Why I Talk About My Anxiety
***May is Mental Health Awareness Month my little drop in the bucket will be to write about mental health to the best of my ability on here. If you have any topics/questions you'd like me to tackle leave a comment below or shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or a DM on IG, @vivnunez***
We were sitting over lunch and talking about therapy. There’s such a stigma around it, she said. It’s why it’s so important to talk about it, I said.
And by it, I was referring to therapy but more generally to mental health. Not everyone’s cup of tea is therapy and that’s fine. There are people I love dearly who have found other ways to cope and outlets that make sense for them. I’m less a therapy advocate and more a mental health advocate.
I know how lonely the world feels when you have a panic attack. Your body curves into itself, you try to make yourself as small as possible in a feeble attempt to become invisible so that the thoughts, the hard ones, don’t reach you. The elephant that sits on your chest during bad anxiety moments comes back with friends during panic attacks. You feel cold, but you’re also sweating. Someone may hold your hand, but also you can’t feel anything.
There’s otherness that comes with a mental health illness. There’s a feeling of normalcy that comes from finding something that reminds you how grounded and normal you are and that having a mental health illness doesn’t make that any less true.
I’m convinced I’ve had anxiety since I was a kid. I was too afraid to adventure as a kid to not. I would have been a more well-adjusted teen, I think, if I’d been diagnosed and treated for anxiety the same way I was for asthma. Instead, I stumbled into therapy as a precautionary method right before I graduated from college. My therapist’s offices have changed, but our weekly visits remain the same and probably will for a while.
So over lunch we talk about how we’ll probably be in therapy for the extent of our lives. Maybe some day they won’t be weekly sessions, but monthly or seasonal checkups are a given.
Therapy works as one of the outlets for my anxiety because it’s anchored in words. I get to talk through my life for 45 minutes and come out of it with less of an elephant. It isn’t my only outlet though, it couldn’t be. My therapist takes vacations just like the rest of us and she’s also not with me every time I have anxiety. So, I learned to love SoulCycle and to write my way through even the hardest of feelings and to sit in baths. I picked up calming activities that I knew I could control and that could help calm me so that I could achieve clarity and peace when I needed to.
Actively engaging with my anxiety is the only reason I can talk about it so openly with others.
Being able to identify it for what it is helps make it less of a monster. I talk to it like I would a friend. I tell it that I see that it’s trying to protect me and overcompensate in one way or another, but that it’s okay, we’ll be safe without needing to go to extremes for that safety.
I stopped making an enemy out of my anxiety because I realized that to make an enemy out of it, I’d be making an enemy out of myself. I have boundaries though. I don’t invite it into my relationships or friendships. When it sneaks in, I take the time to set mouse traps to remove it. I don’t let it lead how I love because if I did, I would never love. I try not to scream at it when it shows up and I try my best not to project it onto my people. Because the face of my anxiety isn’t theirs, it’s my own. It’s the little girl who is afraid of loss. It’s the teenager who is self-conscious about being too thin. It’s the woman who doesn’t want to fail at love or at sex by choosing the comfortable instead of what she actually wants, the good feeling in her stomach that shows up when she takes the space to be herself.
The days when the girl, the teenager, and the woman meet, are the days when I say I have bad anxiety days. Other than that, since 2016, my go to phrase has been “I have bad anxiety moments.”
A friend texted that to me once when I was going through the worst of my anxiety. He said that my morning had been hard but it didn’t mean my evening had to be. He gave me permission to make the decision, when possible, to just leave the anxiety in my morning and to let happiness or peace or contentment dictate the rest of the day.
By the time our lunch finishes I’ve decided that for Mental Health Awareness Month I’m going to write about my own experience with my anxiety to the best of my ability. Because I don’t have answers, but there’s always comfort in knowing someone’s story is even somewhat close to your own.