So, it’s the end of May already. Seriously, how did that happen? We are seven months away from Christmas! Anyone that knows me, knows I love everything Christmas—music, decorations, the magic of it all. I don’t really know why I’m skipping to Christmas right now, to be honest. I love summer. It’s my favorite season—bonfires, watching fireflies, driving through the country on a Sunday evening, picking wildflowers (and putting them in my hair, obvs), fishing, car shows. I love it. You know what I don’t love? Anxiety. May is Mental Health Awareness month, and I wanted to open up a bit about my own struggles with anxiety. I want this to be safe place to be vulnerable, honest and to share my stories because I truly believe that when we share our stories, we can not only heal ourselves, but we can make it so that others can feel safe to share their own stories.
I don’t like change. Like, at all. Which is weird, because I also don’t like being stagnant and I love trying new things. But, when there is a change happening in my life, I resist…big time. It causes anxiety within me, and it just plain sucks. Not feeling like I am safe or supported in certain situations, also cause anxiety for me. If I’m meeting new people, trying new things, or if I’m trying to tell someone how I feel and I don’t feel like they’ve got my back or have empathy—I either give up or just let myself sit with anxiety alone because I don’t feel safe. Safety is key when someone has anxiety because when it hits, there’s really no stopping it. I had a recent experience with anxiety. I was out with friends at a musical and all of the sudden, the walls started closing in, I was sweating like a pig, shaking, couldn’t breathe and right in the middle of the performance, had to be practically carried out because I passed out. Um, yeah, yuck. Usually, something triggers it but this time, I was relaxed, calm and having fun, and then wham. Afterwards, I told my friend who didn’t know I even had anxiety, what happened. Their response was something I wasn’t expecting: “how can I help you in the future if this happens again? What can I do next time to be more helpful? What did I do that wasn’t helpful? What can we avoid that might trigger it? How can I help you?” They said it in such a calm, comforting way that actually floored me. I didn’t know what to say at first. Then I responded, “I don’t really know. No one has really ever asked me that in that way before, so I honestly don’t know how you can help me.” They actually took notes on how to help: water, fresh air, cold towel, affirmations, not making a production out of it, not yelling or getting angry, being patient and staying calm (because that keeps me calm). I was so grateful in that moment. I was expecting judgments, frustration or the usual “I guess I don’t know what that means.”
The other day I was researching anxiety, and came across a blog post and it was so perfect and so beautiful that I have to share the premise of it here. It’s called Validation and Hope vs. Toxic Positivity. I think we’ve all said at some point that we’re struggling with something, and have had someone say “just be happy!” or “you’ll get over it eventually, think positive!” While that’s nice and all, it doesn’t really help the person struggling. It honestly feels like a brush-off, like you don’t really care and you’re just trying to help in the quickest way possible. Because, really…if it were that easy to “just be positive,” don’t you think we’d be doing it already? Yeah. Exactly. The chart below is absolutely perfect. Thank you, Whitney Hawkins Goodman for this. Every single one is perfect, but my favorite is “good vibes only!” as if to say, “well, if you’re not chipper, then you’re not welcome here.” I thought this would be a good thing to maybe print out and keep as either a reminder to yourself in how to respond to someone struggling, or to give to someone so they can see what’s helpful and what’s not.
I really believe that if we share our hearts in a loving way, we will all feel a little safer to struggle. Because, it’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to not be ok. And it’s definitely ok to ask for help. Check up on friends who you know are going through something. Take a chance and have a real conversation with them about mental health and how you want to help them. Ask them how you can help and actually listen to them. Sometimes they won’t know how you can help, but if you can be a safe place for them that might be all they need. Believe in yourself, but if you can’t right now, it’s ok! What steps can we take to help you get there?
You’re not alone, trust me.
What I’m listening to:
“Rescue Me,” One Republic
“The Joke,” Brandi Carlile
“Desiree,” Keith Urban (this song is so old, but it’s been in my top ten all-time favorite songs)
“Maybe It’s Time,” Bradley Cooper (from A Star Is Born)
What I’m reading:
My Story, by Elizabeth Smart