I took a big step today.
Well.. maybe in the grand scheme of things, in the big picture of my life, it was a small step. But to me, today, it was a big step. Today I swallowed down the huge knot in my throat, blinked back the tears, stood up despite the 200 lb rock in my stomach – and I met with a therapist and admitted that I need help.
Anxiety affects 18.1% of adults, meaning that 40 million Americans 18 and older are affected according to the ADAA. That’s 1 in every 5 to 6 people – so why aren’t we talking about it? Why is mental illness still so taboo?
Why should those who already live with this (sometimes all-consuming) disorder have to fear saying the words, “I think I need help conquering this.”
It started for me years ago, but I just pushed it under the rug. I told myself, “You’re being weak. There’s no reason you can’t power through it. Stop thinking like that. There are people who have it so much worse.”
And for a long time, I did power through. Or at least, I thought I did.
I wouldn’t admit to myself that my “worrying” is more than just worrying. I would read articles and blogs and posts about people with anxiety, and feel like I was blowing my worries out of proportion. When in reality, my internal dialogue was toxic. It gets so bad my hands shake, and let’s not even get started on my blood pressure. I’m hyper-aware of everything around me, always on edge, and the irrational fears began to take over; manifesting in an incredibly unhealthy level of self-doubt and self-consciousness.
I wouldn’t admit to myself that the trouble I have when it comes to sleep may be more than just needing a new pillow. I toss and turn, struggling to fall asleep – struggling even harder to stay asleep. I wake up panicked that I missed our alarm that is loud enough to signal the end of the world – exhausted and nowhere near ready to face the day because I can’t control what it would bring.
I wouldn’t admit that my anxiety was taking a toll on my health – and in a big way. I brushed it off when my massage therapist told me that even my feet muscles were abnormally tight. I blamed the stomach pains on acid reflux and bad food. I couldn’t make the connection that maybe, just maybe, it was stemming from my need for absolute perfection – and the harsh way I come down on myself when I fail to meet that standard.
I wouldn’t admit to myself that it’s not normal for the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s truck to reduce me to tears. That riding in the car shouldn’t mean feeling like my chest is caving in, or imagining every single thing that could go wrong, Final Destination-style. That the constant jumpiness that I feel when a car merges into the neighboring lane, or the panic attacks brought on by riding in storms aren’t something I just have to “power through.”
But, looking back, maybe it was less of a matter of ‘wouldn’t’ and more a matter of ‘couldn’t.’ For me, it took the support and gentle pushing of the people who love me the most to build the courage to ask for help. To let my walls down, and admit that I don’t have it all together on my own. To pick up the phone and call a therapist, and to sit down on that couch today.
There have been thousands of small moments over so many years that led to this moment. So many times I have wanted to ask for help – but swallowed the words because I couldn’t get up the courage to say them. So many words I’ve been trying to say for so long, but eventually just hit delete instead because I couldn’t seem to put them in the right order.
But I’m so damn tired of it. Tired of the taboo, tired of being afraid to admit this battle – and admit it loud. No more whispers and fear and quiet tears.
So, here I am. Laying it all on the table.
Mentally and emotionally exhausted. Tears streaming down my face. Putting my fingers to the keys to keep the crippling fear of sharing this part of me from taking over and hitting “trash” instead of “publish.” Praying that I can help even just one person say – “Hey, that’s me too. Maybe I should ask for help.”
I took a big step today.
The first step in the pursuit of happiness.