a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The distinction between a disorder and “normal” anxiety isn’t always clear.
Okay I’m about to blow your mind.
Growing up I was a loner.
Not a loner in the cool sense like leather jackets and stories about the dog eating my homework either.
I mean the awkward, uncomfortable misfit kind of outsider.
Having (really) young parents (although fun) meant moving a lot which also meant changing schools a lot (flashback knot in stomach). This only made me dive deeper into my own uneasy skin. It was an endless cycle of being the new kid, getting comfortable enough to confide in a few ‘kindred spirits’ and mastering the art of leaving.
Disclaimer: This is in no way a knock at my parents. I know they did their very best and I love them for it.
There’s a purpose behind this sob story I promise, keep reading.
When I finally got to high school I rebelled. At the ripe old age of fifteen I moved again…by myself…into an apartment (shared by two university students) and in my mind an obscene amount of responsibilities. I went on to spend my high school career as a boarder, anything it took to ensure four straight years in one school.
I was able to maintain my unconventional freedom and on the exterior I was resilient. Inside I was terrified and lonely. I wanted someone to wait up for me, someone to drive around looking for me when I didn’t meet curfew; to ground me for lying about where I was…or wasn’t.
My tough exterior soon earned me a reputation and my new found freedom attracted the wrong crowd.
I struggled more now to fit in than ever because the identity I had didn’t match who I was inside. I wanted to be the popular girl with daddy’s credit card, not the girl who collected social assistance to buy noodles for supper. To me it was humiliating that I couldn’t be “normal” and I worked hard to play the part.
Anxiety and depression became my closest companion.
I was so needy I fell in “love” with anyone who gave me consideration and my already bankrupt heart broke each time it wasn’t reciprocal.
I became jaded.
High School came and went. I survived.
I’ve spent most of my life running from my insecurities believing they would simply disappear.
Ultimately they will find you.
To my delight anxiety morphed into random panic attacks (another great side effect is dry wit).
So I did just what my instincts wanted me to do, I started running (okay fine jogging). Running gave me a temporary euphoria and a gaunt physique (which I secretly loved) but I couldn’t outpace the compulsive internal tormenting.
Fight or flight became my resilient enemy.
My new colleague (panic) would sneak up on me at the most inappropriate times – at the grocery store, on stage, during an interview, coffee with a friend or even during such random places as a routine dental visit (seriously).
I have found that people treat anxiety in one of two ways, they either show empathy or they decide you’re using it as a crutch and tell you to just stop.
Recently I watched as a close friendship dissolved. A bond that took 3 years to build crumbled in a matter of days. I was instantly transported back to high school – self blaming, self-hate. It was a singular moment that would either take me down or force me to rebuild. It amazed me how quickly I was transported back to a time when fitting in and being accepted would make or break me. This was the awakening.
I mean a women in her thirties shouldn’t be devaluing herself based on other’s perceptions but that’s exactly what I was guilty of.
I wish I could tell you I’ve slain the dragon and regained ownership of the castle, but that my friend is a fairy tale and believe me I’ve tried to force that glass slipper to fit too many times to count!
Instead I am dismantling the smokescreen and exposing my truth. It’s incredible how liberating acceptance is.
It’s also encouraging that along my journey I’ve met so many inspiring people in my industry who also struggle to understand their toxic relationship with anxiety yet they too are drawn to being a social extrovert. It’s the catch 22 of my existence.
Pretending to be perfect is exhausting. Just the thought of not having to any longer brings me such relief.
Looking for help with your own struggles with anxiety and depression? I’d love to hear from you.
You aren’t alone. Here are a few links that I found helpful: