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What Happened When I Decided Not to Hide My Anxiety

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If you’ve lived with any mental illness, I’m sure there have been days where you’ve just woken up feeling terrible — days where as soon as your eyes crack open and you come back into your body, you feel it. You know your illness isn’t going to be kind to you today. I had one of those days recently. Luckily, I could spend most of the day in bed, but in the evening I was heading over to my boyfriend’s place to stay the night and hang with his housemates.

One of my worst anxiety symptoms is dizziness. I get it constantly, even when I don’t feel particularly anxious. I felt terribly dizzy before I left my house, but fought through it and made it to my boyfriend’s. I feel safe with him; he also struggles with anxiety on occasion and is very sympathetic and understanding. Yet I couldn’t shake this feeling of dizziness, and it got too much.

I did something I very rarely do: I let go of my defenses. I let myself be vulnerable.

Usually, when struggling with anxiety, I keep my mouth shut. I push through it, not wanting to mention to whoever is with me at the time how I feel, worried about ruining their time, or making them feel awkward. But this time I couldn’t. I needed to lie down. I needed to shut down and let this pass. I was on the edge of a full-blown panic attack and was terrified.

I was in the bathroom at the time I’d decided this, sat on the floor curled up in a ball, my legs barely functioning. I pulled myself up and went back to the living room to my boyfriend, and told him I was going to go lie down on his bed for a while. He looked at me with concern and said he would come with me. So, we headed to his room and lay down on the bed together. I snuggled up in his bed sheets as he gave me a hug. I told him what was wrong — that I’d spent the whole day dizzy and on edge and I was just… tired.

Then, I surprised myself by bursting into tears. I very rarely get to the point where I sit and cry due to my anxiety… I get fed up and frustrated, but to burst into tears is unusual. I lay and cried quietly for a while, my boyfriend gently chatting and comforting me. It was such a good release. I felt the stress and tension melt away. Personally, having someone there who actually knew how I was feeling, and who could tell me I was safe and would be OK, was refreshing. It was a change from hiding behind a mask, pretending I was feeling fine while secretly fighting an inner battle.

I slipped into sleep, and after 30 minutes or so, I woke up feeling much better. It was hard to believe that less than an hour before, I’d been about to cave into a full-blown panic and couldn’t think straight. I was actually really proud of myself for not letting that happen, but also for being able to be honest about how I really felt. We spent the rest of the evening in the living room with his housemates, laughing uncontrollably at a funny TV show.

The reason I write this is because I know, no matter what mental illness you have, days like this — moments like this — happen. Days where it all gets too much and you just need to take off the mask, whether alone or in front of another — to be with it, accept it and let go. Where you don’t get mad at yourself, but be proud you are looking out for number one by taking time out, having a long cry etc.

An important thing to take from days like this is: no matter what, it always passes. Always remember that.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Originally published: October 19, 2017
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