For the past 33 years, I have struggled with appearing perfect on the outside while trying to conceal my learning disabilities. After years of suppressing my emotions and feelings, mixed with the potent cocktail of lack of sleep and exercise, poor eating habits, and anxiety at work, I entered into the perfect storm that ultimately led to my mental breakdown and hospitalization.
My meltdown led me to take the past year off and re-center myself. Prior to the hospitalization, I normalized my anxiety. Constant doomsday thoughts and persevering on mistakes consumed my days with worry, leaving my stomach in knots and crippling my appetite. One silly mistake could send me on a downward spiral of thinking that one single mistake could unveil something catastrophic.
It has taken me more than a year, but I now understand that these thoughts happen when my anxiety spikes. With the right help, I use different coping skills to address and quell my anxiety. I have a better understanding to how my anxiety affects me on a daily basis.
Before this experience, I disregarded mental health. In turn, I scoffed at anyone who pulled the mental health card for anxiety or depression. I didn’t understand how anxiety and depression could paralyze a person. It hinders people from fully living their lives and their ability to be present.
My biggest challenge to overcome my anxiety has been to slow down. I have to work on slowing down my life’s pace. Life is a marathon not a sprint. The faster I respond to emails or complete a chore doesn’t mean that I’m winning the rat race. Instead, these fervent habits just prevented me from doing my best work. Learning to take lots of deep breaths before each task, I continue reminding myself to smell the roses while completing the task.
Now, I see life in a different way. By slowing down, I have time to notice the colors, sounds and smells that surround me. Brené Brown’s research has helped shaped my outlook on life. One of my favorite quotes by her is “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”
My advice for someone in a similar circumstance or feeling the world is coming to an end is to seek help. Mental health is no joke. It can become stiffening and prevent you from living your fullest, happiest life. After being a prisoner to it and coming out on the other side, my hope is that anyone who feels slightly or entirely what I felt, please get help. It is the most invigorating feeling once you shed a light on your struggles and learn how to overcome them.