I’m Taking My Life Back
I remember the first day I had an anxiety attack. I was 23, trying to finish college, and I just got word that graduating was going to be pushed back a bit. I was an education major and the state decided that they no longer wanted to offer what I was minoring in as a program of study. I was basically told that my last four years of work have been for nothing, and I would need to pick up a new area of study if I wanted to graduate. I went into full panic mode. I was already making plans to be done. I already had enough debt. I wasn’t mentally, emotionally, or physically able to handle another year. Even though this change wasn’t my fault, I still felt like a failure. I had to tell my family and friends that I wasn’t graduating on time. Eventually all of the worry, dread, and stress took over. I broke down on my then boyfriend’s living room floor. I couldn’t stop crying, I felt paralyzed, and no matter how many times he told me it was going to be okay, I couldn’t shut my brain off. I never had this feeling of complete loss of control before.
After an additional anxious semester, I finally graduated. I slowly felt the anxiety pulling back. In a way I felt like I “won.” I showed it that I could graduate and move on with my life. It decided for a while to stay quiet. That all changed when I started my first year of teaching. I know that the first year of teaching is stressful for everyone. However, I started to realize certain things would send me down a dark tunnel that I just couldn’t escape from. If I got an email from my principal stating she wanted to speak to me after school I would over analyze, stress, and worry to the point that I would make myself feel physically ill. If a parent called or emailed me to speak about their child’s grade I would playback the conversation in my head and convince myself that I did something wrong. Where I work teachers are up for rehire every year which means there is no job security. Having anxiety and having to face that fact that for the next 20 plus years I could possibly be let go and jobless at the end of every school year terrifies me beyond belief. Overtime though the anxiety from my job began to fade away. I quit the school I was originally hired at and began to build confidence in my teaching abilities which helped ease the anxious feelings.
My life was going just as planned. I graduated college, got a job offer, moved out of state, got engaged, and then got married. Then everything just went off course. Instead of my goal of getting married by 26 and having my first kid at 28, I found myself going through a divorce at 28 instead. Surprisingly the divorce didn’t cause my anxiety to flare up. I dealt with the divorce by not dealing with it. I filled the hole left by my husband with attention from random men and too many nights out drinking with friends. Eventually after one too many nights of waking up in either a random house or waking up trying to figure out what happened the night before, I realized I had to make a change. This slowdown gave my brain a chance to catch up on everything that has been happening the last two years. Needless to say my brain and heart weren’t happy, and I got bombarded with feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety. I felt disgusted with myself and with the way I coped with my divorce. My anxiety kicked in and started to make me “what if” everything. What if all my drinking, partying, etc. will cause consequences later in life? What if I will never have a normal relationship again? What if I share my past with future boyfriends and they find me undesirable? Then out of nowhere someone showed up and temporally stopped all the what ifs.
I found love and happiness, and I thought that that two things would save me from my anxious mind. I mean, “All You Need is Love,” right? I quickly realized that wasn’t true. I have love. I found a man who treats me better than I thought was possible. He knows my past and loves me anyways. He doesn’t run away when I share my anxious thoughts. The fact that I found this, makes me want to get better. For the first time in my life I am actively seeking help and treatment to confront and accept my past and to help ease my anxious mind. I found a wonderful therapist and I am using the strategies she recommends to me every week at the end of our sessions. Am I better? No. Am I getting better? Honestly, I don’t know yet. I make great progress, and then something happens and I find myself having to start all over again. What is different this time though is I am committed to making myself better. I won’t give up when things get difficult. I will never fall back into my old ways. I don’t want to be that woman anymore. I invite anyone who struggles with anxiety to follow me on my journey. I want to share my struggles, accomplishments, and tools and tricks I’m using to help me take my life back.