My name is Jackie, and I have Generalized Anxiety.
Notice I didn’t say I suffer from anxiety, which if I had typed this up a year ago, I definitely would have phrased it that way. This post has been heavy on my heart for a while. I’ve sat down to write this a few times, and always end up calling it quits. There isn’t one reason in particular that has been stopping me from sharing this, it’s just simply a very vulnerable area of my life. I’m not going to lie- I’m scared out of mind to share this! My family, friends, coworkers, even some students read this blog, and I’m putting it all out there today. BUT I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time, and I think this is something I should share, because I have the feeling I’m not the only one who has a history with anxiety.
So much of social media rides on this idea of perfection… but the truth is that life isn’t perfect, and honestly it’s kinda hard. My goal of this blog is to empower women to create beautiful and balanced lives through sharing attainable inspiration. I share authentic experiences and ideas about home, healthy lifestyle, and our medical marriage. But let me be clear – the word “healthy” does not only refer to food. I’m a huge advocate for self care and taking care of your mental health, which I believe are major components of living a healthy lifestyle.
My Journey with Anxiety
I think I’ve always had anxiety, but I didn’t really have a good understanding of what it was until my mid 20s. In elementary school, I had severe social anxiety, I could barely speak to anyone not in my immediate family. But I thought I was just super shy and would grow out of it. In high school, I put an unhealthy amount of stress on myself to get good grades and balance time consuming extracurriculars and jobs at the sacrifice of sleep. I had so much anxiety about only getting A’s… I truly thought if I wasn’t perfect academically that the world would end. I also was extremely worried about gaining weight. And, I definitely need to mention, I have the BEST parents in the entire world who never put this pressure on me. This stress I had about perfection was something I intrinsically placed on myself. I really didn’t have any sort of schedule and thought this was how life was supposed to be – work yourself to the ground and you can sleep when you’re dead. SERIOUSLY I know that sounds crazy, but that’s really what I thought.
By the time I got to college, with even more academic stress and adding in the social calendar of being in a sorority, the stress I put on myself only got worse and I was experiencing my first major episodes of anxiety. BUT I had no idea I was suffering from anxiety. I truly, really thought that this was normal. I felt like I had to be able to do it ALL, that sleep was for the weak, and if you can’t keep up with a crazy schedule, then you’re a failure. I know, I know – I needed a reality check. But guys I’m not kidding, this is what I thought. AND I was doing just fine from the outside looking in, my anxiety wasn’t impacting my daily life enough for me to even notice it. This is definitely one of those situations that in hindsight I see it clear as day, but at the time I truly had no clue.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I realized I had anxiety during my first year of teaching. Funny, if you talk to enough educators, you realize a lot of us didn’t have major anxiety until we entered public education. After the first semester, I realized I cared WAY too much about certain things, and honestly was running myself into the ground.
To give you the background on this year in my life, Brandon and I were engaged and just moved in together. He was starting his first year of medical school and I was starting my first year teaching. We had A LOT of change going on… good change, but still they were major life changes. Those first few months, I was getting less sleep than Brandon, a medical student, because of how much pressure I put on myself stemming from this anxiety to be a superhero teacher each day. Brandon would try to explain I needed my sleep and to take care of myself, but I had so much anxiety about being the perfect teacher and prepared, that I literally had a wall up and would not listen. A little after Christmas, I finally broke down and realized the unhealthy amount of stress I was experiencing had to be addressed. I went to see a counselor, and this is still one of the BEST decisions I have ever made in my entire life.
Where I’m at Now
I’ve learned SO much about myself these past two and a half years through counseling. I’ve learned what anxiety is, what my personal anxiety looks like, and how to overcome it. I am finally in a place in my life where I feel like I am stronger than my anxiety. This didn’t just happen overnight though, I’ve worked hard for every small win. Do I have rough days? Absolutely. But the difference is how I react when I have those bad days. I try not to let them bog me down. Instead, I try to identify what made my anxiety spike, and what to do next time to prevent it.
Every now and then, like once or twice a year, I do have pretty major episodes of anxiety. This is what happened earlier this month when I had an anxiety attack after doing WAY too much in one weekend (I shared this on Instagram, just FYI in case if you don’t follow me there). Initially I was angry and disappointed in myself for letting my anxiety get the best of me that day. But eventually, I realized that I’m human and that I had a decision – I could wallow in self pity or I could fight to feel like myself again. I decided to fight.
The first couple of days after were HARD. But each day, I felt a little better. I implemented ALL the tools I’ve learned through counseling and self reflection the past two and a half years each day. Slowly, I started to bounce back. Its been four weeks since I had this anxiety episode, and I actually feel like I’m myself again. To put things in perspective, last year I had a pretty severe anxiety attack and didn’t feel like myself again until five months after. So bouncing back after four weeks is a HUGE win in my book!
I had planned on including several things I have learned through counseling that have dramatically helped me in my journey to overcoming my anxiety, but this post is getting pretty long already! I’ll be sharing what has helped me with my own journey in another blog post very soon. But I hope that me sharing my own experience with anxiety helps at least one person out there.
If you’re that girl suffering from anxiety, you aren’t alone. If you’re in the beginning of your journey or have been on this path for a while, I’m right there with you girl! It’s so important that we support each other in our own mental health struggles. There’s just something so comforting knowing that someone else gets it. There’s this phrase I tell myself when I’m feeling super anxious or stressed, and it has carried me through some pretty dark times: This is temporary. Whether I’m having a stressful day or in the middle of an anxious season of life, this phrase has helped me recenter and overcome mountains of anxiety. Write this down and put it somewhere that you can pull it out when you need a reminder. Or better yet – maybe I’ll add this to the next monthly newsletter as a free printable.
Here’s hoping that sharing my own journey with anxiety brings someone hope for their own journey.
I am not a physician, registered dietician, or counselor. Some blog posts discuss mental health, healthy eating, and exercise. The purpose is to share my personal journey and experience with diet, fitness, and mental health. It is important to seek professional help in regards to mental health. As always, consult a physician before making any changes in diet or exercise. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.