How I Discovered That I Have Anxiety

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I was one of those people who thought I would never have any kind of mental health problems. When I was a kid, I thought I was the most normal person in the room – minus, of course, my diabetes.

My parents’ generation told my sister and I about the “mentally ill” as if they were a contagious subset of the population. Just look on any corner in downtown Seattle and you’re liable to bump into someone homeless and raving. Or someone pooping on the street. Things are bad in Seattle.

When I was a kid, those two identifiers were inseparable.

I thought, “There’s no way I’d ever have mental problems.”

Oh, how I laugh at my younger self for that thought.

Surprisingly, I made it through high school, college, and almost two years of full time working before I finally admitted to myself that something wasn’t working – something wasn’t right – and went to a therapist.

Lo and behold, I have a mild form of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Thankfully, I don’t need medication. Naming my problem helped me develop mindfulness practices to keep it in line.

Have you ever had a swooping, sinking feeling in your gut that’s accompanied by a sharp sting? That’s what anxiety feels like for me. And now that I can recognize it, I can feel it coming. I can stop myself and remind my lizard brain that I’m overthinking literally everything and that I need to refocus.

Getting Therapy

Now, you might be wondering what the build-up to my first (successful) therapy appointment looked like.

I’ve written about losing my first “big girl” job before. It sucked. Badly. It was one of those times that I knew it was coming (because it was a 2-year assignment, and they couldn’t find anything for me at the end of it).  

It felt like my superiors would scrutinize everything I did at work under a microscope. I felt like an imposter.

I spent more time worrying about what my colleagues or boss thought of me than I should have. Unfortunately, the culture of that workplace had slowly been eating away at me without me even realizing it. Other offices weren’t as closed off and antisocial, and I didn’t even know it.

There wasn’t any frame of reference to recognize that how I felt about my situation was completely normal for someone who needs social interaction on a daily basis in order to feel – and BE – productive. I also didn’t recognize that my thoughts create my feelings, and I’m 100% in control of those thoughts.

Related: How to Find a Good Therapist

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Other Issues

That anxiety built up so much on its own, but compounded by lingering childhood issues. The most notable of those being the idea that having anxiety or depression or any kind of mental health issue meant that something was wrong with me.

That I should be fixed.

What do you say to parents who don’t believe in mental illness?

At this point, nothing. I had, and still have, anxiety about confronting those misguided beliefs. Only when I finally understood self-invalidation did I figure out that others, like my family members, invalidated my feelings too. That’s never fun, or comfortable, or wanted. No child wants their parents to tell them that what they’re feeling is wrong or unfounded or stupid.

I didn’t want that, yet I got it anyway.

Sometimes the question wasn’t, “Are you a little stressed out right now?” Instead, it was, “Go check your blood sugar.” As if the only reason for my state of being upset was how high – or low – my blood sugar happened to be at the time. I developed nervous tics like bouncing my knee and picking at the skin around my thumbnails. 

I Have Anxiety

It’s not shameful. I don’t think I should hide it anymore. Nor do I think that others should feel like something’s wrong with them just because they feel anxious.

There are so many causes for anxiety, but mine stem from the things I mentioned above, and you can read more about them here:

While there’s no such thing as a perfect family, we should strive to be educated instead of ignorant around mental issues like anxiety. 

18 thoughts on “How I Discovered That I Have Anxiety”

  1. As someone who has anxiety I relate to most of what you wrote. Mine stems from several things but most of it was from a bad marriage where my body adapted to stress so much it didn’t know how to exist without it. When I was out of that situation and actually happy and stress free, my body actually looked for things to stress about. Then fear took over and I started to become fearful of things I normally enjoyed. It is such a real thing facing so many people and getting worse in a society that puts so much stress on people. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. I just want to say I’m SOOOO happy you’re out of that bad situation and are experiencing happiness and less stress! I hope your body and brain are getting back to a more “normal” space where they’re not looking for things to stress about.

  2. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story of discovering your concerns of anxiety.. it can be too often that mental health concerns are misjudged as only having physical origins and so it’s important to identify that anxiety can and does happen to so many people, for lots of different reasons. And also important to know there are ways to start feeling better, as you have also shared. Great post!

  3. It’s such a big step when we can admit we have anxiety (or depression or something else). I used to hide it (or try to but sometimes it was really obvious!! lol). Now it’s just part of me and I need to keep up with my self care or else I do feel it creep back in more. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story! I never thought I would deal with a mental disorder either, even though clinical depression runs in my family. But my diagnosis last year came as a relief because I was able to address it and fortunately have been able to find relief without medication so far. Thank you for being part of breaking the silence about these issues.

  5. Thanks for sharing your journey! It is so frustrating to see so many people still have such a poor understanding of mental health, but unfortunately it is still so prevalent. It is so great though, that you recognized it and figured it out so you can move forward! Anxiety is a frustrating one and it is nice to know we are not alone in it 🙂

  6. I love your honesty and openness in this post. It is through information and communication like this that more people with similar struggles will know they are not alone. Thank you for writing this!

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