It’s not something I ever talk about – let alone write about it for an entire world to read, but some personal memories need to be shared. Maybe you’re reading this and realize that you’re not alone – and then, well, it was worth it.
When I was 17, I suffered from severe generalized anxiety disorder. I swear they invented the diagnostic term because they just can’t seem to figure out the triggers, the onset, and because of that – finding a cure or alleviation remedy felt impossible. I was actually hit with a double-whammy, PTSD, and GAD. (Boy, did I win the grand prize, right?)
That year was one of my hardest lived. I couldn’t find a medication to help. I had tried many, one for almost every letter of the alphabet, and nothing seemed to help – not even a little bit. Therapy didn’t even help, and I also went through those the same way I did medication.
I left my job waitressing and I stayed home. Home – well that was another story. My “home” consisted of a one bedroom house (the size of a very small cottage), and even though I didn’t live with my family and the walls held up only by dysfunction, I just couldn’t leave it. It became my safety zone. Whenever I would leave the house my anxiety felt life-threatening.
I couldn’t breathe.
My heart would race.
My stomach turned.
I just didn’t get why this had to happen to me especially after all I had already been through. Why this? Why now? Why another challenge?
I rarely left my house – literally.
If I could drum up the courage I’d take a ride in the passenger seat to the local deli which wasn’t even a 1/2 mile away from my house. The entire way there I felt like I wanted to turn around, go back, call it quits, and sometimes I did. I gave into the panic because it would take over my physical body. Sometimes turning around was all I could do.
For about 9-10 months, almost the entire year, I rarely went anywhere – walking to the mailbox at the end of the driveway seemed like a daunting task.
Social parties or events were non-existent for me.
Until one day, at age 18, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to live my life like that anymore. In reality, I wasn’t living – I was surviving. I knew things had to change. I had talked about it with my many counselors and therapists, tried working through my childhood damage caused by sexual abuse, but as much as I wanted to I needed to make one very important decision.
I had to make the decision to allow myself to be sick, to be uncomfortable, and accept that it would happen. But, because of that – I could also accept that it was temporary and that any uncomfortable feeling I felt would pass.
I’d go to the library and take out motivational books, truthfully – I practically lived in the self-help section.
Little by little I would leave the house more often, get lost in nature, spend hours at the library, visit the beach, and little by little – I found my strength.
One of my biggest breakthroughs took place because I listened to Lucinda Bassett’s Attacking Anxiety and Depression audio edition. It’s amazing how we have access to the technology we do now because in the late 90’s all I had was a cassette tape player.
I’d rewind and listen to my favorite parts, over and over again.
Eventually, I attacked my anxiety and the depression that came from it. Of course, anxiety still makes its attempts every now and then even years later, but now I’ve learned how to win, and I also know when I’ve reached my limit.
It’s ok to rest.
It’s ok to say no.
The key to living your best life is to defeat anxiety and depression when you can, try every single time, but also accept when you just need a break to replenish.
Your ability to overpower anxiety and depression is much, much greater than you know.
We are all capable of overcoming.