17 saw me at what I thought was my worst. I couldn’t eat, or sleep and couldn’t stand being near open windows in tall buildings for what my thoughts might have me do. In my frantic, panicked calls to friends and family, what I desperately wanted to hear most of all was “I’ve been there. I understand. There is joy worth experiencing on the other side of this turmoil.”
I lived with this anxiety for years. The uneasiness I felt inside was both ill-fitting and familiar in its constance. I’d grown used to the pain. I greeted it in the morning – this inexplicable discomfort – and bid it good-night at the close of each day. It accompanied me most places, but it always remained hidden outside view.
Then, without my conscious effort (and I desperately wish I could explain it), a light began opening up in my mind. The anxiety seemed to vanish. Was this what it meant to be free? To be genuinely happy? To be normal? I basked in it for as long as I could. Fell in love, graduated college, traveled.
But the anxiety would creep back in. 24-years old, but a few weeks ago, was even darker than 17. I was utterly depressed and anxiety-ridden. Overcome by the cloud, I questioned why God would give me such a difficult mind to live with. Why did this have to be my cross to bear? Why couldn’t I have normal people problems that were logical? Circumstantial? Surely, those would be easier to handle. But to live with a disruptive, anxious mind? It felt near impossible. Pretty girls shouldn’t be this unhappy. It didn’t make sense. I didn’t make sense. For looking so put-together on the outside, why was I falling apart on the inside?
So why am I baring this much of my soul?
I’m writing this for my 17-year old self and the woman I am today. I’m writing this for those who may be in the grips of depression and anxiety right now. You are not alone.
Our collective naiveté assumes anxiety and depression have a particular ‘face’ or life story. It doesn’t. It’s the lack of talking about the things we struggle with underneath how we appear, that makes us feel so isolated, so ‘not-normal.’ Perhaps normal is a lot less ‘normal’ than we think…
Why would God give me such a difficult mind to live with?
At my best, I feel the answer is this: to do what I am doing this very second. Inspiring others with my story when I’m at my bravest, and living moment to moment when that’s all I feel I can do. Someone I knew once said, “Life is life, and therefore livable.”
I’m writing to let you know “I understand, I’ve been there. In fact, I am here. In the mud. But I’ve seen the light once before and I know I’ll see it again. And even if darkness tries to overtake me yet again, I know there is joy worth experiencing on the other side of the turmoil.” So believe that with me.
And now, the warmest, most comforting virtual hug I can muster up in words – for the both of us.