I have been helping my cousin, Hannah Bohrer, with her thesis project. She goes to school for photography and has been working on a project to highlight mental health struggle. It is called, “The Invisible War”
As part of this project, she asked me to write about my struggle. It wanted to also share it here.
My Story: My Anxiety
Most of my childhood was normal. Simple. Classic suburban life until one day it wasn’t. Until one day I felt afraid in my our home. Living in a home with someone you cannot trust leads to an incredible amount of stress.
“I wanted to run away and never return. Fearing being screamed at, being hit, and being forced to hide. The person who was supposed to protect me is the one I was most fearful of. It wasn’t easy to maintain the appearance of perfection while I felt the walls closing in on me. I felt my chest tightening. My mind racing. I was constantly living in a fight or flight mentality. Eventually, things got better. Eventually, the fear diminished.
The anxiety remains. The PTSD easily triggered. The need to be strong. The need to be capable. I must have the ability to take care of myself. My heart pounds. My mind spins. I struggle to maintain control.
Anxiety is something I live with every day. It is always with me. Constantly lingering. The feeling similar to the struggle of a recovered addict. A constant feeling of need, but you cannot loose control. Not even for a moment or your entire world can spiral into an abyss.
My anxiety was suppressed after high school. Perhaps because I was no longer trapped at home. I sent most of my time on my college campus. I had my own money. I had a car. I was finally able to easily escape. However, you can never truly escape your own mind. My senior year of college was stressful. I was scheduled for open heart surgery a month after graduation. I was an emotionally abusive relationship. I was exhausted and did not have the motivation to fight back. I was anxious constantly. I was eating. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t ok. Luckily, my doctor put me on anti anxiety medication. I started feeling normal again. I started regaining control. I found strength once again. I remembered my worth. I recovered from my surgery and ended the relationship which made me feel trapped and worthless. I was able to breathe.
Unfortunately, my doctors thought the sole cause of my anxiety was my surgery. I was weened off my medications. Good times never last forever. My life was getting better. I had a full time job. Perhaps I didn’t need the meds. Perhaps, I didn’t have a problem.
But then my dad died. My world was broken once again. Everything hurt. My chest was in constant inexplainable pain. I hit bottom. I wasn’t able to cope with my emotions. I easily lashed out at others. Eventually, I was arrested for DUI. This was a turning point. A reality check. I have a mental illness. I have generalized anxiety disorder and suffer from panic attacks. I went back on medication.
Medication is not a quick fix. It helps stabilize your brain, but there;s so much more to be done before you are “okay” again. I have found ways to cope. Learned it is not my fault. Learned to be more secure within my own mind. Somethings are simply out of your control. Sometimes things just happen. How you move forward is more important than the details of what you suffered. You can never change the past, but you can change how you react to the future. I have chosen to use my pain to become stronger. I allow myself to be vulnerable in order to take back control of my life.”
I hope this project helps others know they are not alone. I hope this gives a voice to those who may be too afraid to speak.