For a long time there was a loud voice inside my head that I tried to keep quiet from the rest of the world. I did everything in my power to outrun and outdo the voice that kept me from speaking up. I didn’t know what that voice was but I knew something wasn’t right. I felt it all over my body — in my stomach, my back, in my throat. With every word I spoke, I wondered if anyone else could hear her silent screams. Did they notice the ways she dictated who I got to be and what I was worthy of in my life?
Full of worry and fear, my internal critic judged my every move and every thought. She told me that everyone else was judging me too and that I must strive for perfection, no matter the cost. She shamed me into believing that no matter what I did, I would never be enough. Listening to her and letting her have the reigns to my brain and body was crippling and exhausting. I was stuck. But I couldn’t tell anyone. For so long I was afraid of what people might think of me if they knew the truth – that maybe I wasn’t as ok as I appeared. The truth was, I was cloaked in a coat of anxiety, something I now recognize as my invisible disability.
My breakdown arrived after a series of unfortunate events. I refer to these events in my writing often. I think it’s time I stop seeing them as unfortunate and realize that what I experienced was not a breakdown but a breakthrough. It was because of them that I was able to start seeking mental health treatment, get help, and start speaking up. It was finally at my lowest low that the voice allowed me to reach out and find some lifelines. I wish she had let me speak up sooner but I understand why she was holding back.
Instead of running from my anxiety, I decided it was time to recognize her, empathize with her and learn from her. I realize now that learning how to coexist alongside her will be a lifelong process for me. There is no salve and no vice that will permanently keep her at bay, but I have now acquired a set of coping tools that are there whenever I need a little help to get through an intrusive thought or anxiety attack.
These days, I am trying to befriend my anxiety and value her for all that she is. After all, it’s thanks to her that I am an intuitive, conscientious, kind and caring person. Plus, I feel things more deeply because of her, and I have come to see that as a strength. Also, she’s reliable and always lets me know when something doesn’t feel right. Moreover, she’s become a quintessential part of my voice as a writer and a woman living with mental illness. With every word I write, she thanks me for letting her finally be seen and heard.