As I’m sure you’re aware by now, anxiety is something I’ve always struggled with (even as a child). I have perfectionist tendencies, and have always held incredibly high standards for myself. Oh… and I care a LOT…. about everything and everyone, and especially people’s perception of me. I cared too much. WHAT??? It’s crazy to think that this is what was going on with me. I cared SO darn much about everything… to the point where I forgot to put myself into the equation. I had never cared for myself the way I care about…literally everything and everyone else. This combination of personality traits has historically left me pretty exhausted and on the brink of a break down a lot of the time. It gave me a lot of self confidence issues over the years, that I’ve had to work very hard on, because I never seemed to reach the standards that I set for myself, and therefore rarely saw my accomplishments as being what they were. And my self worth was always dictated on how people saw me. If I was doing good for the world, and helping people, and able to be supportive and people liked me… I was happy and felt fulfilled. But if any of those things seemed to be out of balance, I suddenly felt like I had failed. Over the years this became so damaging… and I couldn’t see my own worth, despite the numerous friends and family showing me all the time how important I was. I just stopped believing it, and felt the type of guilt a person should never feel about themselves. I came to really dislike myself as a person, and couldn’t understand why everyone wouldn’t feel the same way about me as well. I actually felt that my existence was causing people pain – that I was able to ruin people by being close to them. That my presence was too much. When anxiety and depression combine like that… it’s an incredibly dangerous, self-deprecating cycle. When you spend years trying to affirm your worth based on other people’s opinions – it leaves you unable to see your own worth for yourself. When physical health became such a major part of the equation for me as well, I think that’s what broke the camels back. No longer was it just my brain that was in shambles, but my body was too, and therefore my life suffered. I felt like my body had given up on me, the way I had given up on myself. With type one diabetes, constant cases of terrible back pain, and a stomach that wouldn’t allow me to eat without feeling sick. It felt like it was fighting against me. And I had to fight back… but eventually the fighting catches up with you and you break. That’s where I was a year ago. My health had started affecting my job in Residence Life as an Assistant Programming Coordinator at Western, and I no longer felt like I was good enough. This was because suddenly I no longer felt I was valued when I wasn’t on top of my game due to reasons that I couldn’t control. I no longer felt important.
“Self love” has been the biggest challenge I’ve had to face. Really, this basically sums up all of my struggles in two words small words. When your problems seem to affect so many aspects of your life, and when they run so deeply… it’s almost amusing when you realize that you can sum up all of it into two simple words. Those two small words – that’s what was causing you grief, and what you needed to fix. It’s annoying when you feel like you could write essay upon essay about all the things you are struggling with (… I mean I guess that’s what I’ve been doing on here haha…), but yet it all comes down to a simple lack of two words – “self love”.
It’s weird to think back and comprehend the fact that I didn’t know how to love myself when others weren’t doing it for me. WHY? I shake my head thinking about this now, because once it’s gone, it’s so hard to build back up, and the guilt is that hardest part to deal with. It’s difficult, and sort of a “one step forward, two steps back” kind of process, you know? Taking so much time to myself was such an important thing for me to do. Although not by choice, it’s forced me to work on parts of myself that I would have normally deemed to be trivial, or something I assumed I would grow out of. In some ways this has been a gift… a gift disguised as a hell of a storm, I admit, but a gift nonetheless. I still find myself looking for reassurance from those close to me when my wellness wavers, but it’s amazing to look at the big picture and see that, although you still have some really tough moments… they no longer affect you for months, or weeks at a time…or even complete days… they are just moments. And forgiving myself for those moments has become easier and easier with time, and with supporting friends and family. And slowly, with my own willingness. I don’t hate myself. I never thought I’d hear those words out of me. And I actually think I love myself. Like, a lot! Not to say there aren’t times where I feel incredibly frustrated. But I think I actually kind of like myself, including my little anxious quirks… because when controlled, I think they actually make me a better person, and they are part of me that I am proud of. Stopping those things from taking a hold on your wellness is the hard part, but thinking about it, I’d never want to give up the fact that I care about people so deeply, or that I like to strive to do things that I can be proud of. But I now see the importance of leaving that energy for the people and things that are important in your life.