The things I write are usually realizations I’ve come to, life lessons I’m in the process of learning. Some of them are deeply personal. All of them cause me great anxiety to share with the world, but I post them because I’ve come to realize that we all have more in common than we talk about. And if there’s a small chance the lessons I’ve learned the hard way can help someone else choose a better path, or even just feel like they’re not alone, then it’s worth my discomfort. Today’s post is for those who suffer from anxiety. If you’re one of them, you know how debilitating it can be. I’ve known I was graced with this ailment for quite some time. I’ve only lately come to realize how much it changed the course of my life.
As mental illnesses often do, it started out small. I wouldn’t answer a question in class for fear of being made fun of. I would stop wearing a shirt that someone made an innocuous comment about. Because I didn’t realize that this was the beginning of something bigger, I didn’t confront it. And so it got worse. I quit speaking up at all because I’d convince myself later that it was likely the stupidest comment in the history of humankind. I quit playing sports because I didn’t make every play the way I told myself I should have. I quit going to social events where there were people I wasn’t completely comfortable around (which was pretty much all of them) because I was sure they were judging me. I slowly but surely stopped living life.
It’s only now, at 28 years old that I’ve come to realize how small my circle has become, and how little my life consists of. In an interview I was asked what I like to do for fun. I was stumped. Such a simple question and I couldn’t think of a single hobby that I did just for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the people in my life beyond words and I wouldn’t trade a single one of them, but when your social circle consists of a 7 year old son who could talk about Yu-Gi-Oh cards 24 hours a day, a boyfriend who works the exact opposite shifts as you, and a family that lives over an hour away, life can get pretty lonely.
My anxiety had not only built up walls around me, it built an entire castle complete with a 12 foot alligator infested moat surrounding it, and no draw bridge. And it convinced me that I preferred it this way. That I was safe here, and comfortable and had everything I really needed in life. Until provisions ran low, and I realized I was a prisoner in the castle that I spent so much time building, and now I was slowly dying with no connection to the outside world. The moment when you come to that realization, is a dark and scary moment. And for some people, it’s so dark and scary that it breaks them. Me, I’m building a bridge. I realized that I had to venture out of my comfort zone. Not only that, but I had to let people in. I had to build connections because they are what help us learn and grow, and they are our true legacy when this life is over. My hope is that one day my castle is a bustling city square where everyone is welcome, people come and go as they please and everyone can feel comfortable. Until then, I will continue to work on making my way across that bridge. To those who met me halfway, I am eternally grateful.
Submitted by Michelle Nault