I can still remember how it felt.
The weight of it.
The fear of it.
It seemed to come out of nowhere. Even today, I still have no idea what triggered its existence. It was probably always there. Waiting to make its move.
I was terrified.
Not of monsters under my bed, but of simple, everyday, types of things.
I would later learn this was just the beginning of my anxiety.
As a child, I stopped going to school. I made myself sick so I could stay home. This worked. For a while. But my parents knew something was very wrong, so I started to see a counselor. My mom began volunteering in my classroom so I would be comfortable enough to go back to school—this was just one of the many ways in which she would be my saving grace throughout my early years and up to now.
I made my way through elementary school and into high school with my anxiety. High school was a challenge, but thankfully, I had a great group of friends. When I was surrounded by them, I didn’t feel as anxious. I still had bad days. Sometimes, I wouldn’t hear my teacher’s lectures because my anxiety was deafening. The funny thing is, nobody knew. Other than my family, it was my secret. I was embarrassed. I felt crazy to feel scared of things my friends seemingly had no problem doing, but I lived my life with a smile on my face. People would describe me as outgoing, happy and friendly; all the while, I was struggling with my anxiety in one way or another.
I left home and started university. I was fine at first, but when I started my third year, the shit hit the fan. I stopped going to class. I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping. I was spiraling into a dark hole until the day my mom and dad arrived on my doorstep. Again, they knew. Again, they were my saving grace. They moved me back home, and I got help. As life slowly returned to normal, I began to function as a person again.
© Alyce Kominetsky
I would later meet my now husband, move to a new province and get married.
Then, I became a mom. With this incredible life-changing event came my aha! moment. I fully realized I couldn’t deal with my anxiety on my own and that I needed to ask for help when necessary. I learned to admit when I was overwhelmed. I realized my anxiety is not a sign of weakness.
Becoming a parent was a whole new challenge, and it continues to be. In many ways, becoming a mom has helped. After having my daughter, I became responsible for another human being. She counts on me, and I don’t want her to miss out on anything (nor do I) because of my anxiety. Don’t get me wrong—in no way did having a child cure me. There were days when leaving the house was impossible. There were days when I would admit defeat. There were days when there were more tears than laughter. But, with the support of my amazing husband and family, we made it though those sleep-deprived, challenging and amazing times.
After I returned to work, I decided to make another change; I went back to school. Talk about a whole new level of anxiety. While it has been one of the best decisions I have made for myself, it is extremely challenging and has made me even more aware of my anxiety. I now face the anxiety that goes hand in hand with motherhood along with that of a full-time student, and I continuously push myself out of my comfort zone.
But, I will no longer let my anxiety hold me back. I refuse to let it win. In this respect, it fuels my desire to be a better person. To be a better mom.
Through it all, these are the five lessons my anxiety has taught me:
1. Remove the word crazy. Don’t use this word. Period. Anxiety is normal. Your feelings are normal. You are normal.
2. Every person is fighting his or her own battle. Each and every one of us is struggling with something. We are all striving to overcome our struggles and not let them control our lives.
3. Give yourself permission to cry. Sometimes a good ol’ ugly cry is therapeutic. Let it out. It won’t cure everything, but it will help.
4. Love yourself. Alone time is necessary. Finding time to do something that makes you feel less anxious will make you a better person. You are not a bad mom for making yourself a priority.
5. Find support. This is vital for survival. Don’t be afraid. Speak up. Reach out. Ask for help.
These lessons have brought me a long way. It has taken me years to come to terms with my struggles with anxiety.
Do I still worry? Absolutely.
Do I still feel anxious? Most definitely.
Do I still have days when I want to scream, cry or crawl back under my covers? Yes, yes and YES!
But, thankfully, I experience far more good days than bad ones.
Puzzles have many pieces that fit together to make a picture. For those of us living with anxiety, our pieces can get mixed up, distorting the picture. However, we have the control to put the picture back together. One piece at a time.