Project Semicolon - perhaps you've heard of it? Someone posted a link a few months back and I began to research. This organization, represented by this little symbol ";" struck a chord with so many, especially me. I could relate to the stories I read. It was beautiful. And it gave me courage to write this.
So, after talking with my mom and one of my very best friends, I decided to finally post this blog. It's cathartic for me to write (errrrr...type) and I'm not looking for sympathy. I just want to share my story.
I am someone who lives with anxiety. I'm not talking "nerves before a huge final" or being nervous about starting something new (although those are completely legitimate cases of anxiousness). I am someone whose mind hyperfocuses on one thing and will stay focused on that one thing. I will continually worry about the smallest thing, no matter how insignificant it seems to others. I am someone who occasionally feels as if there is a 1,000 pound man sitting on my chest and he. won't. budge. But, I am someone who now recognizes these things and is able to live and breathe.
My mom and I were discussing this yesterday. Those who suffer from anxiety present it in different ways. Some lash out, others live with constant fatigue, and still others act manic. My anxiety presents itself by me pulling away from those around me.
Let me backtrack a little.
I have never been someone who expresses my emotions well. Like, ever. My face may tell you what I'm feeling, but I am not one to really open up about feeling anything other than happiness. I feel uncomfortable sharing those feelings. Senior year of high school, I was taking a pretty heavy load of classes and was involved in several activities outside of school. I was one of six leaders of a retreat in Memphis. I was involved in retreats at my school. I was involved in my youth group. I had a part-time job that I loved. And yet, I wasn't happy. At all. I entered a very dark period in my life. I am being honest when I say that there are a few weeks of my senior year that are blurry - I was constantly anxious and sad. I couldn't sleep or really look my friends in the eye. I began to self-harm as a coping mechanism. The only way (I thought) that I could get rid of the anxiety was that. Anxiety can play cruel tricks on your mind. I am a perfectionist and part of my anxiety was believing that I was letting everyone else down when I didn't do A, B, or C. Was that true? Not a bit.
I opened up to a total of two people; yet, others around me knew something was going on. Finally, these brave souls spoke up for me when I couldn't, when I didn't have the strength to say "help." I entered therapy and was diagnosed as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression. Neither really came as a shock to me. Instead, it was more comforting. There was a reason I was feeling this way. There was nothing wrong with me and it was workable. I don't say fixable because anxiety is always going to be a part of my life. Life was doable again.
But now, I knew that. I'm not saying that life turned around 100% right then. It didn't. It has taken me a lot of work to figure out what triggers my anxiety and how to deal with it. Anxiety is always going to be there. It's a part of me. It's a part of Rachel.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties. Hi. Still here. Anxiety? It's still there. But now? Now, I know what to do. I know how to remove myself from situations that could give me anxiety. I know how to recognize when I'm beginning to tailspin into that anxiety. Does that mean I'm always able to stop the panic? No. But, I'm better at recognizing it. I'm better at recognizing myself begin to give in to the anxiety.
I have the best support system there is. My mother? Yeah, she's pretty great. And honest. She has this sixth sense and she knows. If I begin to talk super fast or talk about the same thing a lot, she'll pause and say, "Rachel. Breathe. You're letting the anxiety talk. Not you." So, I'll slow down. I breathe. I breathe again. And when I'm done, I take one more breath. I go for a run. I bake. I read a book. And I breathe.
So, why am I writing this post? Because, like Sylvia Plath so wisely wrote, "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am. I am. I am."
And I will continue to be. Because my story isn't over yet; it's just beginning.