Originally published on Kylie Feltes: Business + Lifestyle
Written by Kylie Feltes
Anxiety is the worst – isn’t it?
I have anxiety. Everybody does, a little!
Having anxiety isn’t easy. It’s hard to argue about such a sensitive subject because you don’t want to appear self-absorbed and share your symptoms and entire life story with everyone. If you have anxiety, you’re probably worried about someone thinking that you’re faking it, so you just keep quiet in the first place! Am I right?
But the truth is, not everyone suffers from anxiety.
Everyone at some point feels stressed, overwhelmed, and maybe even a little anxious. But what everyone doesn’t have are serious struggles with the previously mentioned. Just as many people experience headaches, not everyone suffers from migraines.
For most people, these feelings of stress or fear or the headaches tend to fade away once whatever triggered those feelings goes away. For someone who suffers from anxiety, they could feel this way all the time, and usually for no reason at all.
This is written with love and hope for understanding, not only for me but for anyone who is working on their mental health. We don’t want attention, we hope for acknowledgment as anyone else might want for another condition.
So, I am going to do it. I’m going to tell you my entire life story. Starting with this important diagnosis: I have generalized anxiety disorder, and this is my story.
It all started in college.
Although, I look back to my childhood and recall moments where anxiety most definitely presented itself. For example, there was that time I refused to get hot lunch in school because when presented with the choice of “peas or carrots” while in line, I panicked and could not bear to make split decisions while others waited on me ever again. That was second grade.
But it was my junior year of college where I began encountering real life changes. My classes, my friends, my boyfriend.
There was one class in particular that I had on Monday afternoons that brought on physical symptoms. This class was incredibly challenging for me. The information was hard for me to understand and I was falling behind in it quickly. I was so nervous to be present in class that I left the room several times to scurry to the bathroom and throw up. At the time I thought, “Well, heck. Maybe I’m pregnant!”
This happened almost every single Monday. After class I would go home and rest because I was convinced that I randomly got food poisoning every single Monday at class time. Crazy thought, I know.
The feeling of being “overwhelmed” took over me and I felt trapped.
Being a strong female (now) around other strong females, you’ve got to expect a little drama to appear every now and then when two strong personalities mesh.
I was extremely passive at that time and when faced with drama, I ran. Literally. Every day after class I chose to isolate myself in my room to avoid anyone asking me to take a side on something or getting into an argument with someone else. Regretfully, there were a few instances where I knew something wrong was happening and I was not bold enough to stand up against it.
At times I’d recollect on life, on things that I knew were out of my control and all I could do in reaction to those thoughts was cry. I cried almost every single day. The feeling of being “overwhelmed” took over me and I felt trapped. I’d sob. And these sob sessions made me realize something was definitely wrong with how I was living my life in constant fear and stress. Even then, I still never imagined it was an issue with my mental health.
Why in the world was I so intensely upset over arguments that had nothing to do with me? It wasn’t a whimper like when when you watch The Notebook, it was a deep and heavy sob where you are left out of breath and exhausted when you finally stop.
My boyfriend (now fiancé Zach) and I had a very rocky beginning to our relationship.
Our relationship is rock solid now, and we joke that we had all the crap before the honeymoon stage.
We were not good communicators back in college and I constantly wondered if I was good enough for him. Some silly voice in my head always told me that he would eventually get bored of me and move on to someone else. The thoughts of worry crept in constantly and I made up false narratives in my head. There was nothing he ever did or said that would encourage these thoughts. I came up with them all on my own. A common struggle among those with anxiety is ensuing a lot of unnecessary self-doubt.
I had a really bad week where I would wake up every night panting. Sweaty and feeling uneasy. I would tightly push down on my hand on my heart, so that I could keeping it from bursting out of my body. It felt like I was having a heart attack for 7 days straight.
Zach became very worried and we agreed that I should see a doctor about my heart. Because we were sure it was an issue with my heart.
A couple stickers attached to wires on my chest and multiple tests later, doctors finally agreed. There was nothing physically wrong with my heart. But I pleaded with them. I knew there was something wrong and that this was not normal. Not normal, was all they agreed with me on.
My doctor sat down across from me and looked me in the eyes and she asked me something that I had not been asking myself but should have for a very long time.
“How are you?” she said.
My eyes welled up and I immediately shifted my gaze on a trash can so that I wouldn’t have to see her sincere worry for me.
I told her school was overwhelming, but not too bad. There was a little bit of girl drama, but it is what it is. My boyfriend and I were struggling. I cried a lot. One time I threw up in the middle of class. Well, that happens every Monday. I cry everyday, actually. For a couple hours. I assume everyone hates me. I feel like I always say the wrong thing and mess things up. I’m a mess. I am a complete mess.
She listened. I wanted her to stop me from talking more but she didn’t. She just listened to me. And the words just poured out.
Finally, I looked at her. The recommendation was to see a “psychotherapist”.
I still didn’t fully understand what was “wrong” with me. As you can imagine, I was not pumped about laying down in a chase lounge chair and divulging my entire childhood to a stranger who would tell me what was going on inside my brain. Not my idea of a good time (at that time).
My first day there, I quietly checked myself in, so that people around me would not hear why I was visiting.
I literally coughed purposefully so that people would think I was physically sick. But I wasn’t, my entire psyche was out of whack and I didn’t even know it. I still didn’t believe that the issue was to work on my mental health. “I’m normal.” I kept convincing myself.
A short and petite woman opened the double doors. You would have thought she was opening the gates to a theme park. Her eyes and smile beamed as she called me back, like we were about to go to a party. I got up and followed this surprisingly laxed therapist to her office.
There was no chase lounge. There was no open space for her to pace the floor as she so seriously would ponder about my condition. It was two chairs, facing each other and a whiteboard. She grinned and asked me to take a seat. We spoke for a full hour.
This was the beginning of the most important turn of events in my life.
The two chairs served as a place for me to release everything. My true feelings and thoughts, knowing that I could be honest and open without repercussions or judgement. The whiteboard served as a recorder of my thoughts as my therapist rapidly wrote while I spoke. Together, we broke down why I thought the way I did in ways I could understand.
There was never a time that I was told how to think; but I was taught how to manage, how to have compassion for myself, and how to grow in empathy.
My understanding of myself was so much deeper that when anxiety crept in in future moments, I could better, take a step back, and slow it down (most of the time).
I am forever grateful.
My journey with psychotherapy began with feelings of embarrassment and shame – and transitioned into growth and understanding.
Anxiety will always be a part of me.
This will never go away. And I’m OK with that. It’s hard sometimes to manage my thoughts, and I still have the occasional panic attack. There are times when I lay awake at night wondering about “what ifs” and “whys” to the point of obsession. I worry about saying the right things and acting the right way. Wondering always about what could happen.
Those attacks make me appreciate when I am to ease and when I am really experiencing pure joy. It’s blissful. I am thoughtful and I think deeply about how I can change scenarios, change ideas, change the world. My brain doesn’t stop because it can’t. I strive to make people feel good based on my actions and my words, because those – I am in control of. My empathy has grown and I care about others. My imagination is absolutely insane. Like, out of this world.
It’s hard sometimes to manage my thoughts, and I still have the occasional panic attack.
I have anxiety everything I experience in the world. Both the tough, not so pretty, and very beautiful moments.
I am not alone. I know that. And I want those who are also suffering with anxiety to know that. Send some love to those who open up to you, because it isn’t easy to do.
Maybe your response to this is; well I still think that I am just as anxious as you. To that I say, totally possible. There are others who have a much tougher time than I do. But it’s not a competition. And I wouldn’t want to win if it was!
If you really feel like you are having a tough time dealing with “life”, then totally get yourself into a professional’s office and talk to someone about it. Life is better when you understand and when you know what it is you’re working with.
Mental health is overlooked but it is important.
If you’re reading this and you feel alone, know that I am here for you and that I would be more than grateful to connect. We can help each other through those tough times – we got this!
A technique that I’ve found helpful…
I’ve found that looking at pretty things can help ease anxiety. These may or may not be giving off a placebo effect, however, I am in love with my Himalayan salt lamp. It purifies the air naturally and it is honestly just so beautiful to look at. These lamps are known to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Himalayan salt releases negative ions which creates a calming environment in your home. I am a huge fan. Check out this pretty little duo that I have on my bedside table.