Anxiety has a way of attacking a person’s self-esteem. It leaves you feeling weak and incompetent. It makes you feel worthless. It literally sucks the life out of you, throwing you into a vicious cycle of self hatred and anger. How do you push yourself forward and overcome something so difficult when you don’t believe that you deserve to be happy? Where do you draw strength from?
Happiness means everything to a person. Without it we are just existing. Happiness is where life is lived and joy is birthed. I am not talking about superficial happiness, I am talking about the kind of happiness that brings peace to your very soul; but how can we truly be happy when we aren’t happy with ourselves? The answer to this question is one that I have spent most of my journey trying to unearth.
For a long time I looked for outside things as well as other people to make me happy. If I graduated college with good grades I would be happy. If I lived with my boyfriend I would be happy. If I got a job I would be happy. If I got married I would be happy. If my husband did what I asked of him I would be happy. If I had children, of course I would be happy. All of these things I went on to do and they did indeed make me happy, but with each one of these milestone moments in my life taking place, I was always left feeling unsettled. The joy that I felt in each one of these moments was always followed by sadness and doubt.
I felt saddened by the fact that I was totally incapable of living in the moment and freeing my racing mind from the anxiety that consumed me. I doubted my ability to find peace.
I imagined on my wedding day as I took my vows, that in doing so my anxiety would be swept away with a simple “I do.” I would be free from pain because I was making a loving commitment to God and my now husband. I said “I do,” and cried tears of joy but as I walked down the aisle with my husband’s hand in mine, fear still followed.
I imagined that I would hear the sound of my daughter crying as she entered into the world, making me a mother for the first time, that on the tails of her cries my fear would be carried off into the past. Those cries instead awakened me to new fears that I had not known until I became a mom.
I had always expected some beautiful moment in my life to whisk away my anxiety the way a wave would pull a shell from shore burying it deep on the ocean’s floor leaving the sand smooth and untouched as if that shell never existed. I often looked to my husband to rid me of the storm that was constantly spinning through my body. I blamed people or events in my life for making my anxiety worse.
After years of searching I had found the answer and it was one that I didn’t like. The only thing that was making my anxiety worse was me. The only person that was going to rid myself of the anxiety that had taken over my life was me. I had to stop looking to other people and things, awaiting some miracle that would pull the turmoil from my mind and body. I had to do it myself. I couldn’t just pray anymore waiting for a magic fix from God. I needed to pray, but more importantly I needed to listen. Praying does you no good if your heart isn’t open and ready to receive the answers.
How do you move forward though when you don’t like the person you have become? When you come across a person that you don’t care for, or better yet that makes your skin crawl, you can always walk away. You can choose to not have that person be a part of your life. What happens when that person is you? There was a time in my life that I literally wanted to crawl out of my own skin and run away from myself because I couldn’t stand to be with me.
You are like a flower in the wind. The wind may bend you, but it will not break you.
The words of Carol echo in my mind. Something clicked inside of me when she spoke those words to me. My eyes were opened to the reality of who I had become.
I was a person who suffered from anxiety. I hated the way that I felt, but after a decade of suffering I was still here fighting. My determination to find answers and win the battle had never died. That had to say something about myself.
I began to look around at the life I had created. I was married to the most amazing man with two beautiful and healthy daughters. I owned my own house that I had turned into a home. I had great relationships with my family and friends. After graduating college with honors I had found work easily. I was coaching gymnastics at a level I never imagined possible. No matter how tired I was and how bad I felt I never gave up. I never gave in to any temptations or took the easy road. I never stopped trying to get better. I never settled and used my anxiety as an excuse.
Instead I was pushing forward trying my best to achieve the happiness that deep down inside I knew I deserved. This was a start, a slow one, but a really good one.
I always say that the brain is really easy at being tricked, and it is. It will believe the thoughts you put into it. Maybe not right away, but over time it will. I began to focus on the good qualities in myself that I was just beginning to allow myself to see. I gave myself permission to appreciate myself and how far I had come. I finally saw it. I was a flower in the wind and I will not be broken, ever.
Practice makes perfect and I made it a daily effort to look at the good in myself. There were days that it was really difficult to love myself, but sometimes you have to fake it until you make it right?
I was 19 when Nicole died and my world came undone. I am 32 now and I can honestly say that I love myself. I love who I have become and I am truly grateful for the path that God has lead me down. I am just thankful that my eyes were open and willing to see the way.