My journey with anxiety has been a process filled with loneliness, shame, and growth.
When we share about these things not only does it help us not be alone, but it normalizes something that is a common experience and challenge for so many of it. It can remove the shame and start the healing!
Anxiety comes in so many forms Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Panic Disorder, PTSD, just to name a few. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
My journey with anxiety has been going on my entire life but exploded five years ago in the form of an anxiety attack. I had just landed in Hawaii and started to feel sweaty and sick to my stomach. My breathing became rapid and short.
We collected our bags and went to urgent care. I was having an anxiety attack, but I did not know it. I had no idea why or what was happening, and I was far from home.
My husband and I went to Hawaii every year, and this had never happened. I was confused, scared, and did not know what to do.
We tried to stay for a few days, but it was useless I was not having a good time nor was my husband. We came home, the roughest trip of my life.
There were a few trips to Hawaii after that all of them landing me in the ER or urgent care. This took a toll on me both mentally and physically.
I was no longer the pillar of strength my husband had married so many years ago. Was he going to leave me? He did not understand this “anxiety”.
I tried to get out of bed some days but just could not. I was crying all the time, feeling shame and embarrassment.
I am also a cancer survivor, but I found that much easier to discuss with people than telling them I feel anxious at times. People do not know what to do when you tell them you have anxiety attacks.
It’s almost as if I was a heroine being a cancer survivor and a weakling because of my anxiety attacks. “Just get over it”, “You are strong you can get through this”, “Stop being so dramatic” are things people would tell me to “help me”.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness “Stigma harms the 1 in 5 Americans affected by mental health conditions. It shames them into silence and prevents them from seeking help.” 2
I have received help through therapy, yoga, support from my husband and friends. There are still days I hang my head in shame and feel the stigma society has cast upon me and so many others.
I encourage you to share your experience so we can come together and support each other. Over time we will establish a social media group where we can join in shared experiences of hope and healing. There is no shame, I am writing this blog because I want to let you know you are not alone.