My name is unimportant. My exact age is too. Just because I’m sure you’re curious, I’m in my late teens, but that doesn’t matter. Where I live means nothing, as does what school I attend. What matters is that I am a young woman who just like anyone else has passions, dislikes, a family I love, strong friends, and a sometimes paralyzing anxiety disorder which manifests itself in many different ways.
I have suffered from anxiety my whole life, I just didn’t really know it until 10th grade.
Anxiety Is Like Fear Of Snakes
The analogy I always use for how my anxiety disorder progressed is having a fear of snakes.
One day you get to school, look around, and notice that there are pythons hanging from the ceiling; covering the school. They never touch you, but they’re there. Very quickly you start dreading school. You dread getting on the bus because, after all, the snakes are waiting for you at your destination, and for all you know they’ve traveled onto the bus.
You don’t want to go to sleep every night, because tomorrow you have to face the snakes, and weekends are equally miserable.
How can you relax on Sunday when the next day you will be surrounded by snakes? This is general anxiety.
This was the rapidity with which my anxiety developed in high school. For no apparent reason, I started being unable to handle very much. I felt sick often- nauseas, dizzy, disoriented almost, constantly afraid, constantly surrounded by “snakes.”
Many can relate to their anxiety/depression/eating disorder/fill-in-the-blank inhibiting them from doing something- whether big or small.
Creative Outlets For Anxiety
I have many creative outlets including ballet, hip hop, singing, some forms of art, and most significantly, horseback riding.
Any time I can spend working in the barn or sitting in the saddle is good time. One of the feelings I love most is feeling like I’m flying as I canter around the ring, or the split second of suspension in the air when the horse and I leap over a jump.
However, when my anxiety started become worse, it started leeching into my Sunday ride. I would be nervous the morning of the lesson. Then I became nervous Saturday night: pacing sometimes, unfocused, nauseas. Soon I was panicking on Thursdays- pretending it wasn’t about riding so that I wouldn’t have to face the fact that the thing I loved the most was slowly making me miserable.
Yes, I’d taken a nasty fall a couple summers ago but I’d been riding for months afterwards, how could that be affecting me now? Yes I felt so sick the morning of a lesson to the point of thinking I would throw up, but that couldn’t possibly be a real problem.
It took a year of my parents and therapists telling me this wasn’t healthy, before I made the impossible decision to take a break from riding.
It made no sense that something I knew was in my head was stopping me from doing something I knew was good for me.
Taking A Break From Doing What You Love
Needless to say, it was a hard year.
I spent a lot of time with my therapist working on my anxiety. It’s really hard- this fight is not an easy one.
And I just wanted to dispel the idea that anxiety doesn’t reach every corner of your life.
No, it’s not just some tragic struggle that arises when we have to visit the doctor, or see a spider, or encounter a small space. It can conquer even the brightest parts of you. You shouldn’t feel abnormal if your mental illness is hitting the happiest parts of your day.
I just want to say that while I’m a major fan of the motto “keep on keeping on,” and I generally don’t believe in being a quitter, at a certain point you need to know when to take a break.
The only reason I’m a passionate rider today who goes to the barn every day I can, is because I gave myself time.
It’s good to push yourself, but it’s also crucial to stop and say “this isn’t okay.”
You can’t improve without recognizing that something is wrong.
And yes, it’s very nice to say I suffer from mental illness but swimming/playing the violin/tap dancing/ etc kept me going, but sometimes the anxiety attacks that very source of joy in your life.
That’s normal, that’s okay, and sometimes you have to be able to take a step back and fix the source of the problem before you’re able to continue doing what you love.
This isn’t to discourage anyone. Trust me I think you can do it.
Taking a break from doing what you love doesn’t mean stopping.