My Brave Self

Hills and Valleys.

When I felt these “buzz” feelings, I thought it was just me. The more I talk about it, the more I find out it’s so many of us. Mental health seems to be something that is suddenly talked about and a buzz word and a part of our culture and I think it’s so good. As humans, I think that we strive to feel happy and then all other emotions are bad or means we are broken, pathetic, or too much. My body is forcing me to reframe all of these things I once believed. Matter of fact, the harder I try to fight it, the more my body takes over.

I’m a lucky one to not have anxiety and depression. For me, it’s just this overwhelming feelings of anxiousness in random moments that panic doesn’t quite make sense as a place of distress. I think the funniest place to me was a surf competition that I was peacefully watching all of my favorite tough girl surfers and suddenly, boom there was that buzz in my hands, tightness in my chest, and the swirl of thoughts that flood through your mind that make you feel so alone, even in a crowded room.

I thought anxiety was something to beat. I thought I would be tough when it went away and I never had to think about it again. My therapist is helping me reframe that mindset as well. Instead, I’m tough when I drive to the friend’s house in the dark, even though I know night driving can make these feelings show up for a visit. I’m tough when I feel it come on and I breathe my way through it and give myself space to feel it, but not let it take over. I’m strong when I share these feelings with my sister or a close friend because I know I’m making a space where they know they can come too. I know that when I share it with them, I’m letting my body feel and process. This is just a new strong I’m experiencing.

There are weeks that will go by, even months sometimes where I don’t feel an ounce of this anxiousness. Then suddenly it hits you out of nowhere and it’s strong. These can be the most frustrating times because you thought you were done with this whole ordeal and you could go through life mindlessly without anticipating when this could hit next, then it hits.

I’ve been through my frustrated weeks of wondering what’s wrong with me. I have gone to the doctor to test hormones to see if this is that and it could all have an easy fix. I’ve worked on my diet, working to grasp to anything that just may make it go away forever. If you’ve never had this before, you may be wondering, “What’s wrong in your life? Everything is okay, just keep telling yourself that and it will stop it. Keep praying and God will save you.” These are the lines people say when they are trying to help so I smile and thank them, but it just isn’t that easy and I know they mean well.

This is a journey that I didn’t know I would have, but it’s making me slow down. It gives me compassion to others that are feeling it. When I am embarassingly honest about it to a friend, a few months later, many of these same friends come back to me because they are scared that they are feeling the same things. Some come back to ask advice on how to help a friend with this. Some come and open the door to this conversation and it makes the shame for both of us go away. The language we use to discuss this becomes powerful and it helps me feel more okay in this journey.

The one thing I’m noticing is our day to day language about our emotions. We don’t know how to talk about them. We watch a basketball game and say, “The game gave us so much anxiety.” Did it take over your body uncontrollably and you felt as though you could die? Maybe. Maybe not. I think we need to learn to say we feel nervous or sad or angry. Emotions besides joy does not mean mental health and anxiety or depression. This is something that I am learning. I am learning to savor my human emotions and separate them from my anxious feelings. I am learning that butterflies from excitement is different then a gut wrenching buzz in my stomach when anxiety hits.  I am learning being a human means you are a whole range of things and that is okay. There are real pieces of depression and anxiety, yes and I am no specialist in this field, but we must also be unashamed of our standard emotions in our life.

The way I described this the other day to someone who also experiences this was as though your world around you is spinning really fast. Your body is moving slowly, but your mind is racing around trying to decipher the “danger” and you can’t quite keep up. There are three different speeds and you feel a little trapped in the middle. It can feel lonely and scary.

As I stand just on the outside of the thick of this after a year of it being very powerful, I can see with more perspective. I remember when it started I wondered if I was going crazy. I wondered if I could trust my body anymore because it seemed to be telling me the wrong things. I quit a lot of things so I could take the time to invest in this and now I get to put all the pieces back together as I’m coming out of it. I am not done with it by any means, but I’m learning.

My faith has been interesting in this. I pray that it will be over and then honestly, get frustrated when it doesn’t. I get annoyed when people quote the verses of do not worry. That’s what makes this so hard. It feels uncontrollable. I am learning what faith is in the middle of this. It feels a little messy, until I heard this song one day last week after a week of anxiety coming back stronger then I was anticipating. This song leaves me with the feeling it’s okay to not get it. It’s okay to say my heart is heavy at points of this journey. That yes, this can feel like my lowest valley. It can feel like a failure, but it’s a season.

“I count on one thing
The same God that never fails
Will not fail me now
You won’t fail me now
The same God who’s never late
Is working all things out
Yes I will, lift You high in the lowest valley
Oh, yes I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy”

-Vertical Worship “Yes I will”

If you feel these things, find a friend and share them and give yourself the space to feel. Therapy has been my biggest tool as I learn about my body and learn to trust it again. Be okay with saying no sometimes, celebrate the moments you say yes and gently take yourself through. Don’t be ashamed to talk about it, because your vulnerability breeds vulnerability. Thanks for being human.

–Genieva

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