“The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.” -John Green
I remember sitting at my desk at my summer internship with an IT firm and crying because the idea of going to the kitchen to get my lunch while everyone was in there was so daunting that I couldn’t even get up to do it. That was the day I knew something was really wrong. My panic was affecting my life. Something was wrong- I was constantly scared my friends hated me, I talked too much, my boyfriend was going to dump me, I was annoying, I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t trying hard enough. The list goes on and on. These were my spiral moments. One thing led to another until I got to the point where I was sobbing and having trouble breathing.
In 2013, I went to my family doctor and told him I was feeling extremely anxious all the time. I told him it was affecting my work life and my social life. After discussing my symptoms and taking a depression test, he came to the conclusion that I had a social anxiety disorder and mild depression. He put me on a small dosage of Zoloft and suggested I seek therapy.
It’s been six years of dosage changes, yoga classes, running, journaling, meditation apps, and deciding if therapy is right for me. It’s been hard to figure out what is going to be the best way to cope with the many social aspects of my life. What works best for me is taking my medication every day, communicating with my friends about my need for validation occasionally, working out or walking to clear my head, and dancing. I love to listen to my music super loud and dance around the house.
I’ve learned a lot along the way. I learned how to step away from a situation and ask myself if I am thinking rationally, to take deep breaths. I learned that it’s okay to say no when friends want to hang out and I am having a low day. I learned it’s okay to spend time doing things I want to do without someone tagging along. I get dinner with myself and it’s honestly the best. I take myself to bookstores and roam around Boston for hours. I have learned to tell myself that I am not annoying and that I deserve to be loved. I have learned to take breaks, to stop being on the go constantly.
I still have days where I feel like everyone around me hates me and I make mental lists of who loves me. I still have days where I ask my boyfriend, “Are you happy?” “Do you still love me?” I still have days where the idea of a group setting makes me want to cry. Those days are always going to happen. They are apart of my life and apart of who I am but they are far and in between. They don’t consume my life.
I am growing and learning. As many people say “healing is not linear” and my journey is going to have ups and downs but I am proud to see how far I have come in 6 years. I count every day without a panic attack or event I attend without wanting to cry a small victory. Getting out of bed is a small but mighty victory for those of us with mental illness and I treat them as such.
For anyone out there dealing with anxiety and depression of all forms, remind yourself that it’s a day by day process. You will get through this. It’s going to be okay. – WM
Here are some of my favorite anxiety reads:
Whitney Mooney is the Program Director for Popularly Positive. She works full time for YWCA Cambridge, a social justice non-profit organization in Cambridge, MA, as the Fund Development Manager. She is available via email and text any day of the week. She is an avid reader and political activist.