Anxiety Shapes My Life It all started in my childhood where I remember staying up all night in fear that I would die in my sleep. I had every disease known to mankind. Thanks to the teachings of my fourth-grade teacher on the black plague, I soon started obsessively washing my hands until they would bleed. I did this because in school you are taught that washing your hands prevents disease! Perhaps, we were told that obsessively washing hands had a negative impact, but I don’t recall that. I have probably spent years of my life worrying over things I have no control over. I’ve almost planned my funeral because of diseases I have diagnosed myself with (stay away from Dr. Google!). I have lived in a constant state of fear. Apart from seeing a child psychologist in fifth grade, I have always been able to manage my anxiety. I’ve never spiraled out of control and have been able to live a happy life. I accepted the fact that my normal was being hyper-aware of my body and anything slightly abnormal. I could recognize things that made it spiral—deaths, tragedy, illness of loved ones, stress—and these were times I needed extra self-care. I used humor because—let’s be honest—if I took myself and my anxiety seriously I would be a completely different person today. I’d honestly probably never leave my house and be completely disconnected from everyone in my life if I didn’t have a sense of humor about my struggles. Living with anxiety is one of the reasons I decided to pursue mental health and substance abuse counseling as my career. I want to help people that struggle with the deep, dark monsters known collectively as mental illness. The downfall of this was that I threw myself completely into my graduate and post-masters training. I exhausted all my energy on starting my career which left no room for self-care. I found myself spiraling in my own anxiety. I would spend Sundays in bed crying because off the suffocating amount of anxiety I was feeling. I gave up on my daily household responsibilities and duties as a wife. Which led my anxiety to now encompass the fear of losing my husband too. I reached a point where I needed to seek counseling myself. Not only for me, but so that I could be 100% present for my own clients. With lots of hesitation I finally decided to try medication because, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t get myself out of the dark hole like I normally could. This was the worst my anxiety had ever been. It’s been almost a year since I started medication and my anxiety is finally back under control. I feel like myself again. I can’t remember the last time I stayed in bed crying all day—it’s been that long! I moved to a different state, something that typically would send me on an anxiety ride, but I am managing. Not only am I managing, but I am happy! Now, my anxiety is not gone. I don’t think it will ever be, but the “rides” as I call them are far less than before. When they hit, I can talk myself through it without letting the anxiety take the steering wheel. I need to remind myself every day that I am in control. I’m not going to let anxiety ruin my life. I’m going to let it shape me into a stronger, more understanding and more compassionate human being. You must pull from your strengths and view your mental illness in a positive light or it will defeat you. That is why I am a counselor and that is why I continue to survive and succeed with anxiety. #stopthestigma #noshame Share your story, message, poem, quote, photo or video of hope, struggle or recovery. By sharing your experience, you can let others know that they are not alone.