How I Got Over Anxiety
Anxiety is a serious issue that many people have to deal with on a daily basis. We can't just "get over it". We can't just take deep breaths, and everything will be automatically okay. We can mentally and logically know that something is okay, but it doesn't mean we feel okay. Not at all.
Most people who meet me for the very first time will probably never in a million years guess that I struggle with serious anxiety issues. Over the years, I've gotten incredibly great at compartmentalization. I will probably never show you myself at my most vulnerable, unless I am very close to you. To be honest, even if you are close to me, you may never, ever see me cry from being frustrated, scared, worried, and sad. In fact, my best friend since second grade has never even seen me shed a tear outside of watching a touching scene in a movie.
I have gotten so great at compartmentalization that the crew that I just worked with thought I was crazy for having a bright smile during a late-night flight from San Francisco to Portland (we had all just arrived to San Francisco from Newark, NJ, so we were all pretty dead tired). I smiled until my cheeks were almost as numb as when I was in MLAC, and my throat was hoarse from talking (and being sick and insomniac for the past few days); hey, customer service comes first, right? I even went out afterwards to grab super-late night dinner with everyone, and stayed to chat for a bit. And guess what? In the midst of being sick, tired, stressed, and thrown multiple trips back to back, I was actually having a mild anxiety attack through it all.
For most people, these aren't signs of someone who are severely introverted, especially one who is struggling with anxiety. So how did I get over my anxiety? I didn't. Am I in a vastly better place than I was a few years ago when my anxiety attacks were at its height? Yes. Here's the truth, though: one random day, I might get worse and revert back to how I was before. Anxiety is something that will probably always stay with me. There are medications for anxiety, but I have made the choice to not take medication unless I am consistently having anxiety attacks.
Anxiety can be triggered by nothing, or everything. Anxiety is different for everyone. I can sometimes find a reason, but most of the time, I just have random bouts of anxiety-riddled days, where I cannot understand why I feel the way I do. I suppose this title is a little bit misleading, but I think it's important to understand that if you are struggling with anxiety, you are not alone. It gets hard. Really hard. Some days, I text someone, and if they don't text back in 0.5 seconds after reading it, I start to worry that I've offended them. If they don't even read my text, I worry that they are in a dangerous situation. I sometimes can't walk into elevators without my heart thudding out of my chest, because I'm scared that a serial killer will be meeting me when the doors open. Irrational, I know. I can't walk into rooms without first scanning to make sure that everything is in place, because I am scared of seeing a murder scene. Most of these are all very irrational fears, but I can't stop being anxious about them. I know that I sound ridiculous, really I do. But I can't help it. If you are struggling from anxiety, I cannot stress this enough: you are not alone. I know it gets hard. I know that sometimes it gets lonely, not knowing who you can tell these fears to, because you know you sound crazy. You are not crazy.
If you have a friend who struggles with anxiety, never undermine their fears. They probably know it sounds stupid to you, but please don't make them feel that way. Just listen to them, reassure them, love on them.
If someone is going through an anxiety attack, ask them what they want or need; if they want you there with them or not. Personally, my love language is touch, so I want someone there to hug me, pat my head, hold my hand and pray for/with me, or something, but I am too anxious ask someone to stay.
Do not ever say that everything will be okay, because we either already know it but can't feel it, or we can't understand what "okay" is (in that moment).
Same goes for "Just get over it", because that will make us feel ten million times even worse.
We live in a society where mental health is in the extreme of being "okay" or "crazy". Mental issues are not black and white, functioning or non-functioning. I despise that those with mental health issues are classified by how "functional" we are, because there are days where it it literally hurts to breathe, much less "function", but these days do not define me. I am capable of graduating university and taking on a high-stress job, but these days are not any more a definition of how "functional" I am than the days I can't move myself out of bed. Just because I am able to motivate myself to move on days where I don't want to get out of bed, doesn't mean I am more "okay" than someone without self-motivation. In fact, it's usually my anxiety that motivates me to move when I don't want to; I can't even begin to count how many days I powered through because I was anxious about what could happen if I didn't.
For obvious reasons, this isn't a topic I'm going to bring up in the middle of a work day with a passenger, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a topic that needs to be talked about in the open, rather than hidden away. Aside from trying to lighten the mood with gifs, this doesn't change that this is a very serious post; the stigma on mental health is as handicapping as mental health struggles are. Until we start understanding more about those who struggle with these issues and how to help them, there is no way that we can move towards incorporating struggling individuals into our society.
This post was sparked by this video on autism:
Everyone has different needs, regardless of whether or not we are struggling with a mental health issue. We can be more than qualified for a job, but you will never know if you killed our chances before we've even had the chance to show you what we can do.