Words Matter

The words we choose to use make a difference. In this journey a few seemingly small changes have made a huge difference for me. 

First, I stopped separating “child” from “teenager” or “young adult”. If a fifteen year old came up to me today and shared their domestic abuse situation I would immediately think “why would someone hurt this child”, not “this teenager is having a hard time”. So, why in my mind do I default to this separation between arbitrary ages? It’s because it affirms my own self blame regarding the abuse I endured. Calling myself a young adult instead of a child has a way of affirming that I should have been able to control the situation better. That I should have known better to trigger his anger or I should have responded differently because I was mature enough to understand. Simply put, its bullshit. I was a child. Even at 15 or 16 I was a child, just like we all are. I didn’t have any power over the situation and I couldn’t control any of the outcomes. Today, choosing to use the word child when working through these memories is allowing me to release more of the self blame I carry. 

Second, I now choose to refer to abuse as abuse. I do not qualify emotional abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, and physical abuse. It is all abuse and I find that in my mind when I put the qualifiers on it I’m doing so to diminish the damage it caused. When I say I was verbally abused it’s because I’m saying “I had it bad, but not as bad as people that are physically abused all the time”. Learning not to rate my level of abuse has been therapeutic for me. Learning to say “I was abused throughout my childhood” instead of saying “I was verbally and psychologically abused and it got physical a few times” has made a big difference. Accepting the damage that has been done instead of trying to minimize it and make it less than is a healthy change. 

These simple changes in the words I use to refer to my experience has helped me to accept the pain that I feel. It has helped me to stop judging myself for my own damage. It has helped me to be more compassionate to me. Learning to love myself the way I naturally love others has been a hard road, but I finally feel like I’m making progress. 

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What I Didn’t Understand About Mental Illness

There are thousands of articles and blogs out there with titles like “10 things I wish people knew about anxiety” or “What I want people to understand about depression.” Reading articles like that helped me to understand mental illness in a way I had never understood it before seeking that knowledge out. Here was my big lesson: mental illness is not black and white. It does not look a certain way or act a certain way on everyone. It is a spectrum, like most illnesses. I went over a decade not realizing that the way my brain functioned was not typical. I genuinely thought every single person out there had the same struggle and they were just better at handling it. Realizing that my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were caused by a treatable condition changed my world.

Since beginning therapy it has been confirmed that I struggle with anxiety and PTSD, and that I developed Binge Eating Disorder and situational Depression as ways of coping with those conditions. The fact that I am and have always been high functioning does not change the severity of my anxiety, it just means I adapted to hide my symptoms and keep my struggle invisible.

I want to share a few thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that I had during this decade of high functioning mental illness which I never knew were caused by my mental illness. Maybe you’ll see yourself in some of these words and it will help you realize you don’t have to struggle alone and that treatment and healing is possible. Maybe you’ll just gain a better understanding of how mental illness can look on different people and be more empathetic towards those with invisible illnesses in the future. It is my hope that someone will read this and it will help them gain a better understanding of themselves and others.

  1. Every so often I would feel like my life was spinning out of control and I would find a corner to sit in, make myself small, and breathe it out.
  2. Sometimes I was just overwhelmed with emotion but didn’t know where it came from, so I would use an emotional movie or song as an excuse to cry the emotion out.
  3. I would randomly start shaking, my heart beating too fast, my breath labored, without knowing the cause. Or, if I did know the cause the reaction didn’t seem to fit the trigger.
  4. I felt on edge a lot of the time, like I was barely containing my feelings and any little thing could be the straw that breaks me.
  5. I couldn’t focus on simple tasks because my brain was busy worrying about different things.
  6. I fidgeted a lot. Shaking my foot, tapping my fingers, clicking a pen, I just couldn’t sit still and relax.
  7. I constantly feared other peoples judgments and worked to keep everyone as happy as I could.
  8. During difficult emotional times my stomach would be upset for weeks, I could have a tension headache for over a month, and no matter how much sleep I got I was never rested.
  9. I would talk back to my brain often, trying to talk myself off of the edge of a panic attack, trying to counter irrational thoughts with rational ones, trying to convince my brain that there is nothing to worry about.
  10. I would sometimes release my physical anxiety by dancing it out, spinning in a circle, generally moving around in a silly way. Friends would laugh and join me thinking I was being fun and carefree, in reality I couldn’t stop shaking and knew if I didn’t do something to distract myself I would start crying.

Reading this list now it is hard to believe I didn’t see the anxiety that caused these things, but I truly didn’t. I didn’t know crying it out in a corner hugging my knees was a panic attack, I just thought I was emotional and a stronger person could handle that emotion without such dramatics. I didn’t know that my fast heart beat, labored breath, and extreme fidgeting were high functioning panic attacks I formed to mask my symptoms in public, I just thought I was distracted and should be able to focus better. I completely believed it was all just a personal flaw, that other people handled their lives without such “ticks” and I just wasn’t as good as them.

Please be kind to others. We don’t know what people are struggling with, and sometimes they don’t know it yet either.

The image posted above is the HAM-A Anxiety Assessment that is used by some therapists to diagnose severity of symptoms. The GAD-7 is a great screening tool to use if you believe you may suffer from anxiety.  https://patient.info/doctor/generalised-anxiety-disorder-assessment-gad-7 

Military Spouse Anxiety: Deployments and Separations

In roughly the last three years my husband and I have gone from dating, to living together, to married, to our first child, to a cross country move. In that same space of time he has been deployed three times, had two long training TDY’s, and various other separations and TDY’s. Added up we have spent nearly 1.5 of the last 3 years apart. Such is the life of a military family, especially one in which the active duty member has an operations job. My husband loves his job, and he’s good at it, and it never even crosses my mind to ask him to do something else. That doesn’t mean that this life isn’t difficult. And like everything else, the separations this life demands are made more difficult by anxiety.

My anxiety during separations stems from one of two places. The first is fear. Fear of the dangers of his job. Fear of not knowing if something were to go wrong. Fear of what he has to do and see and how it might affect him later in life.

The second is my personal self worth. If other spouses are hearing from their husbands and I’m not hearing from mine I question my worth. If he says he’ll call and doesn’t it makes me question my worth. If he sounds even the slightest bit frustrated with me I question my worth. If he questions my parenting decisions I question my worth. I should be more clear, when I say question my worth what I mean is that in each of these instances he is verifying my deeply held irrational belief that I am not worth time, energy, or love.

The number of panic attacks I had in my sons first year of life (my husband was gone for months 2-10 give or take) is too many to count. The above sources of my anxiety may not seem to intertwine much, but in my mind they go hand in hand. Here’s how a basic spiral to a panic attack looked at the peak of my anxiety.

I haven’t heard from him in 3 days. I hope he’s okay. I haven’t heard any news reports for the area so I’m sure he’s fine. If something had happened someone would have called me. Unless something is happening now. Maybe I’m anxious because I can sense that something is wrong with him. That’s silly, nothing is wrong, he’s probably just super busy, or maybe the internet is down. Or maybe his helicopter came down. Remember that one time he almost crashed and the pilot didn’t recover until they were 3 feet from the ground? Remember how unsafe those damn machines are? They come down literally all the time. *looks up crash statistics* Okay maybe not all the time. I’m sure he’s fine. He’s just busy or the internet is out. *distract myself with social media* Well Janes husband just Skyped with her so the internet is working fine. Well that sucks. Does he not want to talk to us? Did I do something to upset him? Why doesn’t he want to be a part of our lives while he’s away? Well I wouldn’t want to talk to me like this either. I’m not exactly a joy right now. Look at me finding fault with him while he’s there doing what he’s doing. I’m a terrible person. I’m not worth talking to. If he does call I should be super happy and only talk about happy things. But he won’t call. He doesn’t want to see me. I look a mess anyways. I should put on some makeup in case he does call. I’m too tired to put on makeup. Not like this baby will let me put him down long enough to do it anyways. He could do so much better than me. He could get a spouse that’s gorgeous and takes care of their appearance every day. I wonder if he’s talking to any other women while he’s gone. Maybe he’s talking to other women instead of me. Not like I could blame him. I wouldn’t want to talk to me either. I’m just not worth it. He couldn’t possibly love me. I’m not worth the love. We’re probably not going to make it. He’s probably going to trade up. He deserves better anyways. *uncontrollable crying* *starts shaking, heart racing* *finds a corner and hugs my knees* *tries to focus on breathing*

See how that devolves from normal fears to irrational beliefs that my family was over? Here’s a kicker for you, I was actually in therapy for a few months of this separation but my therapist never asked about anxiety symptoms and I had experienced these sorts of melt downs for so many years that I thought it was normal, or rather, I thought it was just a personal failing not an actual condition.

To be clear, again, my self worth is no ones job but my own. My spouse is not responsible for my self worth. I do not want him to compensate for my beliefs on the subject, I want to progress to the point that I no longer hold these irrational beliefs. His actions in no way cause my panic attack, my own irrational thought processes do that. Would it have happened if we had more regular communications during separation, I honestly don’t know, but I’ll touch more on how my anxiety affects my spouse in another blog.

On the reverse side of this, our most recent separation was after I had began therapy using a cognitive behavioral therapy approach. We went the first full month of his deployment without speaking because of technical issues and I didn’t have a single panic attack. I had typical fear about where he was, the dangers of his job, the lack of reporting from the immediate area to keep me informed, etc, but no panic about his safety or my self worth. I missed him. I still cried a couple times, I still wore his sweatpants, I still ate too much pizza, but not once did I have to hug my knees and breathe it out from the safety of a corner.

Anxiety is a bitch. It has a way of telling you that your worst fears are eminent. When your spouse is away from you, and especially when they are in a war zone those fears are even more real. It’s not as much of a mental leap to believe those fears could come to fruition when there are statistics that prove the danger.

If any of you suffer from panic attacks, have past trauma that affects your current thought processes, or find yourself making irrational leaps in your stream of consciousness please realize it is not typical and it can be treated. The right therapist and approach can make all the difference in the world, and can make living this military family life much more bearable.

Blame, Entitlement, and Healing

Emotional work is hard. It has this unique ability to drain all of my energy without my having done anything physically. Opening old scars, processing old wounds, attempting to straighten out twisty wires in my brain is some of the most difficult things I’ve done in life. It is so tempting to just leave things buried instead of doing this work, but I would be leaving myself with this anxiety wired brain that just seems to get worse by the year because of all this unresolved emotional work. I know the juice will be worth the squeeze as my brain starts to learn new ways of thinking and my anxiety continues to lessen. Still, ish is hard.

One thing I struggle with during this work is blame. Because this work is difficult it is often in my thoughts that I wouldn’t have to do this work at all had I been blessed with a healthy childhood. My anxiety is pretty much all nurture based, unlike others who have nature based chemical imbalances. Mine is learned behavior. Learned behavior that developed to help me survive the abuse of my childhood. It’s hard to not dwell on the blame factor. The people at fault for my needing to develop these survival mechanisms. The idea that I am somehow entitled to a healthy life is a toxic one for me. Each time this thought process comes up anger and anxiety follow directly behind.

Should all children be raised in healthy environments that provide love and support and teach them how to be a functioning adult? Of course they should. Was I provided this? Nope, not a bit. I was provided a roller coaster ride of narcissism and substance abuse, emotional terror, manipulative actions, and occasional physical abuse. Objectively that is in no way a healthy environment for children. As an adult, though, dwelling on this idea that I shouldn’t have had to deal with these things as a child does me no good. It does not lessen my pain. It does not ease my burden. It just leaves me with a giant chip on my shoulder about how what I experienced should never have happened.

For me to be the best me I can, for me to make progress with my anxiety, for me to successfully rewire my brain to default to rational thinking I have to let go of the blame. I have to let go of the entitlement. No one owes me anything. My life was what it was and is what it is and the only thing I can control is how I move forward from here. I can build the life for my son that should be given to all children. I can choose to build healthy relationships. I can choose to focus on processing the pain of my past without adding the burden of guilt. This journey is about me, after all, it is unapologetic-ally selfish, probably the first time in my life I am making choices based only on what is best for me. What is best for me is to focus on my journey and how I can heal. There is no place for blame or entitlement in my healing.

Building your own Family

When I started this journey I fully expected working through my childhood abuse to be painful. I knew that scratching open those old wounds would make me bleed, but that processing it would help me heal. What I didn’t expect was to feel pain over what I lost. It’s easy for me to say I think/feel this way because x-y-z happened in my formative years and connect the dots on that pain to find the root cause. It’s harder for me to say I think/feel this way because x-y-z didn’t happen in my formative years. The grief and pain I feel over my lack of a childhood was completely unexpected. Every time I probed into it to try to find the cause of my emotion I became overly emotional and anxious. My general anxiety was up and I couldn’t figure out why. I chose to actively distract myself from it until my next therapy session since I was having a hard time processing it on my own. (On the plus side I finished reading the entire Game of Thrones series which was a great distraction from my anxiety.)

At therapy yesterday we dove into this intangible pain. The fact that I have always been the person who took care of others, even at the age of five came up. The memories of how tears were seen as a weakness and met with the response “I’ll give you a reason to cry” came up. The unhealthy relationships I witnessed and my role as the emotional support for the abused (even though I was 10 and they were an adult) came up. The overarching theme seemed to be that I am more than comfortable sharing another persons pain and lifting them up. I am not at all comfortable sharing my own pain.

That’s not to say I don’t talk about my painful memories, I have and do and it helps to a point. The key here is that I only talk from a place of strength. I don’t share the pain of those memories, only the strong person who survived them. I have dear friends and family that encourage me to share my burden and lean on them so I don’t have to hold all my pain alone, but I don’t know how. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know unconditional love or judgement free relationships. I have been in situations where a group of people see me vulnerable for a moment and offer overwhelming support and it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. A life that includes people who truly love and support without conditions is just not a life I know.

Many good people have tried to love and support me. They have tried to be there for me and lift me up, but I couldn’t let them. I only let people get so close. If the idea of the scared little girl who just wants a loving and supportive family brings me to tears just to think about how could someone else not judge me as crazy if they see her?

Here’s my challenge, I have to be vulnerable with people. I have to let people see my pain. If I want to build the loving and supportive family I have always longed for then I have to allow myself to be loved and supported.

Thank you to everyone who has tried to love me. Thank you for trying to support me. I’m sorry I couldn’t let you. I promise to push through the uncomfortable feeling and allow myself to be vulnerable with you, to trust you with my sorrows and my joys, to build the relationships that I want to have.

To everyone who has past pain they are trying to work through, remember you are not alone. There are people who would love to share your burden and support you through your journey. It’s one thing to be the strong survivor because it gives you hope, it’s another to put that face on because you don’t feel you have any other choice. We have to trust again. To build the family we always wished we had we have to let people in, let them see, and let them love.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

Praise and Punishment

I channeled my anxiety while pregnant into learning as much as I could about pregnancy, birth, child development, and parenting. I read books, blogs, and scientific studies. It was during this time that I read something about parenting that didn’t make much sense to me immediately, the idea that praise can be just as detrimental as punishment. It seemed ridiculous. How can telling a child that they are smart or responsible or mature be a bad thing? Those are all good qualities to have, why shouldn’t a person praise their child for having those qualities? This concept didn’t click in my brain until my therapy session this last week.

We’ve been trying to get to the “why” of my ability to have empathy for others in droves, but no understanding for myself. For example, when thinking about the abuse I suffered as a child I am mostly indifferent, but when I think about the abuse my father inflicted on my siblings and mother/step mothers rage bubbles up inside me. I can understand and empathize with their struggle, but still struggle with blaming myself for my own. I just never seem to meet the unrealistic expectations I have of myself. When we began talking about some of the details of my childhood it came out that I was consistently praised for being smart, that I was left in charge even though my brother was older, that I was always praised for being mature and responsible. No matter what came up I was the one that could handle it. I was the one who would take my siblings to the basement and play a loud game or movie so they wouldn’t hear the awful things my father was shouting at my step mother. I was praised for being the leader that took care of others.

On the flip side the few times I did behave as a child: telling a harmless lie, acting without thinking of the consequences, etc. I was punished for it in a big way that did not fit the severity of the action (read: beat with a belt until bruised and bloody, kept from socializing with other children my own age).

This combination of praise and punishment is what wired my brain the way it is wired today, the wiring for anxiety that I’m having to do all this work to try and fix.

It was not just the punishments that impacted my development negatively, it was also the praise. I formed an identity around being the smart, mature, responsible one. Every time I don’t live up to that standard as an adult I punish myself. Every time I didn’t perform as well as I thought I should have in a class I had a panic attack. Every time I made a life decision that didn’t pan out perfectly I had a meltdown and/or fell into depression. Every single time I didn’t live up to this idea I had of who I was supposed to be I berated myself and tore myself down. I would sometimes even use the same words that I heard as a child.

As a parent now I try to be careful with my words. I praise my sons effort, not his result. I try not to call him smart or tell him how perfect he is because I don’t want to force him into an identity that has an impossible standard attached to it. I don’t want to see him struggle to meet his own expectations the way that I do. I especially don’t want him to have the same negative voice in his brain that is in mine.

I want my child to form a strong sense of self that no one can ever take away from him. I want him to know that he is capable of anything, that he can overcome obstacles, that even when something doesn’t work out the way he planned he will be able to adapt and succeed. My anxiety wired brain is often hard to navigate, but when this clicked I knew that I am a perfect example of praise gone wrong. Read the article link below if you would like more information and think about how you are shaping your child’s brain when you praise them.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/200909/parenting-dont-praise-your-children

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, callThe National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

Anxiety and Military Spouse Life

Being a military spouse is not easy. It is not the romantic, love letter, absence makes the heart grow fonder life that many believe it to be. It is love and fear, grief and appreciation, and a constant count down until the next time you’ll be saying goodbye or hello. Being a milspouse with anxiety is just plain hard sometimes. As much progress as we have made as a society regarding mental illness it’s still something that’s just not talked about in the military spouse community. I’m going to be as honest and frank as possible about what it was like at the peak of my anxiety because I believe there are others who need to know they aren’t alone in this struggle.

How does my anxiety affect milspouse life?

First, it makes it hard to reach out and make friends. Before I began therapy I would force myself to attend social functions every so often but I would have such anxiety before, and full on panic attacks after. I remember going to one function when my son was under a year. I was barely keeping it together and my husband was away at a training for a couple months. I told myself I would go and smile and be honest and maybe someone there would see that I was struggling and reach out in friendship. I went. I smiled. I talked. I tried to hide my fidgeting. I focused on my son when my anxiety started telling me I didn’t fit in there and my heart started racing. I was asked politely how I was doing by multiple people and I responded honestly like I told myself I would, “I’m holding it together”, “I’m staying above water”, “I kinda feel like I’m barely keeping from drowning”. All was met with the same “yeah, it’s hard when the kids are little”, “I know this is hard, let me know if you need anything”, “Oh he’ll be back soon and it’ll get better”. I wanted to say “I’m really struggling and I need help”, but I couldn’t. Just admitting that I was near drowning brought tears to my eyes and I had to pretend my son needed something so I could calm myself down before I spoke to an adult again. I used my son as an excuse and left early, crying on the way home because I felt so very alone.

The clique-ish nature of every military spouse group I have met puts my anxiety on high alert just entering a social event. By high alert I mean that just entering the room makes my heart race, makes me fidget-y, and makes me have to focus on keeping my breathing even. Every conversation started with a stranger is forced, every word said is thought about three times before it’s said and ten times after. I analyze each conversation I had after I leave and think about how I should have said something different, how maybe I offended this person, how I probably appeared awkward and unlikable. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that people want to talk with their friends at social events. I want every milspouse to realize, though, that there are always new people in the group and some of us can’t just slide right in to a group conversation and feel at home. It hurts no one and could help many for those of you who do feel at home to reach out and intentionally include the new person, or the quiet person, or the person who doesn’t come out often.

Secondly, my anxiety affects my daily life as a military spouse. Since my husband does an operations job he is often in high risk situations. Helicopters crash, people are injured, and people die during normal training operations at home. I would kiss him goodbye in the morning for a normal day of work, but it’s a normal flying day of work so I know he’s going to be in a death trap in the air, his life in the hands of other fallible men and fickle mother nature. At the height of my anxiety that simple thought process could spur on a panic attack. As mentioned above, I didn’t have any friends in similar situations to talk it out with, so I was left with my mind running down the rabbit hole of what ifs. Before I know it I’m having a panic attack. Pre-baby I would let my panic attack run it’s course and then actively distract myself the rest of the day. Post-baby that wasn’t an option because I have anxiety about my anxiety bleeding over onto him. I would choke back my anxiety and distract myself until he went to sleep, then experience a greater panic attack because I didn’t process it fully when it came on.

As morbid as it sounds the only thing that helped me in these moments of panic was making a plan for the worst case scenario. What would we do? Where would we live? How would I pay our bills? Sitting and writing out a plan each time I went into panic mode helped me panic less. It helped me to take the emotion out of it and think about it rationally. From there I could think about his job rationally, think about the statistics of negative outcomes, and think about how very good he is at his job and the good that it provides others in need. Since starting therapy I am able to see the first irrational “what if” and squash the entire rabbit hole before it begins. This seemingly simple step has lessened my day to day anxiety a great deal. I cannot recommend seeking therapy for your anxiety enough, it has literally changed my world.

Having anxiety as a milspouse affects many other things, from how I handle deployments, to how I process news reports, to how it affects my spouse. There is just too much to write it all in one post. If you suffer from a mental illness and are in the military community I want you to know that you are not alone. Please don’t be afraid to talk about your struggles. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional. It gets better and you will not suffer forever. It is not a personal failing or any reason to feel shame. It can be treated and you can begin to breathe again.

To all other milspouses, be kind, be empathetic, be supportive. You never know who is suffering or who needs extra support. We all have busy lives and most can’t do a lot as individuals, but as a group we can provide the supportive safety net that is needed.

The Rabbit Hole of Anger

Anger. It’s an emotion like any other, though some say more dangerous. For me, it’s one of the most difficult emotions to process. Unresolved anger bubbles up in an instant turning a seemingly small slight into a problem so big that it can’t be solved. Unlike grief or fear, when anger is triggered it is harder to keep anxiety from taking that seed and growing it into an entire forest. It’s harder to see where the line between rational reactions and irrational ones lies. Here’s an example of how anxiety takes control when anger is triggered.

Say a parent figure in your life told a harmless lie, like saying they didn’t do the dishes when clearly they did. Rational thought may be upset at the lie, because is seemingly has no purpose, but would put it aside as an annoying character flaw and move on.  In my poorly wired brain this is what the rabbit hole looks like…”she said she didn’t do the dishes, but I know this isn’t how anyone in this house loads or unloads the dishwasher so it had to have been her. Why would she lie about something so meaningless? Did I do something to make her think her help would be unappreciated? Is she upset with me for some reason? *scans recent memory for things that may have upset her* *gets annoyed* *switches gears* What’s the goddamn point to telling a lie about something so small? Why do people feel the need to prove they are untrustworthy? Why do I keep trusting people that aren’t trustworthy? Trustworthy people don’t lie, especially about something as small as dishes. When will I stop falling for this trap that people can be trusted? When will I stop believing people are actually loving and supportive? Why did I ever think anyone could love or support me? I should know better by now.”

See how quickly that spun out of control? That is what anxiety is. That thought process began and ended in under a minute and left me with my heart racing, tears in my eyes, and hands shaking. Those physical symptoms of anxiety alerted me to the fact that I was being irrational and what my brain was telling me was irrational. From there I took a time out, did some deep breathing, and headed off the panic attack that would have followed had this happened a year ago.

Through therapy I have trained myself to see the seeds of anxiety before spiraling down the rabbit hole with many triggering situations. With emotions like fear and grief, when I’m having a self image crisis, and when I’m feeling socially anxious I have made great strides. Anger still eludes me. It’s as though any time I feel angry it is compounded by all the anger in my past that I haven’t fully worked through and by the time I even realize what emotion I’m feeling I’m already mentally out of control and on the verge of a panic attack. Anger, betrayal, and shame haunt me still, feeding my anxiety before I even see what’s happening.

Rationally I know that the people in my life today are not the people that damaged me in the past. Rationally I can separate the past from present. When anxiety takes over there are no lines. There is no distinction. Past wounds are opened without hesitation, bleeding over onto the tiny scratch made in the present, making the whole scene look hopeless and lost.

Yes, five minutes of anxiety is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and it shows great progress from where I began. But it also shows how much work I still have to do. It shows that there are many more things in my past I need to process. And in reality, that five minutes ruins an entire day, it brings things up from my past that I can’t ignore unless I want them to continue causing more anxiety in the future. I have to take the time to process them, and emotional work is exhausting. That one simple rabbit hole brings me back to having a can of green beans thrown at me at 9 years old because I should have known to grab two cans instead of one. It makes me feel the sting of the belt when my brother and I were caught lying about a childish game we played chasing each other around throwing salt and pepper, a moment of carefree fun that was so very rare for us both. Every pleat in the pants I didn’t get right, every time I didn’t remind him to grab his wallet, every shoe and sock I had to put on his feet at 12 years old because as a grown man he thought it best to force his daughter to care for him instead of caring for himself. The anger that I have within me is coiled so tightly that even typing these few things out makes me overly emotional.

This a journey to healing, not a sprint, and these things take time. The anxiety I struggle with will continue to lessen as I process my past and am more aware of my present. Just know, please, that just because someone looks like their life is beautiful does not mean that they don’t struggle as well. My life is beautiful and I could not ask for more, but I struggle every day. Never be afraid to share your true struggle, it is healing to know you don’t struggle alone.