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    Community Voices

    Real Examples of How Anxiety Affects Self-Esteem

    Even before I could fully comprehend the depression and anxiety I lived with, I knew I had low self-esteem. It’s one of those things that keep me mired in self-doubt and depression: the feeling that I’m not as “good” at my job as my colleagues, not as successful as my peers, not attractive, not charming… need I go on? Self-esteem is one of the fulcrums around which my depression and anxiety turn despite every piece of evidence to the contrary. It feeds my depression and anxiety, which in turn folds back into my low self-esteem when I’m unable to do the things I “should” be able to do. According to Dr. Joe Rubino, as much as 85% of the world’s population struggles with low self-esteem, on average affecting women and girls more than men and boys. That means, walking down the street, you might be surprised by how many people have that voice in their heads telling them that they are worthless, unattractive, and unsuccessful. If you’re one of this number, then please know that I see you. Anxiety is a liar; you are worthy, you are wonderful, and you deserve to feel good about yourself. Just in case you feel alone, though, we asked our community about the ways their anxiety affects their self-esteem. Here’s what they told us: “It makes me doubt myself all the time.” — @keepingitreal80 “I feel that people don’t like me and withdraw, and I feel too tense to enjoy anything social.” — @annamurray8 “My anxiety can make me feel small and insecure.” — @yellotulip “My anxiety makes me feel ugly. I stay home a lot because of severe social anxiety. I can’t stand loud noises or groups of people. I think my anxiety keeps my self-esteem low. I am not living. Just existing.” — @chloeb1_ “It keeps me from going out in public. Working. Being the best I can be. It tells me I’m ugly, fat, and worthless.” — @snow3white “Most times, it makes me question my worth. With lots of therapy and research, I have the tools to identify the moments and redirect my thoughts. I know the truth about myself: I am whole, I am worthy.” — @ellencappard “My anxiety definitely affects my self-esteem, whether it comes to driving, conversations, or other areas of my life. I try to be confident, but some days my mind gets the best of me.” — @irishlass215 “My self-what?” — @fathousewife “Anxiety has ruined me. My self-esteem is shattered because I feel like I am constantly under a pressure that I can’t ease. I get overwhelmed by little things and maintaining a career has been a huge challenge. I also struggle in other aspects of my life as well. I miss my old self, pre-anxiety.” — @kittycatsnuggles “Anxiety has made me more and more critical of myself and has made me self-conscious. It makes social situations much harder as well.” — @writer21 “I really struggle with imposter syndrome. However, it also helps me to understand my anxious students.” — @lauracort “My current anxiety flare is because I was offered a new job and they offered me too much money. I just felt I wasn’t worth it and it triggered so much of ‘I’m not worth that,’ ‘I can’t do this job, it’s too much’, and ‘they’re expecting me to be brilliant and I’m not’ thoughts. The cascade just went off the rails and then transposed to my workplace where I felt I was no good and useless. Cue panic attacks, sickness, and now I’m needing help and medications. I hate it when there’s a collective shrug that ‘anxiety is a bit of worry’ — it’s so much more.” — @princesstina7

    Jenny Coffey

    Working Through Self-Judgment as Someone With Chronic Illness

    I’ve come to realize that there are two versions of me. Not literally, but metaphorically. The angel and demon on the shoulder that we often see in movies and cartoons, kind of do “exist.” They run circles in my mind. At times it feels like they are boxing each other for control. The fight to have a good day starts with them. The things that I can say about myself are so destructive. It was for a long time impossible to not give in to the darkness. I have felt so little value in myself for most of my life, with accolades and awards being nice, but never enough. Never reaching far enough and never understanding why it felt that way. Never realized until now how much of that was a desperate search for belonging. Literally, nothing would pierce that darkness, leaving me feeling so very alone. In a sea of people talking, I felt unseen, unwanted, and still utterly alone. It was a hard slap to realize just how much of my energy was wasted on dark thoughts in my own head. On the so-called “facts” that I told myself, based solely on a place of insecurities. It’s a terrible thing to not value yourself. People say it, but doing it and feeling it is not simply a thought once in a while. Parts of me were so very angry with myself for wasting life, wasting precious time. How horrifically destructive that terrible voice can be. Ruminating on falsehoods that are so painful, it’s as if that darkness, that Jerk is beating me to death from the inside. I could use logic to assess the realities of both sides, working to set aside the emotional reactions to find a place of calmness, in which I could actually think my way out, even talk my way out of that awful place. Those moments I started to appreciate the Badass. It might sound odd, but really it’s one of the sanest things I have ever done. I know that I can live longer doing it. The Jerk says, “Let’s throw on a nightshirt. Who needs to be dressed today?” The Badass says, “No way! I’m a Roman Goddess who looks snazzy in that top.” The Jerk says,  “OMG! I have more diagnoses than some books have chapters. How sad.” The Badass says,  “Yup. You are an enigma of rare Zebra. Bring on the interns, and give them a shot at my medical chart.” Oh, the sarcasm has saved me so many times from a terrible day. Those two sides fight constantly, but it is getting easier the more I allow myself to matter. To now enjoy my own company, and relish in the reinvention that has become who I am today. My life is lived in a constant state of just trying to stay alive and moving. I hadn’t realized how much I was allowing my illness to steal life from me, to steal my joy and creative ways. Realizing I had pages to write and canvases to paint, to continue to exist and know that I do in fact matter. So many of you reading these words know that feeling. Know that desire to not only exist but to be wanted by others. To find family, connection, and belonging is a basic human need we all need to live. Our minds, when shrouded in darkness, can do terrible things to our physical bodies. The Jerk says, “You are such a failure. You have nothing to show for yourself.” The Badass says, “Screw you, I don’t need a pile of things and bills to prove my value so long as in the very least I value me.” The Jerk says, “Shit, where did that self-esteem come from?” The Badass says, “Me.” If I am not feeling so hot and am in need of treatment, I don’t have to beat myself down for what I cannot do, but rather relish the things that I can. I remind myself of how far I have come, how rebuilding a life is possible, and starting a new life can be amazing. I try to take comfort in reminding myself how remarkable I am to make it this far never mind, continuing to work for better patient care in the ways I can. Knowing I am adding value to the world. Be it in art, baking some fresh bread, or going to the public to use my platforms to advocate for those who need a voice. The very sick, the suffering who work every day to simply stay alive. Who battle rare diseases that no one, and even oftentimes most medical providers, have never heard of, or know very little about. To advocate is a privilege, I have done it for decades, but never given myself credit. The one accolade I never realized till this moment was the only one I ever truly needed, my own. I never forget what others would give to have access to the treatments I am receiving. I’ve lost myself in terrible despair at the thought of it. It shouldn’t be that way; you shouldn’t have to buy your way into treatment, into living a little longer, but so very many of us do. A topic I continue to write extensively about is medical inequality. Health care is a basic human right. It’s kind of disgusting to know that for 20 years, I worked as a medical provider helping people get the care they needed, but now that it is me, I cannot always access the care I was a part of giving. I’ve created a safe space for myself. There are sparrows that have been coming back to nest for years. I love watching them.  I’ve given myself permission to matter, to smile, to have internal peace not laden with regret. What is changing, is the conversations in my head. My view of self focuses more on joy and less on past sorrows. More on the living of life, and less on the parts of me that don’t work quite so well. Wow, look at me walking around. I’m a damn Goddess. Two ways of seeing the world, my world. The choice is which side of my brain I listen to. Will I wallow in my sorrow over all I can’t do? For years I never understood just how powerful a few moments of controlling that small voice in my head could be. I do feel the pain of losing things I can’t do anymore. I do not pretend it doesn’t exist or try to delude myself. I choose to not allow it to rule my mind, my day, or how I affect others. When it bubbles up, I don’t ignore it. I control the when and how I will deal with it. I notice it, and I choose to let it go until I’m ready. Until I am in the right place, at the right time, to deal with whatever that was I had popped into my brain like an intruder you just want to punch. When I see my diagnosis list, it can be like an arrow to the heart at times. I’ve even caught myself nearly having a panic attack. Felt the weight of every word. Knowing it took my career, I will remind myself of the person I have become in spite of my diagnosis. Writing articles addressing the inequalities in medical care has become a passion. It’s a way to stay in the game. To try to shed light on the things that can be hard to talk about. I find comfort in using the platforms I have access to and using them to speak for those who can’t. To not stay small and silent. Choosing instead to spend my day with as much joy and goofiness as I can muster. It is so very much better than the despair of how sick I really am. It’s managing my worldview with respect to my own illness. It’s never giving up hope for a longer, less sick life. It’s holding on to the things that serve me, and letting go of that which does not.

    Community Voices
    Sarah Trombley

    Why Getting My ADHD Diagnosis Gave Me Hope

    I have gone through my life not really understanding why I am the way I am. Why can’t I seem to stay organized, focused, or stick with projects? Constantly disappointed with my shortcomings, insecurity took center stage and literally stunted my growth as fear of failure paralyzed me. I didn’t know myself and I was hurting because of it, but this past summer I began the road to healing. This summer I finally came to the eye-opening realization that I likely have ADHD. Later, I was diagnosed. My journey to self-discovery began when I started researching ADHD for a family member. A quick google search turned into a pivotal moment and I was shocked to see that most of my struggles were a direct fit with the symptoms of ADHD. It’s like someone wrote a description of me and stuck it on the diagnosis page. To some degree, I had always thought I had ADHD, but my understanding of it was seriously lacking. I thought of it simply as hyperactive behavior, and though that certainly described me in my childhood, I am much more subdued now. If I have ADHD, I’ve got it under control, I thought. Until that bright summer day when I casually scanned the list of symptoms. Interrupts others. Struggles with time management and motivation. Forgetful. Distracted. Me. The realization was both startling and reassuring at the same time. I wasn’t broken, I was just different. And it turns out there are a lot of people like me. Where before I felt alone, now I had a community who understood me. So that’s where I turned, to my people. I found solace in countless online groups and with friends and family who could relate. People who knew firsthand the constant battle with our self-worth. Who are all too familiar with the shame that typically comes when you struggle with everyday things like cleaning, focusing on a conversation, and finishing tasks. I finally found a safe space among like-minded friends who were figuring out how to do daily life in new ways. I understood them and they understood me. I was inspired. Each day, I soaked up every bit of information I could. With each article, video, and conversation I began to understand how my brain works and tips to work with it, not against it. I felt peace, like I was finally getting to know and accept myself. But I knew my work wasn’t done, so after 33 years of struggling to understand myself and feeling broken, I called up my doctor and asked for a referral to a psychiatrist. Thankfully my husband was in full support of anything that would help me function better in life, but many others were confused. They wondered, why now? Or why on earth would I want to label myself? Here’s the thing. I, like so many other ADHDers, have already been labeled. Our whole lives, we’ve heard painful words like lazy, ditzy, and troubled. We rarely get painted in a good light. People write us off because we struggle to do things that come so easily to everyone else and we are hyper-aware of these negative labels. They feed our inner shame and eat away at our self-esteem. For people who already struggle with motivation, these heavy words can make a difficult task seem almost impossible. So we fight these labels and in some cases, we eventually lose hope. Sure, most people struggle with self-esteem at some point, but it’s tougher for most of us with ADHD. For us, negative labels start from early childhood, and it’s true the effects are very damaging. The words seem to define us and we feel as though we are measured by our shortcomings. Our struggles overshadow our victories, and the resulting labels often make our futures seem bleak. But a diagnosis is not a label, it’s a chance. An opportunity to acknowledge that we need help. To find community with others and identify our strengths. Most importantly, it’s our chance to grow. We don’t operate the way most people do, and diagnosis or not it brings a lot of judgment, stigma, and pain. To the outside world, we often don’t meet expectations or do things the same as everyone else. What an ADHD diagnosis does is bring us hope to find a way to thrive in life. It gives us the chance to fully understand and accept ourselves and shed the negative labels of our past for new positive ones. Creative. Smart. Capable. Achiever. A diagnosis means we aren’t broken, so here I wait for an appointment with a little fear, but also great anticipation and hope, because that’s what a diagnosis would mean to me. Hope to break free of all the labels that have kept me down.

    Community Voices
    Community Voices
    Community Voices