I can remember the first time I had a panic attack. It was one of the scariest moments of my entire life, and it will stick with me forever. My chest tightened. The world around me began to fade. I could feel the bile rise in my throat, and my only thought was "I am going to die."
But most importantly, I remember feeling like I had to keep my anxiety to myself. It was like this big secret, a burden that sat on me.
Living with anxiety means that your body is constantly at war with your mind. It is like a switch goes off, and suddenly you are wired and on edge. You search for the switch to turn off your anxious mind, but you can't find it. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.
When I was finally able to share my story, pieces of the weight began to fall off. It was liberating.
Anxiety has taught me many lessons. The first is that I am unconditionally loved, and I can love unconditionally.
My family has been incredible. They have encouraged me to seek therapy, go on walks, and seek self care. My friends have been my rock. They listen before they ask, and I know their arms are always open for a hug. I have felt the physical and unconditional love from my Father. He tells me that I am beloved, a jewel, and I am His.
And I have begun to see people just as God created them.
The second lesson anxiety has taught me is that our stories matter. The silence that stigma and shame try and force on is crushing.
I have learned about is speaking up. You don't have to scream your pain, but I hope you know that you don't have to hide it either.
Jamie Tworkowski, creator of To Write Love on Her Arms, once wrote:
"Pain will tell you to keep quiet, but that’s a lie. Life is fragile and we all break in different ways. I hope you know you can be honest. I hope you know that you can ask for help. Did you catch that? It is absolutely positively okay to ask for help. It simply means you’re human. Help is real and it is possible; people find it every day.”
You have something to offer this world. Don't be afraid to speak up, because there are people out there who want to hear and who want to help.
Most importantly, don't ever forget how much you matter.