I just finished listening to Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (actually I listened to it and I recommend listening to it because she is a phenomenal narrator). It was amazing. I laughed until I cried (usually in the car, where people could see), and I reflected on things until I was brought to tears. It seems silly, being 30 years old, but mental illness is something that isn’t discussed much in my life. I work in higher education so I talk about and around mental illness and anxiety and how it impacts students, but these conversations are typically abstract.
I have anxiety. Not “general, everyone gets it anxiety,” but “go to the doctor and take medication to control it” anxiety. And unfortunately, it’s gotten worse this year. Many people in my life have no idea that I have anxiety. Most people look at me and think I have it figured out; I have an amazing job that I love and am good at, I am married to my best friend, and if you look at my Facebook or Instagram, it looks like my life is pretty great. And it is. But I have anxiety. And it doesn’t feel as if it’s okay to talk about.
Living with Anxiety
I didn’t realize I could ask for help until I was 27 years old. Until this point, I just figured that something was wrong with me. That I wasn’t like other people. That it was normal to constantly worry about every little thing that could go wrong or to fixate on a conversation and re-live it 784928 times, or that it was normal to have a panic attack when I was in any social situation. I just figured I was not like everyone else and that I would have to live with that.
Until I realized I didn’t have to live like that. That life with constant anxiety didn’t have to be my norm.
It’s unfortunate, but I think when people hear the term “mental illness” certain images or perceptions come to mind. And these perceptions, whether accurate or not, have a massive impact on how comfortable people feel sharing what their certain situation is.
Anyways – when I was 27, I asked for help. And it was terrifying. It ranks as one of the most vulnerable times in my life. At first I felt like a failure; I’d been handed mostly everything in my life and there was no reason that I should be struggling. Why me? But I asked for help. After talking with my doctor and discussing my symptoms, she recommended counseling and medication, both of which helped and still help. Then I moved to Minnesota and completely uprooted my personal life and started planning a wedding – and needed more help. And now this year, the worst year of my life (no exaggeration, and I’ll probably share more later), I’ve needed to ask for help again. And now I see that it’s ok to ask for help. I may not be “cured” but I am doing better than I was.
After reading Furiously Happy, I realized that it’s okay to say, “hey, I need a little help.” I’m lucky that I’ve found a way to manage my anxiety through medication and an amazing therapist, and that most times it minimally impacts my daily life – but not everyone is that lucky. It’s scary to share this online, in a public place where people I know might read it. But the truth is, anxiety, depression…it’s unfortunately pretty common. And in my opinion, the only way people can become more comfortable talking about it is if someone starts the conversation. So thanks, Jenny Lawson. You made me feel like I wasn’t alone.