Let me be frank with you. I hate my anxiety with a passion. It’s driven me into a depression, made me less than stable, held me back in my life and relationships, and has pretty much screwed me over in every way something can. It stops me from being myself, from following my dreams, and wakes me up at 4am to spend the next eight hours of my life crying until the point I’m throwing up in the toilet. For the third time in the past week.
But you know what – it makes me a person. It makes me real, it forces me to be honest with both myself and others, and puts me in a position where I can’t stop taking care of myself. It makes me set clear boundaries, teaches me how to open up and allow people to help me, and prevents me from taking on more than I can handle.
As a person, I tend to be all over the place. I overestimate how much I can do. I’d take on the world tomorrow if it was asked of me. I’ll work two part time jobs, try to write five novels at once, and start my own businesses. On top of that, I’ll maintain a house, go out with friends at least six times a week, and get exactly four hours of sleep a day.
I haven’t been very good at setting limits for myself. I’ve tried to be everything for everyone – bled myself dry in order to ‘help’ those who came to me for support. I spend too much money, do too many things, waste too much time, and try to ‘save the world’ on a daily basis.
My anxiety, as awful as it is, forces me to face a certain reality about myself. It forces me to admit that I’m only a human being. I have limitations. There are only so many things I can do, only so thin I can spread myself, and I need to stop trying to be more than I am. I need to be okay with that.
In a lot of ways, having anxiety has forced me to be okay with the fact that I’m nothing more than a human being, and that’s something I always thought I was above.
However, more than any of that, I’m thankful for my problems because they allow me to understand other people. I know how awful depression is to live with, I know how debilitating anxiety can be. I know what it’s like to live in a family with mental illnesses. And because I know all of that, have these personal experiences with things, I can help others like me.
It hasn’t been easy. Accepting that I have these struggles is a challenge in and of itself, much less trying to figure out life and relationships while all this stuff is going on in my head. Support is hard to come by, the mental illness stigma is real, and I’ve had to go through all of it. And because of that, I can understand the trials of those around me.
The point is, I get it. I know what it’s like to wake up crying because you were up all night panicking, to barely be able to get out of bed in the morning, and to be so overwhelmed by the idea of brushing your teeth that you almost give up and fall asleep on the floor instead. I understand that because it happens to me, and because of the things I’ve had to go through, I can help support those who are going through something similar. I can be there for my friends, and I can be the sort of person that the world needs. I can be open and honest, and through that, hopefully help others get through their own struggles.
It’s very easy to look at your challenges and weaknesses like curses, as if you’ve got this huge monster following you around and the rest of your life is doomed because of it. It’s easy to get swept up in the negativity of everything. But here’s what I think, and how I try to live:
Your struggles are only weaknesses if you make them. Everything you have to deal with, from anxiety to loss or whatever else – yes, it’s miserable and it sucks – but as bad as those things are, they can be equally as good. Yes, my anxiety is terrible. However, I’ve grown so much as a person and a friend because of it, that I can honestly say I’m happy I have to deal with the trash of it. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t, so instead of looking at it as something that’s ruined my life, I consider all the ways it’s enhanced things for me instead.
And what a blessing my anxiety has been for me! Like I said, it taught me to take care of myself above anything else, to set proper boundaries and to not take on too much at any one time. It taught me that I matter, that it’s okay to be human, and that there’s beauty found in our struggles.
Here’s the thing guys – if you let your issues be problems, they’re always going to be that way. However, if you turn your stuff into strengths, there ain’t nothin’ that can bring you down.
Because of my anxiety, I can relate to and understand people on a deeper basis, just as I can understand myself. I wouldn’t consider that a weakness, I’d consider that a strength.
So what strengths can you find in yourself? What ‘problems’ do you have in your life that are able to be worked out for the greater good?