I don’t measure my weight on a scale much anymore. I measure my heaviness by my mood. For as long as I can remember, anxiety has been an old friend, a constant companion, and my nemesis. It’s fascinating and frightening to watch other people be seemingly ‘normal’ as they go about their lives, so quick to recover from what you know isn’t anywhere near the end of the world, and so steady in their good moods.
Over time, I’ve realized that appearances can be deceiving and we all certainly fight our own battles, but logic and objective judgement don’t exactly stand a chance in the face of the monster that is anxiety. For me, it’s an overwhelming sense of dread coupled with knowing with absolute certainty that you are not enough – not smart enough, not good enough, not pretty enough, just not enough to make it and do well. What makes it worse is having conversations with your anxiety, knowing it intimately and understanding its triggers and motives. Sometimes, I find myself wishing I was truly ‘insane’ and lived in the blissful ignorance of my mental mess, not knowing or caring about what was wrong with me.
It, at times, feels worse to know you’re anxious and know you have mental health challenges because, in your weaker moments, you long to be ‘normal’; to be like ‘everyone else’. It’s a vicious cycle: getting anxious and then feeling bad about yourself for being anxious. Those closest to me sometimes don’t know how to help, and, to be honest, many times I don’t know either. My mind and I often play a crude game of chess with each other, a game who’s rules I still don’t understand because they keep changing. I spend some days navigating the battlefield that is my mind, being careful to not step on any anxiety landmines that are artfully hidden and packed with emotional explosives.
Over time, I’ve built a strong support system and found people and things that help me cope, but there is always the real danger of slipping back into old habits. I say habits because, as bad as the anxiety can be, it is still comfortable and safe. These days, I have the fun challenge of worrying when I’m not anxious. Something must be wrong if I’m happy, or excited, and simply in some state of calm and peace. Without the anxiety, who am I?
I’ve found that being open about my struggles with people I trust has been helpful and therapeutic – it has led to some amazing conversations that I cherish to this day. I’ve given up thinking this will ‘go away’, and I am a lot better now that I was years ago in ‘taming the beast’. I know that I have good qualities, that I’m a good person, and that I’m more than my anxiety. I only wish that I could know that all the time. I continue to push forward, wanting to carpe every diem, even when some of those diems leave me breathless and afraid. If nothing else, I hope others can know that they are not alone if they struggle too. One thought that keeps me going comes from the Japanese. Here is the link to the image. Thanks for letting me tell my story.
Lisa Endersby has trouble standing still, sometimes because her mind runs faster than her legs can keep up. Working in student affairs for over 5 years, she has been honoured to inspire and share students’ stories and is ready to share more of her own. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter at @lmendersby or hear more from her at www.lisaendersby.ca.
To read more about “Committed,” a series focusing on sharing stories and continuing the conversation about Mental Health in Student Affairs, check out this post. Follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #SAcommits. Thanks for reading and supporting your colleagues!