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I don’t want to be

Guest Author: Effi

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

About a year or so ago I read a Facebook post that explained what it was like to have anxiety to a friend.

I searched and searched for that article for days, I was fixated on finding it.

That’s when my vague search of the word ‘anxiety’ brought me to your site.

Well, let me tell you, the pain in the pit of my stomach that was felt upon reading the word ‘sick’ affects me to this day. How can I be sick? Sick has so many negative connotations. I still feel that pit now, even as I type.

I don’t want to be defined by my anxiety.

Saying that word out loud made me immediately dive into the duality of my own anxiety. I rejected the word ‘sick’ immediately, yet my body is still reacting upon hearing it. One part of me is screaming ‘share your story, it has served you in the past!’ while the other is saying ‘shut up, you’re not the only one…’

I don’t want to be defined by my anxiety. I don’t want to be someone who suffers from anxiety. I don’t want to be the 1 in 5 who has a mental health issue, but I know I am.

If I admit to being ‘sick’ then I feel like it is winning.

That being said, I went on a mental health leave last year. I called it a ‘mental wellness’ leave, but in reality it was a sick leave. I barely told anyone, I was so ashamed. As a fairly new contract teacher with a permanent position, I had to take a break during my second year of teaching. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I needed time for self care. I had to take a step back and take care of my mental health. I felt so incompetent at work, plus I was emotionally and physically drained. I had chest pain, panic attacks, couldn’t sleep and depressed.

My shame and exhaustion grew exponentially.

My home life suffered too. My husband, who is also a teacher, came home stressed and exhausted and I absorbed all his stress. Our marriage was in a terrible place. Our daughters (who are 7 and 9 years old) would bicker constantly and I couldn’t keep it together. My shame and exhaustion grew exponentially. If at a social gathering and I would see an old coworker or an acquaintance, I would act as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on and pretend nothing was wrong. On the other hand, when I saw someone I knew and they would ask me how I was doing, I would cringe. My guard would go up immediately. I would think “are they truly asking me how I am in this present moment or feeling sorry for me?”. No matter what my response would be, there would be a wave of questions crashing into me and I wouldn’t know how to brace myself and put up boundaries. People were so brazen to ask if I was going to therapy or taking medication. I don’t know a polite way of saying mind your own business, so I would awkwardly grin and try to change the subject. Then I would confess that I was trying to be mindful of what I ate, take my vitamins, exercise, meditate, and even read those books on anxiety (that keep on piling up) that I had on my bookshelf. Then I would stress eat about all the ways I wasn’t doing those as much as I wanted to and immediately go into self loathing downward spiral. All because I was triggered by the phrase ‘how are you doing?’ 

I guess I’m at a point where sharing part of my story feels cathartic. I admit that I have anxiety, but I’m still struggling with the word ‘sick.’

I feel more stigma with the word ‘sick’ than anxiety.

I still reject the word “sick.”

Ultimately I’m battling my thoughts on a daily basis, and when they win, I’m defeated. But I don’t know if my loss makes me sick. A few years ago my husband called me a waffle for the first time (because I waffle back and forth when making decisions) and I was deeply offended. I was so bothered for the longest time. Eventually I owned up to it and now I laugh when I use it. I guess the moral of the story is own up to the word ‘sick’ and accept it.

I’m fully aware that ‘you have to name it to tame it,’ however, I feel like I wasn’t given a choice to be the one to name my anxiety.

I often think of substituting the word “different” instead of “sick.” I can manage saying, “I am different, not weak.” I’ll end off by trying something. I still reject the word “sick,” but I’m going to speak the words ‘sick, not week’ out loud and just sit with them. I am going to try to make peace with those words. I want to feel the knot in my stomach eventually subside.

What do I have to lose?

Epilogue:

Still haven’t said those words out loud but I’ve said them in my head a few times.

I need more time and more practice.

Comments

Social detective
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You are a very brave woman to share your “uniqueness”. This is my favourite word. We are all so different and yet society expects us to fit in that special little box called okay. You need support, you need unconditional love, you need honesty and friends who will allow you to be who you are and do what you can when you are able. Hugs! Rhonda

AB
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Dear Effi,
I saw the Effi I know in those words. Smart, strong, sensitive and caring.
I see your process and the steps you’ve taken for those things you value.
I also see the hurt and the struggle because it can be hard.
So grateful to have the opportunity to experience that.
Sincerely,
AB

Karen
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Dear Effie,
You speak my truth! Very candid article and I appreciate your honesty and personal sacrifice to share it. I wish you good mental health on your journey forward.

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