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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 sister and I, as well as our classmates in school, were told 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.
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.
The simple realization that my problem has a name is what 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.
Now, you might be wondering what the build-up to my first (successful) therapy appointment looked like.
Well, to be blunt, part of it looked like losing a job.
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 everything I did at work was going to be scrutinized under a microscope.
The reality is that I spent more time worrying about what my colleagues or boss were thinking of me than I should have.
Unfortunately, the culture of that workplace had slowly been eating away at me without me even realizing it. I didn’t know that other offices weren’t as closed off and antisocial.
I literally didn’t have 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.
That anxiety built up so much on its own, but it was compounded by lingering childhood issues of their own, most notably 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.
Unfortunately, I still have issues with that second one, which causes embarrassment sometimes.I have anxiety. There's nothing wrong with me. Mental health needs to be talked about. #keeptalkingMH #anxiety #mentalhealthawareness Click To Tweet
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.
While there’s no such thing as a perfect family, we should strive to be educated instead of ignorant around mental issues like anxiety.
If you’re suffering from anxiety, check out Heather LeGuilloux’s Anxiety Pocket eWorkbook, a digital, printable mental health resource that teaches practical strategies to help with mild to moderate levels of anxiety. She also has a free Anxiety eBook, which is the eWorkbook’s companion resource.
In it, she shares practical tips, strategies, scripts, and worksheets on the topics of mindfulness, organization, grounding, visualization, and self-care. As someone who suffers from anxiety myself, I’ve found it a very good tool to use during anxious moments of uncertainty.
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