A regular worry that I’ve had as of late is about people finding out I struggle with mental health issues.
Although I have been casually open about having “anxieties,” there are few people who know the depth of what that means in my case. My recent coming out of the mental health closet has been attempted before, through previous blogging that I quickly halted before “they” might see.
They are my colleagues at work. They are the families that access the program I work for. They are some of my family members. They are the people I have been in AA with for 22 years. They are my ex-husband. They are my husband’s colleagues. They are are all the people who would never know or believe that I have days where I struggle to live, struggle to do certain things that my anxiety won’t let me, and struggle with how depressed this can make me feel.
I had to think about this as I recently decided to be honest and speak out about my mental health when I found myself anxious and depressed again. I have had periods of my life where I have been a high-functioning person with generalized anxiety, but anxiety has never completely left me. There have been other times where I have been agoraphobic and could not leave my house.
A few weeks ago I was drowning in my own despair, filled with anxiety, and allowing my ego to kill me because I was worried what other people might think. I assumed that if people knew what was going on, that I am not perfectly perfect, that they would judge me, and talk about me, or confront me, or tell on me.
So to those who might find out, here is what I have to say to you:
I have been living and sometimes thriving with generalized anxiety long before you met me.
The person you saw yesterday laughing and blowing bubbles outside with your child is the same person who has had generalized anxiety disorder since her own childhood.
The person who you see shooting hoops at the park with her son, being the great mom, is the same person who has had generalized anxiety disorder long before she became a mother.
The person who has managed to graduate with three college diplomas and run her own business is the same person who has had generalized anxiety disorder throughout it all.
This is the same person who on her saddest and most anxious days shows up when she feels completely broken, and you had no idea through the smiles and ability to carry on and function as any “typical” person would.
You didn’t know because I have learned to hide it well. I have lived my life around my illness, typically only engaging in things that would not trigger my symptoms so that I can have some peace and contentment within my comfort zones.
You didn’t know because I have the ability to ‘fake it till you make it’ when I do go out of those comfort zones, and in many everyday situations that cause me anxiety and stress. Some days I am my own superhero!
You didn’t know because I continue to participate in the world as a mother, wife, and employee while having a mental illness.
They might find out now and that is OK. I am sharing my story because my desire to help others stay one more day by letting them know they are not alone outweighs any fear of what someone might think if they discover I’m not perfect.
So let them find out. I am still the same person they knew yesterday.