Anxiety and the Stages of My Grief
I have just barely begun the road to recovery in terms of managing my anxiety. One of the first steps that most do when they receive a diagnosis is “come out” to their family members and close friends. But, unfortunately, not everyone will welcome this with open arms. My anxiety ended up being too much for someone that I was very close to, and they decided it would be best for the both of us if we created distance between ourselves. That was the moment I realized that I was about to figure out whom in my life would be here to stay, and whom in my life would choose to go. It was very hard, let me tell you. I understood that I now had to change the way I lived. I couldn’t be an open book anymore. I have to be selective about with whom I choose to let in to my life. I have to protect myself more than ever now.
I was initially very angry, almost enraged. How unfair it is that some of us are made to suffer in our own minds, of which we cannot escape. It isn’t an outwardly visible suffering, unless one was taught that in order to find relief you must harm yourself first. It’s a quiet suffering: often unspoken, often unheard. Some of my friends don’t pick up on when I’m anxious or down because I went undiagnosed for so long that I figured out some really good ways to suppress it so I could get through the darker days. My hiding tools are virtually automatic, as I apply them effortlessly and plaster a smile on my face. Nobody wants to be around somebody so upset all the time, anyways. Happiness to me is now like a butterfly; sometimes it will pause and stay with me, but never for long.
And with the anger came the jealousy. I became jealous of the students walking around my university laughing and talking with their friends. I became jealous when I saw couples in public being affectionate with one another. I became jealous whenever I saw small children running around giggling and playing. Why is it so difficult for me to be normal? None of them understand how easy they have it. They’re able to live their lives and go about their day in a relative sense of peace. All of my days are tumultuous, and my anxiety invades my dreams. I go to bed exhausted and wake up drained as people from my past haunt my dreams and return to me in the one place where I can never truly reach them.
I needed to understand something, but I wasn’t quite there yet. I had to go through the depression. I started bawling when my best friend told me he had confessed to the girl he liked that he wanted to be with her and she revealed similar feelings. I was sad that others get to enjoy things that seem completely out of reach for me. I was heartbroken that my illness effectively locked me away from normality as others experience it and pushed those I cared about most the furthest away from me. I didn’t cry for long, but I know that the reaction I had was a reflection upon me and my mindset.
If I had not written previously for TC, most people would not have known that I deal with anxiety. Nonetheless, I hesitate to talk about it with acquaintances and new people that I meet. It is as if the article created an artificial wall between author and audience, one that I imagined would only be breached by those who knew me well enough. I hesitate to tell people early on about my struggles, but I worry that they will resent me if I tell them too late. If I tell someone too early about what I’m going through, I imagine that they will see me as she who has anxiety. They see anxiety and think of me; they see me and think of my anxiety.
I finally had a revelation. My struggles are a part of who I am, but at the same time, they do not define me. If someone wishes to judge me based solely upon my struggles, they will never see my true greatness, my full recovery; they will never be able to understand who I am as a human being. Those are not the people I want as a part of my life. My anxiety is very much a part of me. I have an infinite internal dialogue, and I work tirelessly to try to rewire the paths in my brain that have been so deeply engraved for so many years.
As much as I desire to know why I have been led to go through this, my anger and my sadness get me nowhere. On the other side, I have to take the time to grieve my old life as I prepare to build a new one. I expect to move between the stages of grief frequently and for a while longer. But this I know for sure: one day, everything will be okay. I will love all parts of me, and someone else will love all of them too. I am still capable of achieving my goals and following my dreams. My anxiety is a part of me, but I am not my anxiety.