impaired or need other physical assistance. They think of people who have a more visible disability.

The purpose of a psychiatric service dogs might not always be so obvious, and therefore the public may ask a question, such as, “Are you training him?” or “What does he do?” For some individuals, these questions can be too invasive and range from a minor annoyance to feelings of their privacy being invaded. Asking if a service dog is still in training can make the individual feel that their illness seems trivial or is not genuine. I have found that when asked what my service dog is trained to do, it is usually just the public being curious, but some people do not want to discuss their disability to people they do not know.

As a Master’s student in a Clinical Mental Health program, I am more open to educating people about my disability and how my service dog helps me. I still teeter-totter between finding that balance of privacy and embracing my role as an advocate in the mental health field. On one hand, I like being able to just have my dog with me and go about my business. On the other hand, I know people are curious and if not educated will sometimes come to the wrong conclusions. While I have learned to keep most physical manifestations of my illness from coming to the surface, my service dog is not fooled by my poker face. He can sense when my heart rate starts to rise and can calm me down or allow me to remove myself from the situation before it becomes a full-blown panic attack. So while on the outside I may seem “normal,” my service dog sees a different story.

While I am advocating for mental health, I also feel that I have to advocate for legitimate service dogs. It seems more people who are not disabled are wanting to take their dogs with them so they just put a service dog vest on their dog and try to bypass the laws. This is a big issue in the service dog community. Since these dogs may not be properly trained, it can give the public a negative view of service dogs.

By educating the public about how some disabilities are not always apparently obvious, it helps them know that just because an individual does not look sick or physically disabled, it does not mean their service dog is not legitimate. How you decide to handle questions about your illness is your personal decision. For myself, I will keep advocating for mental health and the importance of psychiatric service dogs.

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

Thinkstock photo by Wiggle Butts Photo

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When a Person With Mental Illness Hears, 'It Must Be Nice...'

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“It must be nice” is often heard when someone feels another person’s “situation” is better than there’s; it also comes in varying levels of sarcasm.

As someone with a mental illness, this phrase can send me into an anxiety attack.

“It must be nice to sleep in.”

I have to take anti-nightmare medication because my nightmares are live-action accounts of my childhood trauma, on repeat. I don’t have a lot of control on what time I wake up. “It must be nice” to have control over your sleeping habits.

“It must be nice to not work.”

I miss working with every fiber of my soul. Working is in my genes. I am the product of a family of hard workers. I feel like a failure every day that I wake up and every moment my family struggles to afford the basics. I feel like a burden. “It must be nice” to be able to rely on yourself.

Not being able to attend all-day events and “cherry picking” my availability isn’t “nice” — especially when it’s something I love so much, but while you’re envying my “freedom,” I’m going over every single possible scenario that might happen and how to properly handle it, I’m already planning how I’m going to handle how overwhelmed I’m going to be tomorrow when the afternoons events are long over and I finally crash, I’m struggling to build up the courage just to attend the events I’ve already committed to because I’m afraid of potential conflicts being too early might cause.

Although you probably mean well or think you’re in some way being funny, as someone with a mental illness, I ask that you be more thoughtful in your phrasing.

Follow this journey on Me, Myself & CPTSD.

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Thinkstock photo by Sylver arts

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BBC3's #1in4 Campaign Has Celebrities Posting About Mental Illness on Social Media

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If you see your favorite actor holding up four fingers on social media, it’s for a good cause. As part of its Minds Matter programming, BBC has launched a campaign, #1in4, to shed light on the prevalence of mental illness.

“#1in4 is about breaking through the stigma associated with mental illness and making it easier to talk about your mental health,” the campaign states. “One in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem over the course of a year – so most of us will either have experienced it ourselves or know at least one person affected by it.”

#1in4 of us will experience mental health issues. Stop the stigma. @bbcthree

A post shared by kristen bell (@kristenanniebell) on

The campaign features selfies from celebrities including Tom Hardy, David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Brian Cox, Sarah Silverman, Russell Brand, Luisa Omielan and Kristen Bell.

The campaign isn’t just for celebrities. Since launching on April 18, more than 20,000 people have shared a photo using the #1in4 hashtag. Some people are using the hashtag to share their personal experience living with mental illness, while others are sharing their selfies in solidarity – letting loved ones know it’s ok to talk.

You can participate in the campaign by sharing a selfie on social media with the hashtag #1in4. 

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