It took me many years to acknowledge the fact that I have major anxiety issues. I think it’s very important to talk about our mental health, especially in a culture that is dismissive towards the concept of mental health, such as the Romanian culture.
Everybody experiences stress. It is a normal part of life and the way your body communicates to you that you need to react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation. You can feel stress when you worry about your future, your job, finances, relationships, the illness or wellbeing of a loved one. It is also triggered by having too many things to do or you when you just haven’t slept well.
However, experiencing often an emotion characterized by the feeling of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes such as increased blood pressure without making adjustments to counter these effects, it can threaten your health and well-being. This constant state of stress starts to affect your day to day life, and simple tasks you need to do become overly complicated.
Going from healthy self-preservation caused stress to anxiety issues is often just a step. For me personally, anxiety started kicking in many years ago. I was indeed living in very stressful conditions at that time, so I wasn’t acknowledging my high levels of stress as something that is not normal. It was so normal to me, that it became part of my identity.
As life went by, I continued to live with my anxiety without ever occurring to me that these feelings are not normal in such a high capacity. Healthy day to day stress became entangled with older issues from my past, merging together into a filter that would be automatically applied to any stressful situation I would encounter in my life.
I became a master of hiding my anxiety over the years – you would only see my bubbly personality, hear my blunt jokes, see my polished glamorous appearance. Using all of these distracted most of the people from seeing what was underneath – I managed to hide major episodes of depression, desperation, heartbreak, high level of anxiety simply by becoming such a good actress – I created a wonderful facade that made others aspire to be like me. Not even the people I was honest and close to did not fully understand me because they never experienced what I was hiding under the rug and couldn’t relate.
Whenever I would feel anxiety – which was and still is almost daily, I would put on my facade and go about my day. I did not function like a normal person for over a decade – you would never see how I avoided food, drank a lot of coffee and smoked my lungs out. You would never see how little things made me hear my heart in my ears, made my hands shake, made my feet tremble – all of these whether it was a little mistake I did, a phone call I needed to make, a meeting I needed to have, a project I had to present in front of my colleagues.
On my days off from work, I would sit with in a pitch black room curled in my bed for the entire day feeling anxious about text messages, phone calls, emails that I did not wanted to reply. I would only have some food when I felt like collapsing.
When I stopped working for a while to focus on getting my dream job, I continued to work myself up even though there was no one in particular stressing me out. I had a lot of time on my hands to spend with my negative thoughts that ran in circles in my mind. My anxiety levels reached such a high point that getting out of the bed, washing the dishes and going to the closest supermarket took me all day. It became harder and harder for me to fight back the feelings of uselessness when out of hundreds of job applications, no one would e-mail or call back.
When you reach that state of desperation and anxiety, you would take any job that you can get your hands on. Side note: just like you should not shop when you’re hungry, you should never take a job out of desperation (if you have a choice).
I had a choice of not doing this, of not taking a job out of desperation – all I was seeing from the start were red flags, but I ignored them. Because my anxiety was causing me to have all these catastrophical thoughts in my head of what would happen if I didn’t take the only job offer I had under my nose.
I took it and it was a great job title to have in the industry, especially at my age. It turned out to be the most stressful and emotionally abusive place I ever experienced in my life. Those conditions triggered all the skeletons from my closet, all my insecurities and my anxiety went off through the roof and reached the nearest galaxy.
Even writing about this is causing me a bit of anxiety. But there are many good things that come out of situations like this. Yes, it sucks really bad to knowingly put yourself through hell. To feel daily so anxious that your heart might burst at any point. However, this was a wake up call for me. I was finally able to acknowledge to myself that I have a problem and its name is anxiety.
For me personally, I know this is something that I will deal with my entire life. The triggers are rooted so deeply into my mind and soul that it’s impossible to break free from them. A major step for me was acknowledging my anxiety and starting to embrace it as a part of me. A part that need to be constantly worked on as I go further and further in life. In my culture, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health and most of the people are ignorant towards anything related to it. You are associated with a medically and legally declared insane person. For them depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders etc. are just words from the dictionary. Mental health is as important as physical health, don’t ignore your feelings, talk to someone you trust.