Personal Stories

Coming to Terms with My Anxiety

by Mariah Kasparek

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I’m anxious.

I’ve been told that I should never let a mental health diagnosis consume my identity, but anxiety has been with me since my earliest memories. How else could I possibly describe myself?

When I was a child, I had to stop attending preschool because I couldn’t “handle it” emotionally. Throughout elementary school, and even some of middle school, I would cry and visit the nurse nearly every day with stomachaches. Back then, we didn’t have open discussions about mental health. It’s not surprising, then, that I didn’t receive the help I needed; No one could identify what, exactly, I needed help with.

My constant stomachaches turned into a crippling fear of gastrointestinal illness. Over the years, I’ve visited many doctors to address physical symptoms (stomach aches and headaches to name a few). More recently, I began to feel panicked about my heartbeat and heart health. Despite all the appointments, doctors never found any underlying physical condition. Rather, my ailments seemed to be a product of mental illness. It’s not that these pains and sources of discomfort are nonexistent, it’s far from that. It’s just that the source is my brain.

I am thankful to know that there is nothing medically major wrong with me, but I’m frustrated that there is no “simple cure” to “correct my brain.” My doctor has experimented with my medication doses and tried different treatments over the last year and a half, and I am constantly working on my thoughts with my therapist.

I’ve come to understand that even though I would love to rid myself of it completely, I will most likely live with a mental health condition forever. I am in no way suggesting that there aren’t ways to recover — but as someone who has lived with high anxiety for my entire life, I know that there is not a “one-way ticket” to being cured. As I read about other people’s stories of mental illness and recovery, I found myself frustrated by the experiences I could not relate to — the stories where people spoke of being fully healed.

Of course, my mental health progress has not been linear; My anxiety and depression come in waves. Although I can find relief in the “quiet times,” I know that my mental health conditions are never really gone. As I’ve grown into an adult, I’ve had to accept that there will be tougher times that I’ll need to cope with. I have to find ways to function so I am able to work and attend to my responsibilities. It hasn’t always been easy; I recently started the first full time job I’ve had in the last year. My fear of “messing up” or not living up to my own standards keeps me from losing my drive as I work, but the anxiety can be draining.

Lately, I realized that I’ve spent so much time trying to rid myself of anxiety, that I haven’t let myself simply live with it. Now I’m attempting to find that balance — to allow the anxiety to exist and to find contentment in the small victories when I push through.

As I’m learning to make peace with my mental health conditions, I find myself less resentful of other people’s stories of recovery. I now understand that everyone has their own journey — and I am not alone in feeling that my journey is ongoing. I hope that by sharing my experience and being honest about my current challenges, someone else will feel seen and understood.

I wish I could share exactly how I recovered from my anxiety — but that’s not the wisdom I have to share. What I can say is this: learning to live with anxiety is a big part of realizing that there is no “final goal,” there are just the small goals you reach every day by continuing to push forward. If that nonexistent ending can resonate with just one person, my story is worth sharing.