Living With Mental Health Issues Changes All The Time

Give yourself permission to ride the waves

I’d had an egg and cheese omelet, she was still picking at the avocado on her plate. In the empty spaces where our food and utensils didn’t rest, rested the heavy weight of the Anxiety we both live with. For both of us, the prickle on our skin made itself known in different moments.

I could get through the one story, but for her that’s the one that made it hard to breathe. The mention of hospital equipment or a basketball game helped to pile on more bricks to the ones I’d been practicing inhaling and exhaling with for three years. Given the current political climate, the notion of places without escape routes does it for me too.

The new facet to Anxiety is proof that it morphs and never manages to completely break up with you, or you with it.

Three years ago my Everest was time. I came into an abundance of it, that was laced with a newly found freedom, a combination of which managed to overwhelm me. I was one person, with too much air in my lungs to evenly breathe. And so I didn’t. For a long time, I choked. I had episodes of complete follow through, where time and breath and the present all aligned and allowed me to live. Then there were moments when one would be at a surplus and I would be left walking a New York I knew but couldn’t be a part of.

Time is now something I’ve learned to be selfish with. Years of therapy and of coming up against the same wall of people who felt a right to time that was only mine, it helped me take ownership and responsibility. I found ways to cope — befriending my breathing, music, writing — through the more heart-stopping moments of managing my own time. I learned to love the freedom and flexibility that being self-employed gifted me.

So lacking its current motivation, the Everest morphed.

It became less about time and more about home. Where is it? How do you find it? Is it okay if it’s different from what you always thought it should be?

I started choosing a family that I called home. They knew me in ways that I’d never been known and they loved me for the person I was and not for the role I could play in their lives.

With them, I climbed the top of the mountain, redefined the notion of home and found roots in a relationship that I never expected myself to be in.

Anxiety tells you stories anchored in your inadequacy and fear. It makes it hard to breathe through good moments, therefore making it hard to see the good at all. It takes bad moments and brings them to life as entire oceans ready to drown you.

These are the moments, the times when your entire body is drowned under water, that you need to remind yourself that even if you can’t swim, you can float…as long as you learn to relax your muscles just long enough.

Unfold the fist you’ve made of your hand, take deep breaths instead of shallow, uneven ones. Make peace that the waves crashing will be your reality…for a little bit.

At breakfast, after taking a minute from picking at her avocado and calling the anxiety by its name, my friend started shifting back to normal breaths and conversation. I’m not sure she noticed that the shift happened, or that she’d helped it happen, but she did.

When you let moments be what they need to be you stop feeling exhausted at the end of each wave. Having patience with yourself and with your Anxiety, is not the only way to learn to manage the drowning moments, but it’s a place to start.

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I’m the founder of toodamnyoung.com. You can find me talking about mental health, grief and work-life on Living Vulnerably: https://medium.com/living-vulnerably

I also host Creating Espacios, podcast for the next generation of Latina trailblazers.

Follow along as I condense essays into 140 characters: https://twitter.com/vivnunez