The Catholic Messenger
When I was growing up, I felt different from everyone else. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t know why I couldn’t talk to my classmates. I didn’t know why I was scared of everything. I just knew I wasn’t like everyone else, and not in a good way. I felt like a disappointment to my parents because they were always telling me to change, and I couldn’t. They thought it was a phase. I knew it was just who I was, but I didn’t know how to communicate that to them.
Finally, when I was 15, I managed to break through to them and they got me an appointment with a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Thus began several months of therapy, along with a medication regimen. For the first time in my life, I began to feel some relief.
Twenty years later, I have everything I could have ever wanted back then. I have a job I love, a wonderful husband, the most adorable son in the world, and amazing friends. But my anxiety disorder is always with me.
It still causes me to dwell on worst-case scenarios sometimes, though I’ve gotten better at dealing with that. I can talk to just about anyone now — and, admittedly, I talk TOO much — but I still feel “different” sometimes. I feel like I have to make excuses for myself because I missed about 15 years of social development. Sometimes my anxiety leads me to act in ways that hurt the people I love. I’ve lost important people because of it. My biggest insecurity is feeling like I’m a burden to people. I’m scared that the people I love will grow tired of putting up with me and eventually leave, because it’s happened before. My anxiety makes me feel like less of a person.
But, I know I’m more than my anxiety. I am a strong, smart, creative, independent woman. I’m resilient and resourceful. I ask for help when I need it. I still seek counseling as needed. I’m always going to be a work in progress. I can’t allow myself to feel like I’m “less,” because all of us have one thing they wish they didn’t have to deal with. But I’m dealing with it, and God has blessed me with an amazing support system of family, friends and coworkers who lift me up and make me feel special in a GOOD way. Even when I’m at my worst, they don’t make me feel crazy. They acknowledge my struggles and accompany me as I work through them. My companions on the journey reassure me of my worth, and reassure me that I’m not just loved, but lovable.
Anxiety is a part of me. It is not all of me. Mental illness is a part of me. It is not all of me.
(Lindsay Steele, a reporter for The Catholic Messenger wrote this column during Mental Illness Awareness Week, which was Oct. 4-10.)