Finding light within darkness

The hardest part of growing up is the change we experience: the loss of our childhood innocence, the smack in the face of reality and the fact that the world, our world, isn’t the little bubble of our friends, family and comfort that we’ve always known. With this change, we realize that our bubble, soon to be popped, is filled with many people, most we do not know, that will make situations very uncomfortable for us. We are thrown into a pool, drowning in opinions, problems and questions that we have never thought about before. We are faced with many new worries to obsess over and problems we never imagined. Mix these situations with stress, social issues, family issues or whatever the case may be, you have your perfect storm. We will all eventually get caught in a storm, unique to our own personal story, and even though we don’t know when the storm will hit, we know it is a part of growing up. For me, I’ve been lucky. I got hit with my first storm while I was in the safety of my home, with my family and in a supportive school environment. I was surrounded by people who know, love and care about me. My storm lasted a little longer due to an anxiety disorder.

I remember the day vividly, sitting at the restaurant table, my head spinning, heart pounding, stomach churning, feeling as if my body was shutting down. I felt trapped and paralyzed, unable to adequately understand what was happening to me. I felt as if I was going to die. My mind was taking over my body and I didn’t know what to do next. The lasting effects of my first anxiety attack lasted for weeks. I could not understand or comprehend what was going on with my head and body. I experienced a few more anxiety attacks within the year and was faced with them more and more frequently. They seemed to be taking over my life. Three years later, I was diagnosed with a severe generalized anxiety disorder. Suddenly, the way I looked at the world, my world and at my life completely changed. I realized that my anxiety disorder doesn’t define me but it is a big factor of who I am and I just have to accept it. My unique personal story includes struggling with anxiety and I am learning to embrace it.

As a very independent and controlling person, dealing with anxiety can be difficult. The more I accept support and help from others, the easier it is to cope. Even though I struggle to embrace help from others, facing big problems alone can be even more terrifying. I also resist physical comfort in addition to emotional support, which can escalate the anxiety.

Over time, the storms become easier to handle. I, for sure, am nowhere near perfect, but I have come up with some tips and tricks that assist me in conquering my storms more easily and help me end up on top. I hope that these will do the same for you or inspire you to come up with some for yourself! As I say “it takes a village” but here are some that I hope help you get started…!

1. Write. No matter where you are or what you’re feeling, WRITE!! Write your emotions, your thoughts, your hopes, your dreams and your fears. They will either help you later, inspire you later or help/ inspire someone else! Your story is important and people want to hear it.

2. Pray. Pray honest and pray often!! No matter where you are in your faith journey, PRAY! Even if you’ve never done it before start. START NOW! Praying is a beautiful thing and there’s no better time to start than the present. I personally just started my faith journey this year and its made all the difference. You have a purpose here on this earth and God is here to help guide you. Whatever you are struggling with you are not alone. So, what better way to work through it than to pray!

3. Breathe. Whenever you are in a spiral of thoughts whether it’s something small like a test in your hardest class or asking your dream girl/guy to a school dance or if it’s something bigger like a family or relationship issue. Take a deep breath. A lot of times I know I, myself, get worked up and forget to just stop and breathe. The more you slow down and just breathe the easier it will be to think clearly and come to a rational conclusion on what to do.

4. Express. Express yourself and your feelings!! Self-expression is a beautiful thing and is something I think as a society we are just starting to figure out and still have a long way to go with (I know I do). It is something that’s very important as well. Whether you use people, writing, art or music as an outlet it is important to have something. I love talking to people as a distraction but sometimes I just need to sit down, listen to some good music and write it out. It is also important to create a safe and happy environment with people you feel comfortable surrounding yourself with. This takes a lot of time and what I’ve found to also be many mistakes, tears and ice cream pints, but is very important. I am personally not one to always enjoy self-expression. Whether it’s showing when I’m hurt, when I’m upset (yes I hate publically crying) or most importantly when I need help, I struggle with letting others be there for support and comfort. I have learned though, the more you express the lighter your load. Don’t be afraid to express yourself! Chances are if you’re nervous or uncomfortable to do it it’s probably going to help you significantly in the end.

These are just some of my tips and tricks and my hope is they help you to create some for yourself; whatever they may be, and that they help you learn to find your light within whatever darkness you are experiencing. For me, the storms don’t go away but they continue to challenge me, and I am proud of myself for growing emotionally, mentally and spiritually through each and every one of them. Slowly, but surely I am learning and using these tips and tricks to help manage my anxiety and become a stronger person. By learning these strategies and accepting help, I place trust in others, myself and God to help me overcome adversity. My faith in God and myself continues to grow as I weather each storm. I am striving to grow more each day and find my light within the darkness.

If you yourself, or anyone you know struggles with anxiety or another mental illness, don’t be afraid of it; embrace it. Accept it and ask questions. Because it’s not something you should be afraid of… it’s something you should face. Once you accept it you can accept yourself; fully. Which I promise is hands down the best and most rewarding feeling in the world. So be brave. Be strong. Conquer your demons and find light within the darkness. Because I promise you, if you truly look hard enough, you will always find it. Love others. But most of all love yourself. And I’ll be doing the same.

Love Always,

M

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