Live. Laugh. Love. Seems simple, right? Well, I'm sure for some people it is. It sounds lovely. Its a goal to aspire to, for sure. But if you live with anxiety, its damn near impossible. I just thought I would share some of my struggles with letting go and trying to live a "normal" life dealing with anxiety.
Most people don't really know what it is, so heres how I see it. Basically, anxiety is the desire to do something but with overwhelming feelings of uneasiness and worry. Doesn't seem that bad, right? Everyone has moments of anxiety. But some of us just battle this dragon daily. Trying new things? Nope. Going someplace where you don't know anyone? Nope. Talking to new people? AHHH!!! People with anxiety play over and over in their heads what they have said, how they said it, and if they said it in. way that made no sense at all. We hear what you said and we worry maybe you don't like us, we worry we may come off like we don't like you. We're human, so of course we don't communicate perfectly all of the time and it kills us. We will stress out that we have said all the wrong things. So see what I mean? Trying to be happy is a legit daily struggle. Anxiety pushes people away. It isolates you. It causes you to look like a complete asshole, but you're really just afraid to open up and be vulnerable in any and all situations. It's not that we don't want real human interaction, but people with anxiety are afraid of what happens next. What happens if we catch feelings? Now what? What happens if we don't know whats going to happen? Seems crazy. And it is. It feels like crazy. Its awful, but I think people need to understand the DESIRE to want to be different and easy going and not nervous is there. We just need a little help calming our brains down a bit to loosen up and live a little.
I don't know about most people, but I know where mine comes from. Emotional Trauma. I'd say finding out my husband was cheating on me for half of our three year marriage was the beginning of the anxious feelings. Then, just to pile on to that, a chaotic relationship coupled with pregnancy and my partners struggle with his own depression and self medication during the scariest time of our lives probably didn't help ease my anxiety at all. After I had my son I just knew I had that overwhelming sense of fear of the unknown. Well, anyone with kids knows nothing is easy, everything is chaos and everything is terrifying for the first time. Just to add to all of those "Mommy Anxiety" I had a horrible break-up, and the feelings of utter relationship failure and fear of being alone and a single-mother basically just broke me. I felt like a shell of a person. On the outside everything was smiles and sunshine, but on the inside it feels a lot like drowning but with no one holding you under. Think, being stuck in a rip tide in the ocean. You're just swimming along and all of a sudden your bathing suit is being shoved up your ass and a boob is out and you're sucking in water by the gallon and you only have yourself to blame for all of it because you know you shouldn't have swam out so far with all of the red flags waving in the wind.
The living part is hard, but doable. I've worked on getting to know myself but it's still not enough. The trauma is still there. The anxiety still takes hold of me some days and steers the crazy train. Not everyday, not every decision, but some and it sucks. I'm not the best at making new "mom friends", taking my son to places with new people or crowds it tough, but I do it for him. He shouldn't live a sheltered life because I'm afraid of what is going to happen or might happen or probably won't happen but its just there I'm my head nagging me that it might happen. And honestly once I do try something new it feels good and empowering and I make the effort to do it again and again and each time it gets easier. Its not that people with anxiety can't live happy, healthy, productive lives. We just struggle with an inner dialogue that we are pretty sure no one else can relate to. We can be happy. We can chill the F*&% out and enjoy life. But its difficult, thats all we need you to understand.
The laughing part is easy, but it also masks the anxiety. Its tricky like that. I can laugh about it. I can laugh about myself and I can always just make everything a joke. Its one of my coping mechanisms. If I make a joke of it, and laugh about it or how ridiculous I am being, it seems to ease other people and makes me break down some of my own walls and break that guarded cycle of always trying to protect myself from people getting too close. Letting people in is ok if we are laughing. Under the jokes just know a part of me is screaming "just go back home to your couch and the Golden Girls marathon!!" But if I'm there and we're cry-laughing about something totally hilarious that means I'm invested. I'm not fighting the urges to isolate and I'm enjoying the moments with you. That's huge for me. Know that.
The loving part is the hardest. It seems impossible, but I want it so badly. Not just any kind of love but the kind of love that challenges me to be better, do better and to not run away to the couch and the Golden Girls. It's easy to love my son. But, real talk, I am a total "smother mother" but that's a whole different Blog Post. Love for him comes from somewhere thats is untouched by any other person. It comes from an unconditional connection to someone who I made and who makes me want more out of life. It's the other love that scary and terrifying and constantly feel uneasy and unsure of myself and if I am capable of being complete again. You see, after all that has happened to me a piece of me heart went missing and anxiety filled it. Replacing that with the unconditional love of another feels like uncharted territory. I've never had that before. There's always been conditions, stipulations, requirements for me to be something. The perfect wife or the rescuer, the caretaker or the one who holds it all together. Really loving someone isn't placing conditions on them. It's just the opposite. It's loving who they are, good, bad, or ugly...and with me there feels like a lot more bad and ugly than good sometimes. That's what pushes people away. Anxiety can make all of the good emotions mix with all of the nervousness and when someone special takes your heart in their hands it feels like someone has put a lid on a bottle and shaken it up. Those emotions are all over the place. The thing that was holding you together all of this time, CONTROL, is suddenly out the window and your left just out there and exposed. Don't get me wrong, thats a good thing. Thats what life is about. Finding that is what we all want. It just seems harder for me. I'm trying. All I can do is try. Try to be open, to share those feelings or fear, try to remember that not everyone wants to hurt me, and try to put those feelings of worry and dormant hurt into the baggage and leave them at the door and walk through the threshold of a new life with new feelings of love that can replace the negative. As much as you may think that you've done that, that you've conquered that ...its not until you're really faced with reality that you can say "ok, let's do this." Its not that I'm not ready for love, a relationship or deep feelings for someone. I am. I know I can do it and I know the person who lets me is the right one for me. It's going to hurt, and be messy and be hard sometimes but if I don't let that happen then the anxiety wins...and I'm not a loser. I don't like to let something like that beat me. I won't let it. I just have to trust and the right one will trust that I'm trusting them with it all.
If we breakdown in front of you, thats because we finally feel like its all coming to a head and instead of sweeping those feelings under the rug we are letting them out. We probably will communicate poorly during this because emotions aren't easily verbalized at this point. Its just a all vomiting out and we're powerless to it all because we have stopped holding on with such a tight grip. Its not a bad thing. Its actually good. We won't do this for just anyone, we just don't show our cards like that. It's ok. Just be patient, when we can get let it out it just means we're closer and closer to leaving it all behind and giving you the whole person we want to be. It's something we can't help feeling. It's a part of us, and as much as I don't want it, its there and we're trying my best to deal with it all.
It's so hard to put into words the way anxiety and emotional trauma can affect someone. I hope this paints a picture of what it's like. Not just for me but for the people who love me and are in my life. They need to know it's not them.
I am swimming away from the rip tide, I've pulled my swim suit from my ass, and I am keeping my head above water... and to all of those people who love me as I am, you are my life preserver.