Growing up with anxiety was no easy feat. As a young girl, I was always known for being courteous, kind and understanding of everyone, always finding the good in everything, with an extra dose of speaking before thinking. While I have yet to figure out the latter, there was a time in life when I lost all the kindness in my soul. In fact, I eventually died in every way imaginable. After struggling and growing up with anxiety since I was 7, I guess it was bound to happen…
This is my story.
As a child, I used to make masks without the cut-out-holes for the eyes and walk around with my ears plugged just so I could understand what blind and deaf people felt like. I would leave one arm outside of its sleeve, just so I could understand what it was like to live with only one. I would defend the underdogs and even stuck up for a blind kid on the playground when the school bully stole all of his pogs and all the other kids said nothing at all. While everyone was running wild in the summer, I was begging my parents to put an ad in the newspaper for any kids needing someone to talk to. And although they never did, I still sat at that desk with the house phone beside me, pretending like calls were going to come in from the neighbourhood kids looking for some love, help and support. I was always the little girl with all the friends but who also invited the children from the special education class to hangout because they deserved to have friends too! I saw a counselor on the regular who used to always ask me why I was always smiling and how I still managed to be so happy despite what was going on and I would say, “I’m just happy. That’s just who I am.”
…And that is who I was.
But somewhere along the line, I lost it all. I can’t really say it was a result of growing up with anxiety, but I do believe it to be a huge factor. After years of having kindness and understanding pouring out at my seams, I could never understand why I was so misunderstood.
The odd thing is, I really didn’t have much to complain about. Despite my parents having a nasty divorce and many bad memories no young child should ever have to experience as a result of that, and having a child molestor in the family which instilled a fear and hate in me for all men my life was pretty decent. Well, you know, aside from that one thing people like to call “Anxiety.”
I was only 7 when I first started to experience anxiety attacks. 7. Seven. Sept. Siente. At 7, you’ve barely started school. The only thing you have to worry about is whether your classroom caterpillar will turn into a moth or a butterfly, but behind this cute, bouncy blonde girl, there was a lot of sadness building up that eventually manifested into something more.
After throwing up in a fast food restaurant, I got in trouble from one of my parents who decided that anxiety wasn’t a thing. This, obviously, turned into me having anxiety anytime I had to eat in front of this person because, although I didn’t understand what was going on, I knew enough that if I was to be sick, I would be scolded. So, this one restaurant incident turned into me getting sick at every restaurant, at every lacrosse tournament, in every mall, in every car, at every destination. And you better believe it, I was scolded each and every time from this one parent.
I recall one time when I was probably around 8 years old and I was away for a lacrosse tournament, like the little sister rink-rat that I was. We were eating dinner with the rest of the families when suddenly, a rush of nausea came over me. Keep in mind, I was still very young – only in grade 1 or 2 at the time – yet, I knew enough to not show my anxious feelings at the table. So, instead, I pretended like I had to go to the bathroom and I causally walked off until my parent could no longer see me, took some deep breaths, came back, all is good.
Introduce anxiety attack #2. My little body started to get boiling hot and I felt nausea and a rush of panic come over me. “But I just went to the bathroom. What do I say now? Where do I go? I won’t be allowed to go to the bathroom and then I’ll get sick here and I’ll be in trouble and…and….and…”
And like the mature child I should have never had to be, I let out a silly chuckle and exclaimed that I forgot to wash my hands. I got the look – you know, the look your parents give you when you know they’re thinking, “Are you kidding me?” So, I slowly and casually walked away from our dinner table like nothing was wrong, just as if I had to wash my hands and as soon as I was out of sight, I booked it. Like a pregnant lady in the midst of morning sickness, I ran to the public restroom with a hand over my mouth, vomit riding up my throat and anxious thoughts taking over my mind, body and spirit.
I had a woman shout over the bathroom stall if I was okay. She must have heard my little tiny voice or seen my little legs under the door, as she talked to me so kindly. “Are you okay, honey? Do you need a glass of water? A napkin? Do you want me to get your parents?”
I wanted to scream, “Yes! Please. I need help. My mind is taking over my little body and I can’t control it and I’m going to be in so much trouble!” But like the young girl I should have never had to be, I replied, “I’m okay. Thank you!”
I’ll never forget this time because I was grounded to the hotel for the rest of the tournament. No pool with everyone else. No TV. No fun. No nothing. I was grounded for having anxiety.
Eventually, my other parent who understood what I needed as a young anxious child put me in counseling and got me the help, and I started to feel better… or at the very least, experience less anxiety until it was time to go to my anxiety-doesn’t-exist-parent’s house on the weekend. Despite screaming and crying at the top of my lungs, I was still forced to go and rightfully so. After all, I was just a child. However, every Sunday when it was finally time to return back home, I would arrive at the doorstep with tears in my eyes, begging not to go back. When I was 10 years old, I was finally able to make the decision for myself. I never did went back.
In fact, I was so tired and exhausted from pretending to hold myself together for all of those years growing up with anxiety that I didn’t go back until I was 18 or 19. I lost 10+ years with this one parent because of my anxiety, but I’m not blaming myself, nor am I blaming my mental illness. It just shows how damaging not being understanding and compassionate for a child growing up with anxiety – or anyone – can be.
But where did I lose my kindness, you ask? During my high school years, I had a pretty decent life. Great grades, good friends, amazing experiences; I lived the high school life most people think they wanted but here I was, miserable. After my brother’s near-fatal run-in with depression and my grandma’s passing, everything changed. Suddenly, I no longer wanted to be the girl that I was. I was tired of being hurt, often times by people I loved and trusted, whether intentionally or not, and I was done.
I separated myself from all of my friends in my “clique” and hung out with all of my other friends, which I had plenty of because I was always kind and understanding to everyone. I stopped going out with my “friends” to parties. I stayed at home with my family. I studied and completed my homework and did what I had to do to get the heck out of dodge… Or rather, what most people would refer to as Bluevale Collegiate.
Eventually, I graduated, I got a job… But something was still missing. It was like, my little giggling, blonde body was just waiting to explode into a fiery rage. I was so fed up with everything – fed up with being kind and understanding but only being misunderstood in return – that I lost it. Anytime someone did something to me, I would just eliminate them from my life. I didn’t have a care or bother in the world to deal with it. I was done. So, done that I even packed all my belongings and two pups in my car and randomly took off to Florida to get away from everyone and anyone I knew. I needed to be on my own.
Obviously, at the time, I thought I was in the right and was making healthy decisions for myself, and I happily continued on like this for the next several years until I was 23. Looking back now, I realize that I was a very broken soul but escaping to be on my own was the best thing I could have done for myself. For the first time in my life, it was just me. I had no one to disappoint; no one to disappoint me; I could choose when I felt well enough to eat out in a restaurant, I could choose who I wanted to be friends with, how I spent my time, etc.
But why does all of this matter? Eventually, I came home and I’ll never forget finding my mom and Aunt (who’s like a second mom) reminiscing over how sweet, kind and caring I used to be. It was almost like they were mourning someone’s death, which in reality, that’s exactly what they were doing because that wasn’t who I was anymore. My aunt then turned to me and said, “Tilly, you used to be such a nice, caring, understanding girl. It didn’t matter who, what or where you were, you always found the good in everyone and everything. I miss that Tilly.”
I snapped back, “Well, sh*t happens and I’ve changed,” and that, I had. “I’ve gone through things and I’m a little rougher around the edges now. That’s life.” They shrugged their shoulders, accepting that the little silly Tilly everyone once knew for being so sweet and kind was dead. Rest in peace.
But it wasn’t long after that, that my true spirit, morals and values started to creep back in. I often thought about those words, “You used to be so kind and caring…”. Was I really that bad of a person now? I had been away, on my own, in the Sunshine State for approximately 4 years and really had never felt better, but I had a big, black, rolling Florida storm cloud inside of me that was quick to take over anyone’s sunshine anytime something was said or done that I didn’t like. I no longer had any patience for putting up with people, places, situations or things that I didn’t have to. In all ways possible, I lost the capability to understand; to be kind and to be compassionate. I was simply tired of putting on this “I’m okay! Everything’s fine!” face that, for a couple of years there, I let the build-up of stress and anxiety take over, and I showed it through anger that could only be seen over the top of my extra-large wall that I built to guard my heart and soul. No one was getting in. No one was going to disappoint me or make me feel bad about who I was because, clearly, I’m not the same person anymore.
But as rough as my exterior was, it really bothered me that I lost the kind, sweet, always-caring part of me. I remember someone once saying to me, “Your true morals and values, the things instilled in you at a young age, the things that make you, you, never go away.” And so, I continued on with my fingers crossed that maybe, one day, I would be that little girl who cared for everyone, once again.
And today, I can finally say, I’m back. It took a lot of unconditional love from my family, several crying breakdowns, the birth of my niece and nephew, and a supportive boyfriend who understands me even when he doesn’t, to get me back to who I was.
I’ll never forget the time my boyfriend, who has known me since before the “crash”, told me when we first started dating how happy he was to know that behind my rough exterior, it was still me – it was still kind, caring and understanding Chantal.
It gave me hope that maybe I wasn’t so damaged and doomed after all. Maybe all I needed was someone to say, “Hey! Chantal! You’re still in there. We’re just waiting for you to come out.” And eventually, out of my hard, weathered shell, I came.
And here I sit today, proof that the morals, values and traits that make up who you are as a child never truly go away. I had a rough couple of years growing up with anxiety, just as most teenagers and young adults do as they’re trying to find themselves, but who I am and who I’ve always been has finally come back. It took time, patience, vulnerability, love and a whole lot of tears, along with the elimination of and seperation from people who don’t understand and who criticise me for having anxiety, but I’m back.
I decided to share my story about growing up with anxiety today because, it took me the long and hard way to figure a lot of things out, but I did figure them out. I had some dark days where I really didn’t care about anything other than… Myself. I think, after having to hide my anxiety and feeling punished (by one parent) for so long for having anxiety and for the divorce and this and that, that I eventually just didn’t want to care. I didn’t want to care about anything else. I just wanted to care for myself and have anxiety when I had it, do things when I wanted, not do things when I didn’t want to without being forced, and so on. It was the best thing I could have done but, it was not an easy route to take. Growing up with anxiety, especially when one (or both) of your parents don’t understand can feel like a death sentence. If I can help even one person do it differently and more healthily, I’ve done my job.
So, remember who you are. It might not feel like you’re in there but I promise you, you are. It might take some time, but you’ll come back. In the meantime, mind your mind, mind your body and mind your business. Bite your tongue, write a journal and seek professional help if possible.
Times get tough; days get dark but eventually, they do get better and the sun starts to shine again. It’s just up to you to hang on for the ride until the rollercoaster comes to an end. And until then, Anxiety Gone is here to help you along the way.
If you’re a parent wondering how you can keep your anxious child from growing up with anxiety, we’ve created the Anxiety Kid’s Krate to help parents just like you. Because we know what it’s like to not have the right circumstances, coping methods, support and/or understanding growing up with anxiety, we have put together a subscription box that helps both the parents and the children to manage, cope, understand and overcome this thing called, “Anxiety”.
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With the cold and flu season taking over, Claire from Anxious Freedom is discussing the differences between anxiety and the flu, and what it means for your mental health. Disclaimer: This article does not apply to those suffering from major depressive episodes which can be just as debilitating as the flu itself with exact symptoms. This is for those, like me, who suffer from phobias and generalized anxiety and panic disorder. This is also not medical advice, just a post coming from someone who has had trouble in the past finding the difference between anxiety and a cold or the flu. If you have a fever along with any of the flu symptoms, please seek medical attention. Anxiety IS a sickness (even though it’s considered mental) and can have so many different effects on our body varying by each individual. With millions suffering from a mental health disorder, we know first-hand how it can manifest throughout our entire body (i.e. headaches, nausea, stomach aches, etc.) With cold and flu season running rampant, how do we distinguish between anxiety and the flu or a cold? We know that the two can be intertwined, and yes, anxiety does diminish our immune system, […]
The post Flu Season is in Full Swing: How to Spot the Difference between the Cold/Flu & Anxiety appeared first on Anxiety Gone.
For people who struggle with various forms of anxiety, there is a new all-natural hope on the horizon. In the last couple of years, both the scientific community and the general public have gotten more acquainted with cannabidiol than ever before. Cannabidiol (or in short CBD), is a complex compound found in all varieties of the cannabis plant, and even in the industrial hemp plant (where it’s mostly extracted from), which has only trace-amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), CBD is completely and utterly non mind-altering, which basically means that it cannot induce any kind of mental sensations, and the only feeling you get from it are the medical benefits it induces. But more on all that a bit later on. Reputable manufacturers of CBD usually extract this cannabinoid from the industrial hemp plant (which is mostly used for the production of fabric and rope), and because a proper CBD-oil product can have only less than 0.3% of THC in it, this ensures that the customer is absolutely safe from any effects of THC, and at the same time this low level of THC is the reason CBD-based products are totally legal across the world. So […]
The post Understanding Why’s CBD so Beneficial for Anxiety Disorders appeared first on Anxiety Gone.
It’s hard to heal from anxiety if you don’t know what’s going on. That’s why we often preach the importance of reading various self help books to help you overcome. In fact, we believe in self help books for anxiety so much that we even include them within our anxiety subscription boxes. However, when you don’t have someone picking out the book for you, it can seem impossible to know where to start. So, we’ve created a list of our most effective self help books for anxiety. Important of Self Help Books for Anxiety Before we get into the various self help books for anxiety, it’s important to know why you should read them. We like to say that these self help books are like seeing different therapists and learning their unique approach to beating anxiety, for a fraction of the price of actually going to see the doctors. By reading different types of anxiety books, you’ll be receiving different techniques, tips and perspectives to coping, managing and living with this mental illness. Since every doctor is different, so is every self help book for anxiety. Some books might resonate with you better than others but you simply won’t know until you […]
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