"Coming Out" - My Journey with Anxiety
I remember it like it was yesterday. My first panic attack. I was 8 years old, and I felt like I was dying. The worries in my mind had taken over my body and it was as if I had no control over what was happening to me. Growing up, anxiety was not talked about often or understood by most people. The stigma, embarrassment, and shame led me to keep this part of me hidden. On the outside I was a typical child with a bubbly personality. On the inside I was dreading daily life and focusing on the uncomfortable sensations that permeated through my body.
I did not have the tools to either express or cope with my inner struggles. My inner anxiety had so much power and control over my life. It seemed like no one understood, and I felt angry when they didn’t. My journey through my adolescence was similar with the exception of my growing ability to mask my secret better. While I was extremely lucky to have parents who tried everything in their toolbox (psychologists, therapists, etc.) to help me, I realize now that it was not until I accepted my own anxiety that my life was able to take a turn. I say a turn, because that is exactly what living with anxiety feels like (twists and turns, highs and lows). I do give a lot of credit to finding the medication that was best for me. Whether you are a proponent of mitigating measures or not, I strongly suggest being open minded to the possibilities of change that come with anxiety medication.
As I got older, I felt that so much of my life was “ruined” by my anxiety. I couldn’t go back, but I did want to give others what I was missing. I wanted to be a person who DID understand what they are going through. With complete irony, I decided to spend my days in the place that caused me so much anxiety as a child. I am now an elementary school counselor and licensed professional counselor. I promote and educate mental health to all students. I am doing my part to help both struggling students as well as educating compassionate allies for them.
I am still on my “coming out” journey (this post being a huge part of that). The ability to share my story without the shame that was previously attached to it is the biggest step in my ongoing ability to not only help others and reduce the stigma, but to continue to help myself as well. The resources we have today were not as accessible when I was a child. The stories that are told on the ADAA website have encouraged me to do the same. The knowledge I gain through the wonderful resources allow me to educate and empower both children and parents. I hope I can encourage others to do the same for both themselves and those who they may impact.
Check out Hara's book: How to Be a Worry Detective: Becoming the Boss of Your Brain and Body!, 2022