I like to think of myself as a generally positive person. I enjoy a lot of things in life, whether it’s my writing, my editing job in the gaming industry, the obstacle races I run, or the game nights I get to spend with friends. I’ve achieved a dream of getting published and feel blessed to be able to make a living doing something I’m truly passionate about.
…but I also have an anxiety disorder. Some of you know that already, depending on how your life has intersected mine. Some of you have seen me in the throes of it–and it certainly isn’t pretty. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but when I’m having an attack (which have lasted for days, at times), it can run the gamut from insomnia to nausea to just pure shaking, among other things, and all usually mingled to varying degrees. Oh, and migraines, just for an added bit of fun. Sometimes I go quieter online and am not as responsive as I’d like to be, but it’s because I’m conserving my energy and trying to simply recover my balance.
When I’m gripped by this, whatever the trigger, it gets hard to think straight. My body is basically in 24/7 fight-or-flight mode. A lot of irrational fears and worries get churned up and it’s hard to see past them. By the end, I’m usually exhausted, like I ran several marathons in a row (without even a medal to show for it).
When I first started really struggling with this, I didn’t understand it. Didn’t know how to make it stop–and maybe it never will go away permanently. I’ve done a lot of things to try and work through these times, making them more manageable. Lots of counseling over the years, figuring out where this anxiety is rooted. I’ve gone to doctors for it. Tried various prescriptions, and generally try to live a healthy lifestyle as much as I’m capable. One counselor even literally prescribed working out more to help, because it’s a safe way for me to burn off the anxious energy.
I also got angry at myself, especially early on. I felt embarrassed by the lack of control over my own thoughts and feelings and body. I’d hole up and try to just hide until it all blew over like a storm. I’ve gotten better about that. After all, why beat yourself up when you’re already down? There’s no sense in that, but sometimes the hardest person to show compassion to is your own self. It’ll always be a work in progress, like so many things in life.
But there was one other thing I’ve had to learn alongside all this: To not be afraid to ask for help.
I like helping people when I can, whether it’s at a con or when they’re feeling poorly or need a safe place to vent. But when I could barely look at myself in the mirror, it was difficult for me to touch base with others, even close friends and family, and ask things like:
“Can you drive me somewhere?”
“Could you come just hang out so I feel safe?”
“Can I ramble your ear off for a bit so I can get some of these thoughts out of my head?”
And so many people have responded, willing to be there and do whatever they can to help. Sometimes just asking has been enough to shift the negative momentum. Sometimes just hearing someone else’s encouragement helped clear the clouds. I know from personal experience that those who deal with similar struggles can feel extremely alone. It’s frightening–not just because of the inner turbulence you’re trying to ride out, but because you worry that if you reach out, you’ll get knocked back down, seen as weak, a failure, or unlovable.
But I can also say from personal experience that this has never happened. People are there who want to help, and there is no shame in asking for a safe place. If you struggle, whether from anxiety or depression (flipsides of the same coin, I believe), from dark thoughts or unexplainable fear, or anything else…
Don’t be afraid to ask.
And thank you to those who have responded when I do. I certainly want to be here to do the same for you.
#HoldOntoTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOntoTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/.