I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember when I think back about it. I just didn’t realize I had it or what it was until I was a bit older. I remember when I was maybe preteen, I would have a bunch of Dr. check ups where I would try to explain what was going on or what seemed normal and what didn’t. I’m not sure I know what’s “normal thinking”. I remember saying to the Doctor that there were times when my heart felt like it was being squeezed and I couldn’t breathe. I actually remember the example I used was to reference this movie ‘The Frighteners’. There are parts in it where this bad diabolical spirit kind of grabs your heart and squeezes it until you just, die. I said it’s how I feel when that stuff is happening to me if I had to put it into words. He told me one time it was probably from stress going on and to try not to worry. At the time, I was so young and we were dealing with big family changes so my family didn’t think I had anything big to be stressed about and it would blow over if we just let it be. That doctor had moved or something along the way and once I couldn’t go back there, I stopped letting anyone know. I felt like it was so wrong to have feelings or thoughts that I just didn’t want to let anyone in or see anyone else about it. I didn’t want to be viewed as dramatic. Half the time people thought I was making it up anyway.
Anxiety wasn’t so bad through my teen years as much as I remember. Instead, a new thing crept into and made a camp inside my head. Depression. I can remember the times where it kicked in and I would be sad and lonely daily. I had friends and family yet my head made me see none. To me, I had no friends or love, even if they were right outside my bedroom door. I would isolate myself and then be mad that I felt that way and mad at everyone else. Waking up, if I had gotten any sleep at all, there were times I stayed in bed the entire day lost track of time.nI wouldn’t answer any friends that had asked to do things and I couldn’t remember the last time I had normal food. Or when I would go out, I was always wearing a mask. Always out of place, faking it. My mind reminded me how horrible I was and I just wasn’t good enough at anything anymore. It lasted weeks and would come and go after that. During the heavier times, I thought about how I wanted to die or I had self-harmed and I went down that path back when I felt I had no purpose. It was easy to get so disconnected from everyone as time went on even when I was having better days because if I wasn’t out drinking or doing drugs (which were most of all the people I did know) then it seemed I stopped getting talked to as much. So it fed the problem. It was just like some dark heavy outer coat weighing on me every day and I even got to wear it right to bed. I think was so oblivious to it all, not knowing that these things were happening to others so often out there that (on top of my horrible memory) it’s hard to remember much besides that and it being just a blur now.
As I rounded 18 or so I got into a relationship and I poured everything into it and wanted to not fall back into those feelings. I was able to get and keep a job and I was working for a while, things seemed better. Then it had become a long term relationship and so I started to feel even better. It muffled the symptoms to me. They never really went away, though, and it started to eat at me and pick apart my relationship. It became toxic, and abusive physically and emotionally. Yet it was all I knew and to me, leaving wasn’t an option. In my mind, I wasn’t even good enough to be getting what I was getting. I let myself allow such a bad situation become my normal. I didn’t know there could be better, and my depression and anxiety fooled me into thinking it was me and only me that was the problem so if he stayed, then I’m fine. One day he finally did leave, and at the time, it was more than I could handle. I don’t even remember how I got through it but, I believe it got better once I found out I was pregnant.
I do think that my kids they aided in bringing out all those underlying feelings and thoughts in my anxiety since they played into it now. I knew I was worrying way more than I had to, but I also knew I just couldn’t control it. I could not pick and choose. Now I would have a whole new tiny life that I was worrying about and anxious about on top of all the worries I already worry about for myself. So forget second-guessing myself I fourth-guess myself. Is that a thing? Because it’s what I do.
I started going to a therapist for other issues in my life and she’s one of the ones who pointed out my anxiety and how bad it was still. I knew I had to try to help it especially since I didn’t want my kids feeding off of it. There were many times that I would have to do something for them that I usually avoided. Driving new places, calling places for them or me, having to kill a spider, going out of the house alone. Learning about it and being more aware of it, working on the techniques it does help me now in what I’m doing. I’m realizing that it’s okay, that I’m not making it up. I know there’ll be triggers in moments in the future even with going to therapy or from using the techniques I learned in that’s okay. Baby steps.
I still think it is hard since family or friends most of the time they just still don’t get it. They still will say the whole “ you’re being too paranoid, calm down, it’s in your head” bit and that makes it tougher. It is hard to explain to someone it’s not that simple when to them.. it is.
I just want people to know they’re not alone. They don’t have to worry on top of everything else in their mind about feeling a certain way. Hopefully, people will learn more about it. Don’t feel like I did when I didn’t even know that it was an actual thing which was common to feel and seek out.
Kelly Pestritto is a wife and mom of three who lives in Connecticut. Over thinking life and working towards her goal of being a writer one day. Kelly hopes to help get rid of the stigma surrounding Mental Health by sharing when she can and letting people know they’re never alone.
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