You know how people always say that they would never change [insert generally negative aspect/characteristic/health issue] about themselves? Because that thing made them stronger or more empathetic or a better person in general? Yeah well as noble as that sentiment is, I would get rid of my anxiety disorders in a heartbeat.
Two weeks ago my husband and I went on “vacation.” I put that in quotation marks because it ended up being the two of us hanging out my parent’s house for a week while I panicked.
My husband and I have both been under a lot of stress recently. After a lot (and I mean a lot) of thought and prayer and counsel from others, Jefferson has decided to seek a new ministry position elsewhere. I don’t feel like getting into the details, but as I’m sure you can image, moving AGAIN is not exactly what I had on my radar. But, that is exactly what will be happening approximately two months from now.
So yeah, we were stressed as we tried to figure out this big decision – and we were so looking forward to our mini vacation at Niagara Falls. I, being the adult I am, even got us a GROUPON deal! So cool! So adult!
Except no, because within hours of being in the hotel, I had a MASSIVE freakout (emetophobia panic attack – literally the worst) and we had to leave. Yup, we left. Waste of money, waste of time, waste of gas…everything. Hotels have been a trigger for me since I was a child. Almost every first night in a hotel I end up dry heaving in the bathroom alone, eventually falling into a Gravol-induced sleep hours later. (Read my post “11 Hours” from almost 4 years ago if you want to see how bad it can get).
A few days ago I was cooking, and because I was extremely stressed out and distracted, I managed to burn EVERY single one of my fingers on a boiling hot Pyrex pan and then proceed to smash said pan all over the floor. Thankfully it didn’t fall on my foot, or else my title would have been “Broken Feet, Burnt Fingers, and Ruined Vacations.”
I also have another horrible cold (third one of 2017!) because my immune system is garbage. Absolute garbage. I mean, I don’t blame it. I live in a constant state of stress and anxiety, my poor body doesn’t have time to fight off sicknesses.
So, yeah, if a magical genie came up to me and was like, “Yo, wanna be normal forever?” Are you kidding me?! Of course my answer would be yes! Man, there isn’t much I wouldn’t give up to permanently get rid of my anxiety disorders.
Since I can remember (a.k.a the last 20 years of my life) there is not a single day where I have not felt anxiety bubble up inside me. Sometimes, it doesn’t boil over. Sometimes, it’s tolerable. But guess what, “barely tolerating” life SUCKS! It suuuuuuucks.
I love the fact that so many people now are outspoken about mental health disorders – but I am kind of tired of hearing people be like, “Yes, it’s hard – but I wouldn’t change this part about me for the world!”
What! Why not?!
Yeah okay, my anxiety disorders have made me significantly more compassionate and empathetic towards others who deal with this crappy illness. And in some ways, it has made me strong.
But you know what? Let’s just be honest here. It’s also made me incredibly selfish and it’s made me weak and it’s made me miss school and get poor grades and it’s ruined relationships and it’s stopped me from: being a kid, driving, being independent, going on vacations, going to church, visiting family, pursuing hobbies, taking care of my body, and enjoying life.
It’s brought me so much pain – both physical and mental pain, and it’s made me hurt myself and it’s almost killed me.
I have accepted this is a part of me so I will make the best of it. I have worked through my multiple disorders (emetophobia, panic disorder, GAD, and mild-moderate depression) and have made both incredible improvements and gone through difficult setbacks. I am glad that good things have come out of this. I am glad that my book and my blog and my voice has helped others who deal with similar mental health issues.
But that doesn’t mean I like being this way. My mental health disorders have permanently scarred me. My body will never be the same, after years and years of starving myself and years and years of stress and anxiety. Just read about the long term effects of anorexia and stress. That is what I have to deal with now. That is what I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.
I am so happy we can talk so much more openly about our struggles now. As someone who has dealt with anxiety since before I even knew what anxiety was, I have watched this change happen and couldn’t be happier.
But let’s not pretend that suffering from anxiety disorders is some trendy, noble choice. No one would choose to be this way. It’s not some inspirational quote on your Facebook timeline. It’s a scary, frustrating, sometimes life-altering medical condition and it’s not about being weak or strong. Having anxiety does not innately make you stronger than your friends, despite what those quotes overlaying a sunset tell you. Having anxiety is hard and sometimes you just have to be “stronger” to survive the day.
So yeah, if that genie ever does show up, I know what I’m wishing for.