Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Real Talk



I didn't know whether or not to write this post. I've been thinking about it for about the last month, but can never get up enough courage to actually do it. Whether it be because I don't want to put too much personal stuff on my blog, or I don't want people to perceive me differently, or I just don't want to admit a weakness, I don't know. But then I finally just said, maybe I need to put myself out there, and throw it out there so it's just that--out there. I hate feeling like I'm the only going through things, or have issues, because I know I'm not, but I don't let myself believe that other people feel like this; so hopefully by me talking about it, it will show someone else that might be going through it that they aren't alone, and I'm going through it too and maybe in return I can feel assured that I'm not alone, either.



For as long as I can remember I've dealt with anxiety. I was a nervous child. I would worry about everything. I had separation anxiety and would get homesick a lot, so I never spent the night over anyone's house and I had a hard time going to school. I was painfully shy, but always attracted extremely outgoing friends (Perfect case of opposites attract, over-bearing personalities being attracted to passive personalities), and because of that, they never could understand why I didn't want to spend the night at their house, or go on vacations with their family. As I got older, into middle school and through out high school, things got easier, I felt more comfortable and there were many times I spent the night with friends or went places. I'd like to think I was quite social in high school; I was a cheerleader for a little while, I got on Winter Semi-Formal court two different years. I was no longer awkwardly shy, I was comfortable with the personality I was shaping for myself-- I could initiate conversations and be quick with a comeback and could joke with the best of them. But the entire time I still secretly struggled with anxiety. I didn't really tell anyone about it because I figured it was normal to be nervous about things and usually once I did whatever I was nervous about, the nerves went away.

But then around my senior year of high school, I noticed myself getting increasingly anxious about things. It could have been due to personal things like relationships and the fact that I was getting ready to graduate and enter the "real world" and it was overwhelming me. And when I get overwhelmed I break down and I shut down. I will usually have some sort of emotional meltdown followed by complete seclusion where I don't want to talk to anyone or hang out with anyone, I just want to stop life for a little bit and recoup. (This is what originally prompted me to write this post, because a similar "breakdown/shutdown" happened recently) So, for long story not-so-short, this was around the time when I started getting anxiety attacks. The first attack I remember, even though I didn't know that's what it was at the time, was coming home from hanging out with my then boyfriend and completely out of nowhere have this overwhelming feeling come over me, and I felt like my chest was heavy and I had to lay down, then I had to open my window, even though it was freezing outside, just to feel like I could breath. From then on, it just got progressively worse.

Maybe sometime I'll fill you in on what happened from then until now that contributed to this as well, but for the sake of time and sanity, I'll flash forward and summarize. The past 6 years have been some of the hardest, darkest, most hopeless and overwhelming years of my life. The anxiety overtook my life. My anxiety is my life. My anxiety attacks turned into agoraphobia, and I would barely leave my house. I always canceled plans and appointments. I avoided making any sort of set plans with anything because for days leading up to whatever I had planned, I'd be a nervous wreck. For something as simple as hanging out with a friend. It got to the point where even going out shopping with my parents turned into crying in the car and not being able to breath. It was like waves of anxiety and panic were crashing on top of me and I'd forgotten how to swim and it was getting harder and harder to stay afloat.

In August of 2009, I'd finally made the decision to begin the process of getting help. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and agoraphobia. I got on medication and started seeing a therapist. It was a relief to finally be told that what I had was real, and I wasn't crazy and it wasn't just in my head, and there was hope of me getting better. Even though I believe I'm in a better place than I was, say, 3 years ago... it's still something I battle with every day. With every type of obstacle you live with, there are always good days and bad days. For me, it seems like I go through good months and bad months. I won't get an attack for awhile and then I feel like it's non-stop anxiety. Ever since the end of January, it's been almost non-stop anxiety. Some of the worst it's ever been. Sometimes it was to the point I'd get physically ill, and another time I didn't leave my room for 3 days. If you've noticed that I haven't been posting as much lately, or seemed like I took a break from blogging, that was the reason. I didn't want to do anything, let alone get dressed and take pictures of myself. That same week, I woke up having a panic attack. I thought if my heart beat any faster it was either going to burst, or I was going to have a heart attack. That day I decided to go back to a therapist, after not going to one for almost a year. It felt good to be taking steps to help myself again, but it also felt like I was back to square one, and the anxiety was still stronger than me. I'm still just taking it day by day, slowly trying to overcome my fears.

I know this is long, and personal, and I appreciate if you read this far. Sometimes I feel like if I talk about it, and let people know, it doesn't feel so much like a secret that's weighing on me but something that's out in the open. For so long I was embarrassed to tell anyone other than my family because I felt like it was a childish phase I never grew out of, but now I know that's not the case. I know there are other people out there dealing with this too. It's something I'm always going to have to live with, it's the cross I have to bear, so I might as well fess up to it and let people know that it's just apart of who I am. If it's apart of who you are, too, take comfort in knowing that I know how you feel and I know what you're going through, and we're going to be okay. I started Words of Wisdom Wednesday not only for my readers, but for myself, too. I do them months in advance and purposely forget what I've posted, so every Wednesday it's like getting a new little nugget of motivation and advice from myself. It makes me feel a little bit better, and hopefully it makes you feel the same. Because we're going to be okay, you and I. We really are.

25 comments :

  1. I commend you for having the courage to share this story here. I love when bloggers go beyond their shiny outsides and start sharing their real selves. Your condition sounds tough and scary. I hope being able to share it opens up some new ways to handle it for you. Thank you for trusting us.

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing this. I can imagine it was hard to do, but I just want to say that while I don't know what you're going through, I read all you had to say and truly appreciate your honesty and wish you lots of strength & support! You seem to have a positive attitude about it, and that's really important, so like you said one step & one day at a time, m'dear!

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  3. You know, I've been reading your blog for over six months, and I've never posted before (even though you're adorable!) :) but I wanted to today to say, you are not alone. I'm really sorry to hear what you've been going through, and I'm glad you went back to the therapist. I really hope you feel better soon.

    Although I can't say I know exactly what you're going through, I've suffered from severe depression off and on and I know what it's like to feel alienated and alone even when you're with a bunch of people. I hope this blog helps you feel a little better - I know I always turn to it (especially on Wednesdays!) for a little pick-me-up.

    All the best! Thanks for sharing and I hope everything works out.

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  4. Hi there, I have been reading your blog for some time, and I think this is a beautiful post. I think being real is the most liberating and amazing feeling. I know everyone in this world is dealing with their own things- everyone- and I am sad that you have that you have these things that you are dealing with and have for so long... but it seems like you are doing wonderfully.. and I know you will continue to do great. Anyway, first time commenting. Just wanted to say "hi" and that I think this was an amazingly written and beautifully real post. Take Care- Jen

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  5. I admire you for having so much courage...I try to be "real" and honest everyday in everything I do, but I have thing that weigh me down everyday. You are inspiring and I thank you for your honesty. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. xoxo

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  6. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I have gone through very minor bouts of anxiety that I have been able to get through with a very loving and understandable family and bf. I hope you will find revived hope and peace after talking with the therapist again. Don't ever give up, you have so many people who love reading your blog and are here to support you.

    xo L.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this with us. I've been following your blog for a few months and have always enjoyed your posts, but I could definitely relate to this one the most...I've also struggled with what felt like beyond-normal worry and anxiety, and recently had my first panic attack. The experience was extremely bizarre and frightening- just as you described, my hear was racing so fast I felt it was going to burst through my chest, and I could barely breathe. It's always encouraging to hear you're not the only one feeling this way, and I hope you know how much your readers appreciate your candor and support you!

    ~A

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  8. I've also never commented before though I've been following for awhile. We all have stuff we deal with, but it is so brave and awesome for you to be so upfront with it. Sending you lots of love and support.

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  9. Emily, thank you so much for posting and exposing yourself like that! I can't say I know what you are going through but know that we are all here for you! We love you!! And it IS going to be okay!!

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  10. What a brave post! I absolutely love "Words of Wisdom Wednesdays," and I'm glad to know they're good for you too. When I was struggling with depression, admitting it out loud made me feel like I was somehow letting someone down, but after I started talking about it openly, I realized how much other people wanted to help.

    Please know that whenever you're having a truly crappy time, if you share it, we as your readers will do anything we can to help.

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  11. I appreciate you're being brave enough to share this! I have some anxiety as well, and it can be so hard to stop it once it starts coming over you. Medication and therapy can be SO helpful, and there are so many wonderful ways to work through issues such as these. I'm a huge proponent of talking about your mental health as well as your physical health, and once I learned more about my own anxiety I learned the huge numbers of people who deal with the same issues every day. You're totally not alone, don't forget that!

    I also think its so important to be able to recognize when you're in the middle of a meltdown or a rut or a down period. I remember a weekend in college when I didn't leave my room but to shower and eat for three days. I just stayed in bed those whole three days, and I remember realizing that I needed to force myself out of bed and get out of that dark place! Its very hard, but stay strong. Talking helps :) Thanks for sharing.

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  12. I think it's really brave of you for telling your story. I too suffer from anxiety & panic attacks. Without the right support & (sometimes) medication it can take over your life. Finding a mantra, doing yoga, meditating & just reaching out have helped me manage my negative thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

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  13. Fontaine, I can't believe how long I have known you that this is something I have never known about you. I can't even begin to tell you how proud of you I am for putting it out there, especially in the world of the internet. I have to say, people who know you and know that I know you a bit better than they do, have frequently asked me in the past why you don't "go out." Obviously, I'd never asked you this directly myself, so of course I've never been able to give someone your words, but I've always just said something along the lines of, "I think she's just more of a homebody, and enjoys spending time with her family." Nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong with your anxiety issues, at all. I hate that you have felt alone in this, because I'm sure after you were diagnosed you realized, it's actually really common. One of my co-workers deals with heavy anxiety too, although I'm not positive if she's sought help and been diagnosed. And the woman I live with is dating a man who is agoraphobic. You're really not alone. <3

    Ok, I feel like there's no coherency to this comment I am leaving, ha ha. Sorry. Basically, I wanted to say that 1) I am extremely proud of you for putting this out there, and I am glad to know, and 2) I am always here for you. I know how a thousand people can say that and it doesn't mean shit, but I honestly, genuinely mean it. I wish that in the past you'd have felt comfortable telling me this, and maybe it was my shortcomings as a friend that made you not want to tell me. And that's okay on your end, of course, but I'm sorry if I never let you feel like you could talk to me about something like this.

    Anyway, rambling again. I love you and I'm proud of you and I'm here for you, and I wish you the best of luck handling all that you're going through. <3

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  14. Ok, I remember something I was going to say now. I probably kept rambling because I knew there was something else I was going to bring up but couldn't remember (sorry, school is frying my brain, ha ha).

    I was going to say, something that I find myself frequently trying to say to other people and trying to remind myself, is that you don't know ANYONE's story. I get so sad at all the judgement that I see every day, but we have to remind ourselves that everyone has their own story. It's like that quote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." That's a quote to remember, because it's so true. I try to consciously think of that quote every single day. You don't know what kinds of things anyone could be going through. So thank you for your story, because it reminded me of that which I try to remind myself of every day. :D

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  15. Hi. Even though I've read your blog for awhile, I've never commented, but after reading what you posted today I HAD to. I can relate to what you're going through 100% (I was diagnosed with the exact same thing after my first year of college) and I know how hard it is to talk about. Not just because there might be some sort of stigma to it, but also because there really are no words to describe exactly what you are going through and how truly awful and debilitating it is. To anyone who hasn't experienced it, I think it just seems like you might be exaggerating or making a big deal about nothing--like it's just the normal "stress" that we all deal with, but it's not.

    I struggled with what you are going though for 4 1/2 years. For about 2 years I was convinced that I had a brain tumor because parts of my body would go numb randomly or I'd go blind all of a sudden and it would trigger a panic attack, and I had dozens of tests but they never found anything. I even wished that I had a tumor because at least there would be a reason for what I was feeling, and it was something that they could treat. Eventually I found the right medication and therapist for me and finally have been feeling back to "normal" for a little over 2 years, meaning it's no longer a daily battle or thing I even think about, although I may have a stray panic attack once every few months its not as big of a deal and I can easily recover from it.

    I just want to let you know that even though it seems horrible right now and kinda hopeless like you might have to live like this forever, it will get better. The last 2 years have been the best of my life, not just because I'm myself again and am more outgoing and go out and have fun, but because I had the experience of those horrible years and learned a lot about myself and can now appreciate it all. Panic/anxiety/agoraphobia is not something I would wish on my worst enemy but I do feel like I'm a better/stronger person for having lived through the worst of it and am now actually grateful for the experience.

    You will get better...just remember that when you do you need to still take your medication and see your therapist because you can easily slip back into it. Take care <3

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  16. I really applaud the courage you showed in writing (and sharing) this deeply private and insightful post. While I have never experience anything remotely close to the trials you've endured during your life, my mother suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks when I was a child. So I can imagine what you've been going through. I've followed your blog for a couple years now because I've always loved your style and refreshing personality. Whenever there would be a long break between posts I always just figured you'd gotten busy, as people often do. Knowing that you'd essentially been suffering silently (at least, as far as your blog followers are concerned)is kind of heart-rending. I'm so glad that you were able to share this personal experience because, if anything, at least now we can support you more. While I've been more of a lurker than a commenter on your blog, I had to comment on this post because it took so much strength for you to do this. Just know that, whatever it is you're going through, there are people out there who understand and are wishing you well. And never think that therapy is a step backward. Anything you do that makes you feel better about yourself and life is a step in the right direction in my book. So keep at it :)

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  17. I can only imagine how hard this was for you to put out there for the world to see, but you are not alone. I think a lot more people then we can begin to understand suffer from anxiety and or depression. I personally lean towards depression, but like you, I am somewhat embarrassed and haven't told anyone. And hey, if you're smiling and don't talk about it, they won't notice, right. Or at least thats what I try to do most of the time. Everyonce in awhile I too fall into the phase where I just can't plaster on the fake smile and I also retreat into a state of nto wanting to leave the house or do anything. Sometimes it lasts just a weekend, sometimes its a month at a time. I keep thinking that if I get a better job, or lost some weight, or was able to get my own place maybe that would go away, but really, I think its something that needs to be addressed. And as much time as I spend tryign to convince myself and everyone else that nothing is wrong, should be spent on actually working towards a solution. And maybe its time that I look into geting better too. I just wanted to thank you for putting your story out there, because I always read your blog and thought wow, this girl has it together. I think sometimes people expect someone with anxiety or depression to be a complete mess and invalidate your symptoms if you have a good day. You're not alone, and I am sure more people support you than you are even aware of.
    "It'll be ok in the end, and if its not ok- its not the end"
    kk

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  18. Emily, all I can say is I have been there.

    I completely understand what you're going through and how dark, scary and lonely it can feel. I went through a pretty overwhelming period of anxiety, panic attacks, and avoidance for about a year and a half after starting my career right after college. I never wanted to talk to anyone about it, and I'd force myself to put on a happy face and put myself in situations I didn't want to be in because I didn't want anyone to know that inside, I was a big ball of nerves and self-questioning 24/7.

    I started talking to my friends about it, and realized that many of them had been through -- or were going through -- exactly the same thing. The more I talked about it and realized I wasn't alone, the better it got. I still have rough days, but they don't swallow me whole like they used to. Having someone to talk to literally saved me, and helped to pull me out of a hole that I'm convinced I never could've crawled out of on my own.

    Check out this article on Glamour (I originally read it in the magazine, which was kind of an "ah-ha" moment and reinforced that you're really NOT alone): http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2010/08/anxiety-the-new-young-womens-health-crisis

    Talking it through is the best medication, for me anyway. If you ever need someone to talk to, email me anytime - aprettypennyblog@yahoo.com

    Take care, and thanks for putting this out there! You'll probably never know how many people you touched just by posting so honestly.

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  19. This was a really brave and inspiring post, thank you for writing it. Sometimes it seems like, with bloggers especially, that people live such perfect unaffected lives. I know that's not true, but it does seem that way. So thank you for putting yourself out there.

    I had really bad anxiety in high school. I would get extremely worked up over the first day of a new semester, or my dance recitals. Anxiety attacks became pretty routine for me, and it was awful. I still have anxiety, but it doesn't seem to be as bad as it once was. I still struggle with letting it control me and my decisions. But everyday I decided to do something I was anxious about, it's a triumph.

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  20. I completely admire your courage to post this personal story and although you've always been one of my favorite bloggers, this made me like you EVEN MORE.

    I work in the mental health field and I gotta say that anxiety, depression, etc don't have the stigma they did in the past. You'd be shocked by the number of highly-functioning members of society of that we see. It's strong, beautiful people like you who are speaking out about their struggles that enable others to get the help they need. We bond through our weaknesses as much as we do through our strengths (maybe more)and as a blogger you have the ability to reach others with your words, so you have no idea the number of people you may have helped with your honesty.

    PS, I struggle with GAD too.

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  21. I want to thank you soooo much for sharing. The past year and a half of my life have been the hardest. I have struggled with anxiety since I was younger, but graduating from college and moving really triggered it for me. Only now, after seeking out help, am I starting to get back. Really, thank you!

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  22. What a brave, brave post. I can only imagine that it was difficult to write; hopefully it was cathartic as well! I've never struggled with anxiety issues (at least none outside the normal range) so I can only imagine how difficult they are to deal with. Good for you for getting back into therapy and working to improve your quality of life.

    Thank you for being real. Bloggers often (almost always?) seem perfect. I don't think it's intentional, but really, who wants to show off their ugly outfits, ugly house, ugly husband, or lame vacation? No one. We show off the things we're proud of and ignore the rest. It doesn't affect the blogger but doing that does give the reader an unrealistic view of that person's life. You're being real. And you're getting help. And things will improve. Keep us in the loop, okay? We're all rooting for you.

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  23. Thank you for sharing your story, it must have been a difficult thing to do - yet it shows at the same time that you ARE making progress and that you are not letting anything define you but your own actions. Plus, it was such a pleasure (if that is even the right word) to have a blogger not hide behind a fancy blog/design but bring some humanity with all its challenges into the blogworld. Thank you.

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  24. I know a young girl who is also like this. We go to a girl's group activity type-of-thing together. I don't really know how to word it any better, but do you know of anything that I can say or do that might help her be more "involved" or comfortable with the group?

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  25. Michaela, anxiety can be brought on by a number of different reasons, so my best advice would be to ask her what exactly is keeping her from interacting. For me, it was always because I was super shy and nervous-- I thought the other kids were way more outgoing than me and I wouldn't know what to say and if I did say anything I'd embarrass myself. Let her know that the other kids are just as nervous as she is, and everyone is in the same boat as her. I would also help introduce her to some kids, I remember it being hard for me to start a conversation with someone I didn't know, but it was easier to talk to them if someone else was with me. Sometimes just being there with them is help enough. Good luck :)

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