So basically, this story might bore you. To be blunt, I’ve never felt suicidal, I’ve never messed with drugs or alcohol, I’ve never even thought about writing out my story until I realized that all pain is pain. Everyone struggles with it differently and everyone has different ways of coping with it. This story is for the people who feel like they have no story to share.
I still remember the day I had my first real anxiety attack. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and even thinking back on it makes me cringe. The best way I can describe it would be like placing yourself at the top of a roller coaster, at the very point when it’s about to plunge down toward the Earth, and it just stops. The coaster won’t move and you are paralyzed. You can see the ground below you, and the people walking around and laughing like nothing is wrong. But you know something is wrong. You can’t breathe, and you are going to die.
I was crouched in front of my toilet, kneeling over it and dry heaving. I was also sobbing and simultaneously screaming bloody murder. I had no idea what was happening. My face felt hot, I was sweating, my stomach hurt, and I literally felt like this was the end. Why?
I had gotten into a fight with my boyfriend.
I was 17 at the time, a junior in high school. My boyfriend was in college, and the fact that he was even relatively interested in me was a huge deal. He was handsome, sweet, and overall a really great guy. I grew up in a great home with great parents. Even now I look back and the low moments in my life seemed to only point toward high moments. My life was not perfect, but on the outside one could maybe make that assumption from how I carried myself.
My father had always taught me what true love looked like. The way he loves my mom, my siblings and me, my friends, and our family members shows what a wonderful guy he is. I am a true believer that my father influenced the type of men I looked for. Mom, if you are reading this I love you with all my heart and you literally are the best mom in the world. I don’t mean to talk about dad all the time☺. In high school, my standards were unbelievably high and frankly, impossible. I had many guy friends, but I was never looking for a relationship with them because there was always a flaw I could not get over. (Pathetic, I know, especially since I have flaws up the wazoo.)
Surely I digress, but anyway. The fight I had with my boyfriend was a long time coming. Everything was sunshine and rainbows for the first few months because this guy was great. He hit almost every single one of the checks on my checklist of my perfect man. However, dating gives us the opportunity to see if we truly are compatible with the other person, or if our differences are just too massive to ever get through.
I had always had spurts of anxiety in my life, but this attack was the first time I felt like I was going to die. This boyfriend of mine had a great way of making me feel like everything was my fault. “Walking on eggshells” is the best way to describe that relationship. One minute we were fine and in love, and the next minute I did something that upset him and it was the end of the world. Emotionally, I was exhausted. I kept it to myself and never retaliated. When I did retaliate, I always ended up apologizing because, again, he had a way of making it my fault. I don’t remember what this particular fight was about but I remember feeling like he was going to break up with me and that I was losing everything. This guy was my whole world and if I lost him, my life was over. (Looking back I realize how pathetic that sounds, but it was truly how I felt at the time. High school love hurts, people!)
My entire worth was put into this relationship. If lost it, I lost my worth. If this guy didn’t want me, who would? Did I really have all of these issues that he said I had? Was I really that stupid? I went for a run one day and he asked if I was wearing anything see-through or tight. I literally went home to change because I was afraid of what he might do if I didn’t change from the shorts I was wearing into something a little looser. This relationship controlled me. It increased my anxiety just trying to prove to this person that I was worth a relationship. Trusting others and trusting that they wouldn’t leave me or hurt me became impossible.
I don’t want to put all the blame on this person because a lot of the time, the anxiety in my mind was from my own-doing. I got anxiety going to get an oil change for my car! But getting an oil change didn’t define my worth, so the anxiousness was definitely different. After I ended that relationship at the beginning of my senior year, I spiraled into a depression that became toxic. My friends and family kept telling me I did the right thing, but my heart hurt.
My faith has always been a huge part of my life, and it’s something I’ve never been afraid to speak about. I’m not ignorant, however, and I realize that everyone has different views or opinions than me. We all seek comfort in something, and I happen to seek comfort in God. I was always taught and told that no matter what I do, God never abandoned me. Through my depression and anxious fits, the first thing to come to my mind would always be “why, God? Why now? What did I do to deserve this?” After growing up and learning more about life and my particular Catholic faith, I realized that God allows these things to happen so that we grow from them. In my case, I believe that not everything in this life is sunshine and roses because if it was, there would be no point in a heaven.
My depression and my anxiety do not define who I am, they strengthen who I am. They are a part of me, but just like any illness, it needs to be healed. Every time I beat it, it’s another victory. The anxiety grew to be somewhat of a psychosomatic illness because of the physical effects on my body. I would feel anxious and immediately need to use the bathroom, and I could potentially be in there for hours. This happened so often my freshman year of college that I seriously considered seeing a psychiatrist. I ended up finding a great counselor on campus who constantly reminded me that rejection did not mean that I was not worthy. Rejection does not equal unworthiness, and this is something I’m still working on realizing.
The people in my life were put in my life by God himself, and I truly believe that. Each one of them has loved and cherished my mess of a personality. My friends know how I am with my anxiety, and if I come home and there is a room full of people I wasn’t expecting, they know I will most likely be locked away in my room calming down. I can usually expect a “you okay, bud?” text shortly thereafter. They love me, wounds and all. Accepting that love is the hard part. It’s hard to know how much you mean to someone when you don’t feel like you mean much to anyone. It’s not until someone mentions how grateful they are to have you in their life that you truly feel like you are worth something. Even then, not believing it is what can kill us. You could have told me a thousand times how important I was in this world, and I would have never believed you. I was that deep in my unworthiness. I was that deep in the belief that I was never going to be good enough for anyone. I was constantly showered with love, but the voice in my head told me I didn’t deserve any of it.
My message to you is: you are worthy. People in this life do not define whether you are worthy of love or not. The people in our lives have a massive impact on us, so it’s important to surround ourselves with people that will build us up. I still struggle with feelings of unworthiness, but nowhere near how it used to be. I still cling to my faith and the knowledge that there is a God out there who loves me unconditionally, and who has shown me this through countless miracles in my life. I’m 21 years old now and engaged to a guy that loves everything about me. He constantly reminds me how much I’m worth, and I couldn’t be more thankful for him. The people in our lives teach us things. They help us get through our insecurities, our depression, our anxieties, etc. The trick is finding people who will simultaneously love you through it.
In one of Dear Hope’s posts by Paul Falcone, he sums it up perfectly when he says “it all comes down to accepting the parts of you that you wish you didn’t have.” Accepting that rejection is a part of life is how we will get through all of this crap thrown at us. Accepting that our worth is not defined by how people see us or how many good deeds we’ve done is essential. Loving ourselves and loving others wherever they are at mentally, physically and spiritually is imperative. I found my worth in making a cup of coffee for my roommate when she’s tired. I found my worth in doing well in school so that I can provide for a family one day. I found my worth in loving how I look no matter how bad my of a hair day I’m having. I found my worth in finding other people who feel like they are worthless and assuring them that they are not.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.’” – Jeremiah 29:11
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