We’ve all been there. We’ve worried over our children. We’ve stressed about bills. We’ve been overwhelmed with life changes. This is mild anxiety and it comes and goes like the weather in New England. Imagine that anxiety and multiply it a hundred fold, feel it beating down on you like a sledgehammer 24-7 keeping you from sleeping, working, talking, functioning. Who you were before it impacted you is not the same person that emerges on the other side.
Just walking in the doors of the treatment center I was on the verge of tears. I was visibly shaking and would jump whenever someone tried to talk to me. I kept my head down. I avoided eye contact. I didn’t know what to expect and I was scared of what was to come. All of this on top of the extreme anxiety that had brought me there. I had reached out for help and there I was. During my intake I had to explain several times what had brought me there and each time the tears flowed heavily. I hate crying and I hate crying in front of people even more and that day was just the beginning of a five week journey of exploring who I was and why I had gotten to the point where anxiety was controlling my life. I cried more tears in those five weeks than I had in a lifetime. I spent five weeks getting to understand myself better and learning from others going through the same thing. I got to know them. I listened to their stories and they listened to mine. There was no judging. We offered up words of encouragement. These words could have been the same ones that we’d heard a hundred times before, but within those walls they meant something. These people had walked a mile in the same shoes and they understood. They knew what it was like to try to live life underwater, constantly trying to reach the surface and breathe.
We were all there for different things, many of them dealing with drug and alcohol addictions. There was a boy my youngest son’s age with a heroin addiction, an old hippy with a thirty year daily habit of smoking weed, a married mother of two young children that kept a box of wine in her work drawer just to get through the day. I remember feeling hesitant about telling my story to the group and even in the midst of my tears I stated that it was ridiculous that I had been brought to my knees merely because my children grew up and left. I was stronger than that. I had survived worse, but here I was. One woman told me how brave I was to be sitting there with this group of addicts. In reality we were all there for the same reason, to find out what was causing us to feel this way. We all wanted answers. I wasn’t brave because I was baring my soul to a room full of addicts I was brave because I had reached out for help, just as they did. We wanted to change and we wanted to be able to handle those waves of anxiety and depression without having them take us under to whatever wretched tendencies we used to keep us from completely giving up. Although our tendencies were different underneath it all, the anxiety, the staying in bed all day, the bottle of vodka, the hit of heroin, we were all the same. For whatever reason we felt inferior, lonely, and without hope.
I walked out of there believing in myself again, that I was worthy and good. I began to understand why without judging and punishing myself. I learned to be as kind and compassionate to myself as I am to others. My sense of adventure and love of life was renewed. I had hope. I began to make plans again.
I worried at first that people would judge me because of my “break down”, but once I got passed that and I began to share I realized that even outside the walls of the treatment center I was not alone. There are people out there that are fighting the same inner battle.
I was not alone.
What has been the most important thing that I have learned in my two and a half year battle with anxiety?
People see us the way they want to see us- in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a parent, a hippy, a hamburgler, a coach, and a lost child.
Does that answer your question?