Dealing with Anxiety: My Personal Anxiety Journey
I’ve struggled all day with what to say when talking about my road dealing with anxiety. I usually like to start off my topics with a video and then proceed to writing out my blog about a subject. Today felt totally different. I tried to sit down and make an outline several times, only to hover my pen over the blank pages for some very long minutes. I guess it would be safe to say that trying to tell my story and talk about my anxiety was making me quite anxious.
Several times, I tried brainstorming about something else, anything else that I could talk about tonight in place of this topic. I almost just said, forget it and sat down for some Hulu. After much thought, I decided that for that reason alone, it was important that I step forward and talk and share that road tonight. So here goes nothing…
I cannot exactly pinpoint where my anxiety began or where I started to notice anxious habits as I think back to my formative years. I can remember as far back as junior high, feeling inadequate and not good enough. Most of the time when I felt this way, I would start to feed these feelings with food. This began a long line of dominos going back and forth between guilt and medicating with things that didn’t fix the problem. I honestly can’t even tell you what the problem was. I grew having everything I needed with two supportive parents, a slew of friends and a bucket full of talent. I have asked myself a number of times what was I lacking?
What exactly was I lacking? What was wrong with me?
The answer is nothing. It just was. That is part of what I’m processing through in therapy is that I’m not broken, nothing is wrong, it just is and I just am me.
During high school, I was a picture of outgoing, bubbly, cheerleader girl who participated in absolutely everything. I laughed all the time, loved being where the action and the fun were at at all times. I sent that representative out into the world every minute of every day. Inside though, was a screaming introvert. All that hiding, fronting and disguising was exhausting.
Once in college, things started to change. I was so outgoing in high school, that when I got to college, I just wanted to hide. I still covered it up some and made friends although it began to get harder and harder to fake being outgoing and wanting to be a part of every social minute. By the time, I hit grad school, I was hitting full blown social anxiety. I began to make plans with friends and then as the time of the event came up, I was the QUEEN of excuses to get out of it.
This behavior continued and got exponentially worse throughout the next few years. Friendships that I had treasured were destroyed because my anxiety become so controlling that I couldn’t keep plans and came up with elaborate excuses as to why I couldn’t, or more wouldn’t, attend certain things. I even dug myself into an ugly excuse as to why I wouldn’t attend one of my best friend’s weddings. I know right? I spent the next few years beating myself up for that. You can imagine how helpful that was.
Along this deepening social anxiety, was an increase in my weight and of course a decrease in my self esteem. This continued to put thoughts into my head like “no one wants to be friends with you”, “look at you, you’re embarrassing yourself going out in public” and many more self damaging thoughts like this. Just typing this out makes me feel so sad for that girl. I am finally at a place where MOST of the time I don’t feel many of those things any more and I can look at the time and just wish that I could talk to that girl and tell her how valuable she is and how her clothes size or the number on the scale had nothing to do with how anyone valued her as a person.
Finally something changed for the good…
Thankfully, some healing finally started to happen in my life. About 2 years ago, a friend reached out to me about joining a fitness challenge…well she reached out several times hahaha! Finally I agreed and I really thought I was just signing up for a 30 day challenge and then I’d crawl back in my hole and continue my never ending pity party of self loathing. Well something crazy happened, I had some success in that group and I started to have a tiny little sliver of confidence crept back in. So I continued another 30 days. More success, more confidence, more coming out of my hard shell I’d built around myself.
Six months into these challenges, my new group of friends I was keeping at arms length, invited me to a live event. Confident, internet Jill immediately agreed. Then the day of the event arrived. OMG, I wish there could’ve been a recording of the battle going on in my head that day. I tried coming up with every excuse I could think of to back out of this committment. Even up to pulling in the parking lot, I was still not 100% sure that I was going to go inside.
Well, I did. I was sweating bullets even before the workout started and I was so nervous, I’m not even sure that the words that came out of my mouth made any sense at all. When I finally let my guard down a little and looked around, I found a totally unexpected sight. Everyone that was there, including my friends, was SO excited that I was there. They didn’t care that I wasn’t the model of fitness, they were just reaching out and completely happy to have me there on that day, at that time. Nothing else.
That day will forever be burned into my history as the day I realized I could turn this burning ship around and get better. I had found my tribe and the people that would pull me up and make me love me again. There are still times that I want to crawl into a hole and times that I cancel plans because I can’t handle it. What I have realized though, is that some of those times I actually need to. My introverted self who really does love people and loves to laugh, just needs a good dose of alone time regularly. But I don’t beat myself up anymore for it and I don’t force myself into things that I know I just can’t handle.
I feel more confident in my own skin now than I ever remember feeling since junior high and that, no matter what I look like, feels pretty damn amazing.
Here is more of my story in video form 😉
Thank you for reading this if you got this far! I’d love to hear about your journey. Have you struggled with anxiety in your life? I promise you sharing seems scary, but getting it out there is the best medicine that there is.
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