(Anxiety) Demands to Be Felt, Too

In ‘The Fault in Our Stars,” John Green wrote: “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” Has there ever been a more true statement? The thing about pain is that, if we don’t feel it, don’t allow ourselves to feel it, it gets even worse.

The same can be said about Anxiety. I have blogged before about my battle with anxiety. It’s not a secret I care to keep a secret any longer. Because talking about it means I can begin to heal from it. There need not be shame or hiddenness about the experience of feeling overwhelmed, out of control, and even lost.

But, here’s the other side.

There is also no shame in healing.

About 17 months ago, I did one of the scariest things I have ever done. I reached out for help. Between the anniversary of my dad dying, work being overwhelming, friendships changing, and deaths in our families, I was overwhelmed. I was scared. I was completely at the whim of my anxious mind.

So, I called a therapist. And then I made an appointment. And then I actually went. And kept going. Showing up week after week was hard. It meant telling my boss I needed the 90 minutes in the middle of the workday for me. It means working late to make the time up sometimes. It meant having a standing appointment that was creating relief but still causing shame. Because I didn’t want people to know.

But here’s the thing. Much like pain, anxiety demanded that I feel it. It demanded that I look at its ugly face. It demanded that I stare it down, and, in turn, find the tools I needed to control it.

And now it’s been a little over a year. In December, I was officially “released” from therapy. Am I suddenly CURED? Heck no. But, through a lot of hard work and a lot of tears, I have the tools to feel the feelings, but also control them. I have the ability to look at situations and see where it’s my anxiety talking, versus the reality of the situation.

I feel better than I have in years. I feel like Emily again.

Treating my anxiety was like learning to breathe again. Suddenly I realized I didn’t have to feel lost. I didn’t have to let these thoughts win. I didn’t have to be in control and I didn’t have to be the only one experiencing them. I am more honest with my husband now. I am more honest with my family and friends. I am more honest with myself.

I still have those moments: the moments where I think “OH MY GOSH I CANNOT DO IT.” I have moments where I feel like the future is overwhelming and the possibilities are scary. I have moments of worry and anxiety and stress. But, they no longer control me. They no longer define who I am and how I interact with the world.

Turns out, anxiety is a chapter of my life, but it’s not the defining story arc.

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