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How I Find Little Blessings in My Mental Illnesses

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All my life I knew I was wired a little differently then most, but there were times I thought maybe I was just self-involved. I’ve heard many times, “It’s always about Joy.” What was wrong with me? Was I really that selfish?

I never knew I had a boatload of neurons firing off in the wrong direction.

At 15 years old, I started seeing my guidance counselor at school twice a week. Then, at 16, I started seeing a therapist whenever I could find a ride. It was there where I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, mild depression and a sensory processing disorder. Those sessions were my “awakening,” if you will — they made me feel like I wasn’t crazy. They made me believe having a heightened emotional barometer was really a blessing in disguise, and that being in your own head had its advantages.

Growing up, I secretly thought I had some level of ESP. I could sense what people were thinking, or guess how they’d react to certain situations. As a child, this concept was frightening. As an adult, however, I use my heightened sense of awareness to my advantage. I know within minutes of meeting someone if I can trust them. When I was leading a team of employees at my previous job, I was able to sense my coworkers’ emotions and help diffuse situations before they arose. While I have a hard time expressing my emotions, I hit the nail on the head with others.

As a creative person, I swear having anxiety is my best catalyst for creating great art. As a writer, I always second-guess myself. Will they like what I have to say? Will they disagree? Through my own self-loathing, I tend to turn to research and rewrites, which eventually yield some of my best work. My mind allows me to go to a place where I can be my own best and worst critic at the same time.

Because my anxiety means I’m constantly bracing myself for the worst-case scenario, I’ve become the best planner. It’s no wonder I went into event planning as a profession. If plans fall through, I’m there with a plan B and even a plan C.

Then, when my son Landon was born in 2007, little did I know we would have more than a typical mother-son bond. Shortly after his third birthday, he was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder and sensory processing disorder. Because of my own challenges, I recognized early he was having difficulties in everyday situations. Although my husband is an amazing father, he has a hard time sensing the difference between Landon’s age-typical outburst and a minor anxiety attack.

My own mental health illness has been a blessing to my job as a mother, one I hold with the highest regard.

I understand how hard it can be for him to express himself. Finding the words and putting them together is not always as easy as it seems. While others have little to no patience, I do. I can walk into a room and know within a moment’s notice if it’s safe for Landon. Is it too crowded, too loud or too bright?

On the bad days I surely want to damn my anxiety away, but if I didn’t have those days I wouldn’t appreciate the blessings. The fear of intimacy, the challenge of articulating my feelings and even the staggering fear of mundane errands sometimes make me angry and frustrated. When the anger and frustration subsides, and it does, I’m proud my anxiety has made stronger and shaped me into who I am. My anxiety may challenge me, but not a day that goes by that I don’t challenge my anxiety.

Follow this journey on My Sensational Kid

Originally published: October 29, 2015
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