I have just sat down at my desk for work, texted my sick boyfriend at 7:30 a.m. (while he is assuredly sleeping), and am currently freaking out that he will not text me back, will leave me because I am not smart enough, likes someone else, and I will never have a family with him.
No, this is not a sign of an unhealthy relationship, because if I wasn’t worrying about him, I would be panicked that I did something wrong at work and would be fired, or that my friends are mad at me, or some other catastrophic thing like my parents dying will happen.
I am currently uncomfortable, and will have waves of anxiety all day. Most of us have felt anxious from time to time: first dates, interviews, unknown social terrain. But, there is another anxiety—the type that steals so much of the richness of life.
As a little girl, I remember expressing my discomfort to my parents and friends. They generally responded with, “You are just paranoid,” or, “You need to let it go.” Which is totally legitimate. I mean, come on, how else do you respond to a child that is asking if you are mad at them every hour on the hour, or clawing for physical affection all the time. Constant validation is not sustainable, but truth be told, that is what I needed.
Having grown up Catholic, religion was an easy outlet to place my anxiety. “Bad thoughts” were my addiction. I would think something like, “My parents are so annoying. I could kill them.” Pretty typical, except I would sink into a cyclical mania, convincing myself I would in fact kill my parents, and God would hate me, and I would go to hell. I would deserve it, because I was bad. Bad, bad, bad!
This folks, is what they call “morbid obsessive-compulsive thinking.” Every night before I went to bed, I combed through every interaction I had and found ways I did not perform well. It was all in preparation for the imminent doom I would surely face in the morning because I was a worthless piece of sh*t.
This manifested into a rip-roaring eating disorder for a few years, followed by alcohol and substance abuse. Both made me feel goddamn amazing. I was skinny, fun, and my behavior was a product of substances.
My substance abuse came to an abrupt halt during a trip to Los Angeles. I met with friends for drinks, and it turned into a full on blackout. I don’t remember how I got back to my hotel (I took an Uber), I have no idea how I found my room (props to my brain for having some awareness), my call list was horrifying, and I spent $200 that I didn’t have on booze, food, and heavens knows what else.
I had the worst anxiety attack of my life and had no support system physically available to me. I hysterically cried on the bathroom floor and chose two grey cold bathroom tiles that were all I was allowed to exist on. I laid there for three hours, denying myself movement off of my self-made prison.
After I had urinated on myself because I refused to get up, I had a moment of self-awareness. I got off the bathroom floor and took a shower. I had to catch a flight that day, and I threw up in the trashcan at security. The flight crews informed me that, due to my impressive display of gastronomic gymnastics, I was not allowed to board the plane.
I. Lost. My. Sh*t.
I needed to be home in my bed with my dog. I needed to be okay. After begging, sobbing, and pleading with the flight crew for 30 minutes, they took pity on me and allowed me to get on the flight. That was the last time I drank.
My thought process was, “If I get sober, that will solve everything!” Turns out sobriety doesn’t work that way. While sobriety is a gift that I am thankful for every day, it comes with a clear picture of who we are. As I peeled away the dense layers of substance abuse, I saw clearly who I was and how deep and dark my anxiety ran.
As it turns out, anxiety is a part of my makeup, a part of my foundation, and I resent the f*ck out of it. Anxiety has taken more from me than I can list. The worst being my self-confidence. At the root of everything we do, especially as women, we have to tap into our self-worth. We have to be sexy and confident, intelligent and humble, kind but strong. While I have shape-shifted socially into tricking people into thinking I am all those things, internally there is a constant voice that reminds me that I am not good enough.
Anxiety creates a glass window in which I can see who I want to be, my abilities, talents, and worth on the other side. But I can’t access it because of that stupid f*cking window, and I can’t seem to find a way to open it.
While I have grown, I have tried my damnedest to live with my anxiety. I consider it a birthmark of sorts: it is there, and no matter how hard I try to strong-arm it, cover it, smash it, or ignore it, it isn’t going away. Medication, therapy, CBD oil, meditation, exercise—you name it, I have tried it. Although I am tired, and more days than not I cry in a bathroom stall, I will continue to try.
If there is one thing I am grateful for it is this: mental illness has made me strong and compassionate. I graduated from college, every morning I get up and go to work, and I have successful relationships—all while holding hands with a darkness that can envelop me if I let it. While I am envious of people who walk through this world well adjusted, I have learned that self-love is available, even while wading through the muck of anxiety.
Author: Abbey Gonzales
Image: Unsplash/Claudia Soraya
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina