I’ve been meaning to write this for a while.
But it’s difficult to write about my anxiety when it colors every aspect of my life. It becomes very difficult to separate myself from it, it’s difficult to tell what is my personality and what is a symptom of anxiety. I’m not sure who I would be without it.
I’m going to try to start from the beginning.
Looking back, there are a lot of things that happened to me that were anxiety related that I didn’t have a name for at the time. I have vivid memories of being physically sick any time we had to go somewhere new, or anywhere I didn’t know anybody. I have a petrifying fear of being lost and left on my own. I transferred schools in high school and spent half my first day at the new school throwing up and crying in the bathroom (I promptly switched back to where I knew people). It’s just part of my life.
College was a low-point for me. What is typically a very exciting period in a person’s life – moving away from mom and dad, meeting new people, generally transitioning into ‘adulthood’ was actually a tragic four years for me. And it’s hard for me to explain because I still don’t know how or why it happened, but it was like my anxiety switch went from low to full blast all in one moment. I moved into a dorm room with my friend from high school thinking that I would feel safer. But something snapped. I went from someone who considered herself ‘outgoing’ to someone who refused to leave her room, someone who went home every weekend and cried on the way back, someone who stopped eating. I dressed myself up in high heels in the hopes that someone would notice me and start a conversation so that I wouldn’t have to. I lost fifteen pounds during the course of that first semester and made zero new friends. Instead, I failed all of my classes and was left feeling lost and broken. I was a shadow of myself, both physically and mentally. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
When I transferred back to a school closer to home, I knew what I needed to get back to myself – books. I cried and cried, I felt like a failure, but I knew that I needed a change. I sought comfort in literature and writing, and decided that instead of making friends or going out or trying to find a boyfriend, I would focus on writing and curling up with books in the library. I retreated into myself, because I did not know how to break out of the shell that had magically formed around me.
And I was okay for a while. I started to learn more about my anxiety and recognize what was part of that and what was something I could change. I lived my life. I found a job, I found another job, and then I weaseled my way into a job that I thought was going to be The Dream.
Turns out, not.
What was supposed to be my Dream Job ended up being the most stressful and terrible four months of my life. I went from feeling secure to feeling insecure, paranoid, and overwhelmed. I thought everyone hated me, I was sure I was going to get fired every day, and I never felt on top of things. In addition, I started to have physical symptoms as well – not only was it constant knots in my shoulders, but my legs would tense up to the point of cramping, until finally I started to feel like they would buckle underneath me at any moment. I was constantly feeling like I was going to throw up, and then I started having panic attacks – real panic attacks, crying, unable to breathe, the whole nine yards – while I was sitting at my desk.
All I wanted to do was curl up with my book and have the largest cup of tea possible.
And it was then that I knew I had to leave, and I started Muse Monthly shortly after.
But owning and operating a business is absolutely not a stress-free environment. It is not without weeks of constant heart palpitations, waking up in the middle of the night in a panic (stress dreams are super fun, you know), crying over finances, loosing track of things on my to-do list, and constantly feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I’m in haze all the time, with more and more things piling on top of my head, and the more it is, the more I just want to sleep through it. I feel shitty all the time, and I want it out, I want it gone, I want to take this dark and twisty storm inside my head and put it in a box and burn it. I don’t want to feel my heart doing a double-time inside my chest and worry I’m having a heart attack and I’m going to die at 27. And part of my brain will say, “you’re fine, it’s just anxiety”. And Anxiety will answer, “but what if it isn’t?”. And then Anxiety will laugh.
But the difference is, it doesn’t own me anymore. I used to feel so crushed under the weight of it, so completely like I was falling apart and I’d never feel stable again. For the first time in my life, I can use my anxiety as fuel to drive my business. I use this panicky, “I’m going to fail” energy and channel it into something useful for once. Because failure isn’t an option anymore, so instead of crying and vomiting about everything, I have to fucking do something about it. Which is not always as easy as it sounds. It’s actually kind of awful sometimes, and sometimes (read: like, yesterday), I think about shutting this bitch down and crawling into bed and never coming out. But at the same time, I love this work. I love Muse Monthly, and I know I’d never be happy at a regular job. I’m never bored, which is better than I ever could have asked for.
Of course, I also have an incredible support network – I have amazing friends, a beautiful and creative boyfriend, and a great group of other female entrepreneurs who are going through the same shit that I’m going through. I’ve accepted anxiety as part of my life, and I’m aware enough now to know what is an anxiety symptom and what is just me being stupid.
It isn’t easy, doing this and having this full-body, 24/7 mental illness bullshit. I wish I felt normal, but at the same time, I’m kind of glad I don’t. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my anxiety. I’m owning it like I own my business.
And I’m drinking a lot of tea, and getting lost in a lot of books. I’m surviving.