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When I Stopped Hiding My Anxiety and Depression Behind a Bottle of Jack Daniel's

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Looking back at myself two years ago, an anxiety-ridden, half-drunken me would most likely be slumped into a beanbag chair playing video games in a dimly lit room, fighting off a jackhammer headache and the urge to be violently sick. On the floor next to me, the dull glow of my phone flashes with messages from concerned friends. I casually ignore them, refraining from any contact with the outside world until the next morning at least.

This cycle would go on to repeat itself multiple times a week. Wake up, fall out of bed, maybe shower, maybe not, hazily saunter down to an unfulfilling job whilst still in a tunnel-visioned, unfocused stupor and work my hangover away for the remaining eight hours. All this before making my way home to either gorge on junk food and fall asleep or repeat the antics of the previous night. If something occurred that involved alcohol, I was there.

Fast forward two years, and I went from a self-deprecating, intoxicated mess with no goals, direction or consideration for myself or others around me to owning and operating a successful business. I went from empty, awkward one-night stands to being in a long-term relationship with the most amazing person I’ve ever met. I went from 24/7 partying to 16 months sober.

Now, am I happy? Am I anxiety, depression and panic free because I stopped numbing myself with alcohol and drugs? Do I feel at the peak of physical and mental health because I changed my lifestyle around? Hell no.

If anything, some days, I feel undoubtedly unhappy. Not because I wish I was three sheets to the wind, crashing random parties with horrible friends who really couldn’t care less about my well-being. I’m unhappy because now I feel vulnerable. I’m now open to the elements. All of the anxiety, depression and negative thinking is no longer drowning and muffled in a sea of Jack Daniel’s. My mood swings are now much more present and visible to those around me. I’m clear-headed, switched on, glaringly focused and very, very aware of the world around me.

For those of you who are relating to what you’ve read so far or are just extremely aware of how your mental health opens up a vast number of windows to your vulnerability and sensitivity, just know although you may not feel it, you are strong. Do you think you are weak because your mental health makes you feel vulnerable? You shouldn’t. I’ll tell you why.

When you’re out in public, trying to fight off the onset of a panic attack, whilst looking at those around you going about their business (seemingly) without a care in the world, just remind yourself this wasn’t easy for you. You fought with your demons and overcame. You went out of the house when you didn’t want to. You went into that supermarket when you knew the busy aisles and loud shoppers might trigger an attack. You went out with friends even though the thought of making a fool of yourself in public made you feel physically sick. You went into battle with no armor, no reinforcements, just your internal army of tiny reassuring voices for support.

You’re not weak. You are a warrior. Every day you throw yourself into situations that make you very, very uncomfortable.

It’s a well known fact that in order to make progress in any aspect of life, you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone and face your battles head on. Anyone struggling with mental health does this on a daily basis. Every day is uncomfortable, unnerving and sometimes downright terrifying. Yet, we power through regardless because we have to. We need to prove to ourselves we are stronger than our illnesses.

When I stopped masking my issues and let them come at me with full force, I was prepared to stand and fight. Whenever you feel weak or vulnerable, just remember the power struggle you go through and overcome every day. You should be commended. There should be statues built in your honor.

You don’t give yourself nearly enough credit. Do you know that? The fact that you are asserting yourself and throwing yourself directly into the line of fire, defiantly shunning any negative thoughts or feelings that try and slide their way into your mind, proves you are a true fighter and a force to be reckoned with.

Finally, when the inevitable day comes where you simply, absolutely, categorically cannot face the outside world, just remember every warrior needs some downtime once in awhile.

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If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: January 23, 2017
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