The earliest memory where I can remember feeling tremendous anxiety was when I was a young teenager. I experienced my first break up and my heart was broken. I was scared to go to school. I couldn’t eat. I wanted to curl up in a ball and never leave the house again. I was so sad. I felt so anxious. And I didn’t think I would ever feel okay - ever - again.
Fast forward a few more weeks of what I would describe overwhelming anxiety and off to the doctor we went.
After explaining my symptoms:
...it was determined that I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
And so began my journey of being a young girl who had a disorder. An anxiety disorder.
At the time I didn’t think much of it. It seemed like great news because I knew there was something wrong with me and therefore something could be fixed. I could take this medicine and I would be all better.
Upon reflection and knowing what I now know about feelings a lot of things come up for me when I think about this time in my life.
To start, I am really interested to know why anxiety was labelled a disorder? And why it is still labelled a disorder?
Disorder in the dictionary means:
: a physical or mental condition that is not normal or healthy
: an abnormal physical or mental condition
But is it? Is having anxiety abnormal? Or is calling it a problem, something that needs to be fixed, the problem?
Interestingly - at I sit here at the beautiful age of 35, and I reflect on the list of symptoms I experienced, I am still not fixed. I still experience anxiety on a daily basis. I still worry, feel sad, have a hard time concentrating and feel indecisive.
But what’s different is that instead of thinking that something is wrong with me, I now tell myself that feelings/emotions are a part of being a human being and THAT knowledge in itself ‘fixes’ the problem.
I wonder what it would have been like if my doctor had said that nothing was wrong that day. Absolutely nothing was wrong with me. That I was experiencing different emotions. That I was having vibrations in my body because of thoughts I was thinking. And that it was okay. I was okay.
What if that day the doctor really questioned those thoughts and feelings?
It’s possible that together, we would have found out that it wasn’t purely anxiety that I was feeling. But a multitude of different emotions that got summed up as anxiety.
It’s so clear to me now that I was also feeling deep sadness, depression, loneliness, loss, fear, doubt, uncertainty. Completely normal feelings for a teenager who was experiencing her first break up. What’s fascinating to know, is that these feelings weren’t happening to me, they were being created by me because of the different thoughts I was unknowingly thinking.
I also wonder what it would have been like if my doctor had said, tell me everything you are thinking right now. And told me that not only are the thoughts I was thinking not ‘the truth’ about me, about my life, about my future, but they were in fact choices.
All thoughts are always just that - choices. And if I didn’t like the thoughts I was thinking and I didn’t want to believe them, that I could change them and feel differently.
To this day, we still get taught that anxiety and depression are problems. They are wrong. Something to get rid of and fix. I would like to suggest that this may not be true. They are not wrong. They are not right. They simply are. Emotions. That we experience because of what we are thinking.
With the amount of mental health concerns in our society and most importantly to me, in our schools, I would like to question the way we look at mental health.
Instead of diagnosing it as a problem, let’s become curious, compassionate, and loving with ourselves and our children. Ask ourselves and our children meaningful questions.
How are you feeling right now?
Why are you feeling that way?
Do you know that you are feeling that way because of what you are thinking?
Do you like the way thinking that thought feels?
Do you know that you are 100% lovable and perfect and amazing just as you are in this very moment and that no matter what you are thinking or feeling, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you - ever?
Try it today. Become aware of what you are thinking and feeling and help our youngest minds become aware too. And always, no matter what, remember, there is never, ever, anything wrong with you.
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