“I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember. My parents always encouraged me and my siblings to get good grades, but I put more pressure on myself than anything. I still remember my first B, I cried for longer than I care to admit. Growing up, I absolutely loved to dance. I dreamt of being a ballerina or a Radio City Rockette. Throughout my 15 years of dancing, I was told I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t skinny enough, I wasn’t tall enough, I was just never enough. I was 11 years old when a teacher told me to suck in my ‘pudge.’ Day after day, when you hear that you’re not enough, you eventually start to believe it.
I graduated high school with a 3.98 GPA. I couldn’t believe I was accepted into all four of the schools I applied to. I accepted an offer with my dream school, the University of Michigan. My first semester was rough to say the least. I was taking two of the hardest classes offered at the university, a junior level Spanish class and a psych class that was only offered pass/fail. I struggled with the adjustment from high school to college. After failing my first semester, I ended up in therapy where I was officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Nowadays, it’s easier to find people that relate to my situation. It seems like more and more people are being diagnosed with mental illnesses and people are actually talking about it! Which is so refreshing – back then, I didn’t have anyone that understood what I was going through.
People have told me time and time again that it’s normal to get nervous and that ‘everyone gets anxious sometimes.’ But it’s not normal to be 26 years old and be terrified to stay in your house alone. On September 23, 2019, I had the worst panic attack I have ever had. My husband was out of state for work. I worried about that week for almost two months, ever since the day my husband told me about it. I kept telling myself over and over, ‘You are going to be fine.’ I wanted to be fine. And I was fine until 9:30 p.m. when all of a sudden it hit me. I was going to have to sleep by myself, with no one else in the house. I started hyperventilating and crying. I couldn’t stop. I knew that logically, none of this made sense. I probably was going to be okay, but my brain kept saying ‘what if…’
I called my mom and had her stay on the phone with me while I went upstairs to go to bed. I turned the fan on like I always do, and I got into bed. And as soon as I laid down, I realized I couldn’t hear what was going on downstairs. If someone broke in, I couldn’t hear it. So I went back downstairs. I thought I would lay on the couch with my dog and I would be able to sleep. I was wrong. Our house creaks loudly in the fall, so every time the house creaked, I snapped right back into panic. I slept for a total of 45 minutes that night. I was mentally; physically, and emotionally exhausted. When your brain is constantly in ‘fight or flight,’ and always battling between reality and anxiety, it drains you. Thankfully, my mom stayed with me the rest of the week so I could actually sleep, which being 26 years old and having to ask someone to spend the night with you is incredibly embarrassing.
I remember when I asked my husband if we could put a nightlight in our bedroom. I felt like such a burden. I’m an adult sleeping with a nightlight because without it, my brain convinces me someone is standing in the dark corner of our room. To my surprise, my husband was okay with it. I’m sure he probably thought it was weird, but if he did, he didn’t show it.
Sometimes anxiety shows up out of nowhere and it doesn’t make sense. I am an awful cook, this is no secret. But I try to help out every now and then. I tried to surprise my husband with homemade Mac and cheese. Poor guy walked in to me having a full on mental breakdown because I couldn’t get the cheese sauce to be the correct consistency. He just pulled me in a bear hug and held me until I stopped crying (and suggested going to get pizza). Yeah, I can laugh about it now, but in that moment, it felt like the world was ending.
It’s not normal to be so convinced that everyone you love actually hates you or that you are annoying them every time you text them. And God forbid they don’t use an emoji like they usually do, anxiety tells me it’s my fault. There are countless times I have asked my husband, ‘Do you still love me?’ or ‘Why do you want to be with me?’
I know that to most people, this sounds irrational or overdramatic. But it’s important to note that often times, people with anxiety (as well as some other mental illnesses) realize that their fears are not logical but their brain convinces them that it is very real. My brain tells me that I will fail, that I am not loved, that I will never make a difference in the world. But every day, I get up and I prove anxiety wrong. I graduated from the University of Michigan, one of the best universities in the world. I am back in school to become a Sign Language Interpreter. And I married my best friend who supports me in every way possible.
To my husband, Nick, thank you for loving me even when I may not be lovable. Thank you for reassuring me, for holding me when I’m in the midst of a breakdown, and most of all, thank you for making me smile when smiling is the last thing I want to do. To anyone suffering with anxiety or any other mental health issues, just know you are not alone. You may feel like giving up, but don’t. You are worthy, you are loved, and the world needs you, even if your brain tells you otherwise.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alycia Osstyn of Michigan. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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