GeekMom Natania posted up this question on her Facebook page a few weeks ago: If you could write a note to your younger self, what would you say in only two words?
At first, I thought “run away” and I realized I probably wouldn’t be where I am now if I had. A few minutes later, I came up with the perfect response…Google: “anxiety.”
Growing up, I suffered with anxiety and depression. What makes this story so sad is that I didn’t know I had anxiety, which is one of the things that caused my depression (it’s a vicious cycle). Everyone always called me shy or sensitive. I guess chronic shyness would have been a more appropriate term…or how about what it really was? Anxiety.
Googling “anxiety” today, this is what I found:
Stress can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, unease, and worry. The source of these symptoms is not always known.
I’ve only known about anxiety for the past three years, and thinking about the years before, I wondered how things might have been different if I had known then what I know now.
First, prom and homecoming wouldn’t have been so stressful. I would have prepared myself better for the crowds and the closeness of the dance floor. I wouldn’t have allowed anyone to make me feel like I was “trying to get attention” by crying in a corner by myself.
I would have talked to my parents and asked for help. I saw a few counselors for depression and anorexia while I was growing up, but none of them ever brought up anxiety as a potential issue. I would have brought this up myself and asked for the right medications/therapy for it.
I would have empowered myself by doing research and finding out all that I could about how I was feeling and why. Talking with other people who have anxiety and learning more about it through books and doctors has taught me that I’m not nuts. I have anxiety.
I wouldn’t have been so harsh on myself each time I had a panic attack, because I would have known I was having a panic attack and that it’s a normal part of having anxiety. Granted, panic attacks are a very scary part of anxiety, but they’re also normal for anxiety sufferers. I have journals full of sad entries with self-hatred and loathing, because I just couldn’t seem to get my emotions under control or understand why I felt I was always in danger.
When I got married, I would have talked to my husband about it and asked for his support and understanding with social gatherings. This would have saved a ton of arguing in the early years of our marriage when his family thought I was nuts for having panic attacks around them (and he admittedly thought the same a few times).
Despite everything I wish I knew then, I’m happy to at least have the knowledge now. Like the old G.I. Joe saying goes, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” and when it comes to mental illness, it can mean the difference between getting help and continuing the suffer in frustrating silence.
I know I have anxiety and depression and I can recognize when they’re getting out of control. I know my triggers and have learned how to deal with them when they occur. I might not be able to get rid of my anxiety 100% (and according to some experts, I never will), but I know what I am up against and I have learned ways to help me handle it. I still have my bad days, but the knowledge and skills I’ve learned has kept my family from having to write my obituary.
It would be nice if the magic time machine that takes the two words back in time could take a few more, because I’d love to have a heart to heart with myself around my freshman year of high school. Of course, I’ll take what I can get and if I could only send two words, “Google: anxiety” could solve most of my teenage-self’s problems.