Overcoming Anxiety; My Story
September 20, 2021, I sat in a therapist’s office. After about 5 minutes of the basic get to know you: immediate family structure, job, I go to this church, etc. she asked, “so what brought you in here?” And the tears started flowing.
Let me back up. For years prior, I always said, “I don’t think I NEED therapy but I think I would ENJOY it.” I never felt like anything was necessarily “wrong,” but I had a feeling that I ever went to some kind of counseling, that I would still get something out of it. I had the mindset that it could serve as a nice “tuneup” of my mental health but felt no real urgency to do so.
Then came 2020. For the first 3-4 months of the pandemic, I actually enjoyed it. I loved the abundance of family time. I loved that there was no expectation or obligation to show up anywhere. Sure, it turned weddings upside down and therefore I lost half my income that year, which brought stress from time to time, but ultimately, I wasn’t too worried. At first.
Come summer time. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details, but there were a handful of wedding changes that started to cause more than the normal amount of stress for me. One that ended with a client being very disappointed, one that ended with me pulling out of a wedding, lots of phones calls (number one way to induce anxiety for me: get me on the phone), contract changes, continued loss of income, and the constant state of uncertainty. That summer held two anxiety attacks for me. I hadn’t had any in about 7-8 years at that point. One afternoon I was laying in bed, uncontrollably crying. So bad I couldn’t breathe. I just let Mark hold me and I wailed in his chest. He said he’d do anything for me – he’d take the phone calls, he’d defend me, he’d work more, he’d do anything to help me. All I could do was cry and try and breathe through the heaviness in my chest.
I managed to get through 2020 and those anxiety attacks through some help from Mark and a few others. I thought for sure, okay that was just a bad year, the next year will be better. No pandemic. Less wedding changes. More certainty.
Well we all know that 2021 wasn’t much better. Thankfully, more weddings stayed on schedule, but I noticed that my anxiety hadn’t subsided. Once, I delivered a wedding film and hadn’t heard back from the couple for 24 hours. Within those 24 hours my anxiety had been growing larger and larger until eventually, after a full day, I was on my knees in my living room bawling my eyes out, praying fervently, worried that the couple didn’t like the video. (Turns out they did, thought they sent a message, but it hadn’t gone through.) In the summer, something happened prior to a wedding that set me off into another anxiety attack. Another day spent crying so much I couldn’t breathe, a heaviness in my chest, shaking, and the worst scenarios going through my head.
This is when Mark said, “I think you should get the contact information for that therapist that your friend has used.”
I knew that I shouldn’t be suffering like this. I knew something had to change. I got the contact information and emailed her, asking for her soonest available appointment. She got me in for September 20, 2021. Monday. 9am.
I am so grateful that I found the therapist that I did. I immediately felt like she was a safe person. A person I could share absolutely everything with. A person I could show up, as myself, leave my filter at home. I dove into what I was struggling with within minutes and I haven’t stopped since. A year and a half later, I feel transformed.
Everyone’s experience with anxiety is different. Everyone’s experience with therapy is different. Everyone has a different story so I don’t write all of this with the illusion that everyone will understand, sympathize, or even believe what I’m saying. (Since starting, I’ve heard from a handful of Christians that I should be wary of it. I’ve felt the nose being turned up about it from a handful of non-believers. Bologna, is what I say.) But this is my experience. This is my specific story. My hope is that anyone who reads it might find any glimmer of hope or even a slight connection through my words and seek help for themselves. Through therapy, I learned that I had believing these lies:
Through lots of talking, processing, walking, journaling, praying…I’ve turned away from those lies and started to believe these truths:
I’m still a work in progress. I’m not solid on these truths 100% of the time. But I’ve become much more comfortable with myself in the last year and a half. The thoughts I have about myself are more positive than they’ve ever been before. (Seriously, the negative self-talk in my past was so bad.) I rely less on people’s praise for my self-assurance. It’s crazy to me that I actually have nice things to think of myself not JUST because I did X number of weddings this year or because I created this awesome wedding film or because my day was full of pushing and grinding all in the name of hard work.
Looking back, I now know I could have benefited from therapy a lot earlier. It turns out I’ve struggled with anxiety for a lot longer than I realized. I thought horrible things about myself for a very, very long time. I yearned for people’s approval and really struggled when I didn’t get it. Certain situations would cause all sorts of tension within myself and then spill over into my marriage and I’d just blame it on the situation. It’s because of THEM. But actually, it’s me. Hi. 👋 I’m the problem it’s me.
Finally, when the anxiety manifested itself through a cluster of attacks from the summer of 2020 to the summer of 2021, I sought professional help. And I’m happy to say that I haven’t had an anxiety attack since then. I wish I had just tried therapy during those years I thought of it as a “tuneup” because maybe I would have caught some warning signs. Maybe I would have saved myself a year worth of stress, constant state of low-grade anxiety, and a few slam-on-the-brakes type anxiety attacks. But, no sense in regretting the past. I’m glad I started therapy when I did. It’s been a huge help to my mental health.
If you’re thinking of getting some help, I urge you to try it! Here are some of my personal pieces of advice to get the most out of it:
I’m sure there is much more advice that can be given and this is just coming from a novice. I’ve been in therapy for a year and a half. I have a handful of friends who have done therapy too. So I can only speak on my experience and my perspective of a few others. But I have done those three things and it has changed my life. I don’t know if I would say I’m “free” from anxiety…(is it too soon to tell?), but I can say that most days it definitely feels like it. Not only has it shaped me into a person I feel more comfortable with, it’s made me a better mother and wife along the way. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself in my entire life and I urge anyone else who think they may benefit from it, to try it too!
I would love to talk more about this with anyone who has questions! I obviously didn’t share all the details here but I’m a pretty open book in a one on one conversation. If you’d like to ask questions or know more, all you have to do is ask! 😊
Awww I love this Ashley! Thank you for being vulnerable! You are a very talented writer. You hit the jack pot with Mark too. Your marriage is goals🙌 I think I struggle with only feeling good about myself if I accomplish something. Thank you for the reminder that I am enough💜💜
Thank you Libby!! You’re the best! 💜
I knew when I met you that you would be a well of wisdom, and I’m thankful I stuck around to be able to receive from you ! Thank you for sharing your heart and being vulnerable for His Kingdom. This really resonated with me!
Thank you Michelle! I’m glad you connected with it! 💜