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Life With Anxiety: An Individual Story

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

This "Charlie Brown" comic humorously illustrates the complicated nature of anxiety.

This "Charlie Brown" comic humorously illustrates the complicated nature of anxiety.

Anxiety Sucks, And So Does Not Living Your Life

In retrospect, because I'm old enough to have a "retrospect" at 46ish years old, I've probably been living with anxiety most of my life.

Of course, being a child of the '80s, we just didn't talk about it. Those with anxiety were worriers, or they were in a "mood" about something. In my case, I had mysterious stomachaches that would almost instantly have me on my way to a kind-looking doctor. There were never any solutions to these stomach ailments, but my parents pretty quickly established that I was definitely a kid who fussed a fair bit. It was a fair assessment. I'm sure, though, if there was some consideration given to living with an alcoholic father who we weren't really supposed to upset (because it would send him into a dark, melancholy mood for the next several hours) or to a trauma when I was four or five years old, my mother, at the very least, would have said, "These could contribute to my kid's stomach issues."

However, it was the 1980s and was still an era where we just didn't talk about the role an addicted family member or the role a trauma might continue to have on a child, particularly if the matter was effectively buried. I was fortunate enough to have the resources at my disposal as an adult to discuss these issues, but there's still the tiny matter of undoing the wiring of how my brain worked after all of this. A couple of years' worth of psychotherapy, while beneficial, is not a cure-all for anxiety, and there's still ongoing work you, as the person dealing with anxiety, have to take on in order to live your life.

Learning to Ask for Help and Lean on Friends

Part of that entails what to do when, for whatever reason, that bloom of anxiety flares in your chest, makes your breathing uneven, and gives you the power to become the greatest expert at "fake it til you make it." I can't speak for anyone else's experiences but my own, but I know when my anxiety is bad, even though there's a steady current of electricity from chest to throat running through me, I would sooner walk over hot coals than admit how I'm feeling.

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The other challenge is, once you're used to being self-reliant and being the one people can count on, it becomes damn hard to reach out and admit to someone that you aren't feeling awesome and that things aren't as good as they seem.

A good friend told me yesterday that it's great to be self-reliant but to know that it's not the only way when you're struggling—that there are people you can count on. The problem is, at least in my case, that when my anxiety is bad, I feel as though I'm somehow letting people down when I need to reach out. The interesting thing is: I'm the first to acknowledge that I'll be there for someone if they are having a rough time. I hate admitting when my anxiety is bad, in part because it's easier to say everything's OK when really, it's not.

There's that dark angel on my shoulder, telling me that I'm lucky these people are even in my life (and believe me, I know how lucky I am) and that if I said anything about the anxiety that sometimes tightens my chest and makes me generally so jumpy and leaves me feeling exhausted by the end of any given day, I would end up alone. See, I've come to understand that when my anxiety is bad, it becomes a little like a cage that is really tight and hard to break out of, and it becomes almost impossible to ignore the voices of my anxious brain—the ones that try to convince me that I shouldn't reach out or even breathe a word to anyone about what's going on.

Here's the thing, at least as I see it. Times when my anxiety is bad are thankfully fairly fleeting. There will be, whether I want to acknowledge it or not, times when I absolutely need to lean on someone, and my friends won't just run away in spite of my struggles with anxiety. We all have our "thing," and when my friends need me, they know I will be the first to sit down with them, either texting back and forth or sharing a hot chocolate (or other beverage).

That's what friends do.

I just need my anxious brain to understand that during those times when it decides to take hold.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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