The rock. The warm hug. The one you call. The one who would listen. The one who didn’t judge. That was me.
I wasn’t a person with mental illness. I was a person who had friends with mental illness. Amazing, one of a kind, incredible, motivating, strong friends that I loved and admired very much. I was a good friend and I was one of the lucky ones.
Until one day I wasn’t the lucky one anymore.
Several years ago, a series of unfortunate events occurred in my life which triggered the beginning of my journey with anxiety. This series of unfortunate events was nothing like the books by Lemony Snicket and were seriously lacking Neil Patrick Harris. I had handled tough times before, I was the person that could get through anything. I was the strong one, right? My story is about what happens when a strong person feels like they can’t be strong anymore but are called upon to be stronger than they’ve ever been. In my eyes, people who battle mental illness are like mystical phoenix birds. To rise, brighter and stronger, we must sometimes fight through crumbling ashes and times of darkness.
So, big ugly anxiety marches into my life and it has shitty timing. Not to worry, I had experience with mental illness, some of my best friends battled anxiety and depression, I read endless articles and supported them through their times of darkness, surely, I would be able to recognize this in myself and get help, right? Nope. I was in complete denial. Those same friends and my incredible spouse continually reached out to me and all I did was deny deny deny.
Now, I don’t want to talk any more about the stages of grief, (denial being one of them) although it’s a fascinating thing to look at if you’re interested, or about how long it took me to come to terms with having anxiety; I want to talk about what helped me. You can read a million articles about what anxiety feels like but I’m going to guess that if you’re reading this you already know what being in the dark feels like. What lit my fire and brought me back to life was talking about it. One day, finally, I caved. I told one friend. This was a big risk for me, I felt like I was exposing myself, my weakness, ugly anxiety was telling me constantly that no one cared, everyone would just think I was a whiner, people would turn their backs on me and I’d be more alone than ever. Luckily for me, my friend was an absolute hero. I really should have known she would be, why else had a chosen her as a friend? She embraced me both literally and figuratively. Then, I began to rise. I had proven to myself that not only was I not alone but anxiety was a liar.
Talking about anxiety was the best medicine for me. Once I admitted I was struggling, my spouse took on the task of learning everything he could about what I was experiencing; I slowly told more people and they helped share strategies on how I could build myself back up.
Today I still battle but I feel like I’ve have a whole tool kit of ways to stay burning. On days when I crumble into ash I am now able to hang on to a shred of hope -fire- that reassures me I can make it to the next day. In 2017 my friendships are strong; my marriage is something I am grateful for everyday and I eagerly await welcoming my first child in July. My message to anyone in the dark is that you are still you, you are not alone, anxiety is a liar and your fire lies in your hope and your story.
Lindsay is a formerly non-anxious person who learned to be anxious. She enjoys trying new foods, wines and places with her husband and two dogs. As well as advocating for mental health awareness, Lindsay is passionate about inclusion and poverty reduction. In her spare time Lindsay sits on the Board of Baobab Inclusive Empowerment Society in Surrey, BC Canada.
Lindsay can be found on Twitter.
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