Sometimes I Feel Brave: I'm Living With Anxiety

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We are proud to introduce Spire & Co's newest column, What's Behind My Mind, a series of mental health essays by young women who are living with mental illnesses. It is our hope that these honest stories will illuminate the daily challenges that come with mental illness so we can all practice compassion and understanding for ourselves and others. Sometimes I feel brave.

Sometimes I feel like I can move mountains and achieve anything I set my mind to. Sometimes I feel like I am brave enough to cross an ocean to work in a foreign country, to live with people I’ve never met. Sometimes I am brave enough to move 13 hours north of the only home I’ve ever known, to pursue a dream. I am brave enough to stand in front of thousands of people live out that dream.

Sometimes I feel brave. However, more often than not, I am deeply afraid. My fear cloaks me, covering every aspect of my life.

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was thirteen. I was a fearful child, who grew into a clinically fearful adult. To me, anxiety first expressed itself when I was at a concert with my best friends. Dancing around, singing, soaking up the last few days of summer, it seemed completely foolish that I should be anything but blissfully happy. However, I remember the kindness of the paramedic’s eyes as she told me that I had passed out. I had an anxiety attack that triggered a response in my body so severe that I required medical attention. At the time, I knew very little about how to cope and the different ways that my symptoms would present themselves. To me, and as I’ve learned as is the case with a majority of the population, I had always thought that living with anxiety just meant that I was incredibly fearful. That I would have bouts of extreme nervousness and overwhelming fear.

Since that attack where I found myself lying underneath a first aid tent, I have come to understand that my mental illness and the symptoms it presents are much more serious and incredibly real.

Sometimes I feel brave, but then sometimes I feel like my spine has turned to ice and my ribcage closes in to trap the air from escaping my lungs. At times I will feel invisible chains circling my wrists, as my throat closes up and I struggle to keep my head above the waterline no one else can see.

Sometimes I feel brave enough to roll out of bed and face my demons. Sometimes the only strength I can summon is enough to make a phone call or ask for something I need. Sometimes I have the bravery to cry out for help, and it is with this that I have to believe in this mental illness myself.

You see, part of the battle is looking this mental illness square in the eye and realizing it for what it is: an illness. Because trust me, the hardest one to convince that I shouldn’t be ripping myself to shreds over a fear that has the ability to leave me breathless and shaking is me. Having to come to grips with the idea that every morning I wake up, every decision I make will be dictated by a fear that seeps into my veins, takes all the bravery I can muster.

In the years since my diagnosis, I’ve tried a myriad of techniques and tricks that all claim to “cure” anxiety. Like any illness that does not have medical cure, these lifestyle changes only go so far. I'm still living with anxiety. So I’ve had to also come to terms with the fact that some days I’ll just have enough bravery to wake up in the morning, and treat myself with the same patience and kindness with which I would want others to treat me.

Sometimes I feel brave, and sometimes I don’t. And I’m learning to love and accept both versions of me.

 

featured image by Shop Sweet Things