For much of my life I have battled anxiety. I was devastatingly shy, mortified of being noticed. I can remember vividly having panic attacks as a child. Laying in my bed at night with my heart racing, crying as I stared at the ceiling and thought about getting through another day. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn’t want people to think I was weird, dangerous or “crazy”. In moments when I would divulge my anxieties or insecurities, people would say “Just be positive” “You’re so negative” or a classic “Some people have it worse”
This carried through to my adult life.
I avoid large gatherings. I cancel plans last minute. I have full on break downs before going to the store. I stare at the ground, or search the room when I speak, only making eye contact with someone I feel safe with. I sometimes stay in bed for days. I cry when I’m alone. I have trouble sleeping, but I’m exhausted all the time. Social events result in me being reclusive for days afterward. Major changes can completely unravel me.
If you’d asked me, I would have told you I was fine when really, I was struggling. As a child, the anxiety had resulted in me feeling excluded and unable to fit in. As an adult, it has made me feel isolated and like there is something wrong with me.
This has always made me an easy target for the wrong personalities. I am easily manipulated and tend to gravitate towards people who seem to be all the things I’m not. Unfortunately it has in many instances, made my anxiety worse because I always end up getting hurt or taken advantage of. And thus, we have the pattern.
When we lost our child, it felt so easy to give up and not stay. But there were people and things that needed me. I spent months holding it together so that those I loved most could fall apart when needed. I wanted to be their strength, a beacon in the storm. I threw myself into awareness, helping others heal, bringing forth more understanding about grief and loss. I let myself be attacked by people in the comment sections of our story. I tried so hard to show them grace instead of respond with hate. I had terrible things said about me but I kept telling myself that was worth it because there was three times more support than there was hate.
I laid out large pieces of my vulnerability for others to grasp onto, hoping to make a difference for them. But in turn, I forgot to take care of myself.
I preached to everyone in my life about facing their grief, but I stopped doing so for myself. I got lost along the way, and before I knew it I was in darkness. The triggers started becoming more frequent, the panic attacks more debilitating, the reclusiveness exacerbated. I quit therapy. I lashed out at people I barely knew. I said hurtful things. My blogs started to get fewer and farther between. My will and drive to help, was feigning. I spent far too many moments considering all the ways I could be with my son in whatever afterlife he exists in. I had even shut my own husband out, the very person I’d tried the hardest to hold it together for.
I was not okay. I had lost my child to death, and I was losing myself to life.
One day, I decided I was done feeling like this, living like this. I got out of bed and I made an appointment to go back to therapy. I got my Zoloft out of the drawer and I started taking it again regularly. I made the necessary steps to remove any easily amendable triggers. I admitted the lapse in mental health, and I made a promise to myself to claw my way out. I have had to distance myself from the people and situations that cause me ANY stress. I cannot afford to slip back into the bleakness I have been engulfed in. I apologized where I needed too, took responsibility of my faulty behavior and vowed to do better.
And I am. I don’t know how long it will last. I don’t know how strong I can stay. I am fragile. But I do know I am trying, and even if I lose sight of the light again, I have been here before and I know my way through the tunnel.
This is what mental health struggles look like. It is not a mask someone can put on. It is a daily battle to survive. A battle against ourselves. And it’s the most difficult one of all.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255