The following is a guest post from Laura Stott. Laura is a wife, mom to a seven-year-old and four-year-old, and a high school history teacher on the shoreline, where she also grew up. She loves being near the beach and the woods, and having deep roots, though she wishes all of her family were closer. She loves to learn- history, knitting techniques, how to not screw up her kids too badly, and how to find a little bit of gratitude each day.
I hate anxiety.
I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in my mid- 20s, and if you had asked me then, I would have told you how ANGRY it made me that I had to deal with it. Why did I have to face this? Why is it in my genes? Why can’t I just be normal? Why can’t I make it go away? Why do I have to take medication to manage it? Why, when I try to come off of medication, do I fail?
Also, I would NEVER have told you I had it. I didn’t breathe a word of it to anyone aside from my then-fiance now-husband, my parents, and one close friend. I feared ostracism, questions, and being seen as strange.
And I would never have written my first ever blog post about it.
Today, over ten years later, I still hate anxiety. However, I know now that it is not my whole life, and I have even grown a few gifts out of its very rocky soil.
Because of anxiety, I have empathy for others that suffer with mental illness. I can listen to their stories with understanding and patience, and know that they do not struggle because they choose to. I hear their words with my heart, and I am not afraid to tell them that there is hope.
Because of anxiety, I am a better teacher. I have a deep appreciation for the classes and students that got me out of bed every morning when I was in some of my darkest times. They will never know that it was their joy, their learning, and even their complaints that helped me to feel needed and find motivation to challenge my anxiety on another day. I also appreciate that they, too, may face struggles beyond their control, and I see the valiant efforts they make to challenge those struggles.
Because of anxiety, I am closer to my husband. I have shared with him my biggest fears, and he has seen me at my most vulnerable and bare. He has loved me through it. And I have learned that the love we share is deep, and respectful, and honest.
Because of anxiety, I am a braver mother. I imagine scenarios in which my children are hurt, or fail, or sick, or scared, yet I send them out into the world anyway. Two parts of my heart live outside my body, and I worry about them, and for them. Yet I know that allowing my fear to chain me and them will rob them of their opportunity to love the world, and grow it into a better place.
When I have a tough day, I still hate anxiety. I will still say that I would not wish it and its dark twin depression on my worst enemy. I still cry when I feel it in my bones, and when it takes over my thought cycle, pinning it to a painful treadmill of rumination and fear. I still want to build a wall to keep it out. But I see that my wrestling with it, and yielding to it as an element of my life, has softened me in beautiful ways. I don’t want to romanticize it at all. But I do want to say that I’ve found hope, some acceptance, and maybe even beauty, in a battle with mental illness.
I hate anxiety. But it has made me a better human.