On Friday, I did something I would have never dreamed of doing even a few years ago – I spoke. Publicly. About my anxiety. It was only in front of maybe 30 people; all people (women and girls) I knew, from my own church. Even though this was a fairly comfortable place to start my public speaking career (lol, no), I was of course still very anxious.
But I did it. I went up, and I shared my story with the girls from our youth group. I spoke about growing up with anxiety, and the ways it affects me now.
A few girls came up to me after and told me that I did a great job (I admitted I was pretty scared being up there in front of everyone – I wanted to be as transparent as possible!) I thought that was that.
But, a few days later, two girls came up to me and asked me a few questions about my anxiety. One of them asked, “Do you still have panic attacks?”
It’s a simple question, and the answer is of course yes.
But it just made me realize how freaking long I’ve been having panic attacks for.
I wish the answer to that question was ‘no.’
But it’s not.
One of my most vivid memories, that I’ve probably mentioned in a few other posts before, was one afternoon, when I was around 8 years old, sitting at the edge of my driveway, playing with sidewalk chalk. My stomach hurt a bit, and I was starting to get anxious.
I remember being so sick and tired of it. I sat there and wondered, “Will I still be this way, think this way, act this way when I’m 10 years old? What about 15 years old? What about 20 years old? Definitely not at 20 years old – right?”
For a long time, I thought about that particular memory, and was like, “Oh man…I AM still like that. It’s been 20 years, and I’m still like that. I still think this way. I still panic about my upset stomachs and my anxiety is still a big part of my life. Young me would be so sad.”
But, now, after thinking about it I think that’s not true at all. Young me would be proud of me. Young me would be comforted by me.
Because 7 year old Lauren would never speak in front of anyone. Would never go to a party even without an upset stomach. Would never eat a restaurant – at all – let alone after a long, stressful day.
I want to hug young me.
I want to tell her that, yes, you still have panic attacks. Even at 27 years old. You are still scared to throw up. You sometimes still shake, and cry, and want to be left alone on the bathroom floor. But then, you get up.
You eat a normal meal the next day.
You get your butt online and work.
You don’t take sick days for a panic attack.
You don’t miss out on your best friend’s wedding (who, by the way, is the same best friend that 7-year-old Lauren had) because you are feeling “off.”
You aren’t scared to talk about your anxiety.
You aren’t scared to tell people the truth, about you, and who you are.
I may still have panic attacks, but I’m not stuck on the floor anymore. And I wish I could go back in time, and help you up, 7 year old me.
But the good news is that in time, you figure out how to stand again.