All the things I wish I knew
Trigger warning: If you struggle with content pertaining to mental health, anxiety or vomiting, this article may not be for you. Viewer discretion is advised.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about my journey with anxiety. The story was nearly perfect in terms of what I have written this year. It was an honest telling of my genuine experience battling for ground in my mind.
Recently though, I have found myself having loved ones struggling with their own mental health, and there are so many things I wish someone had said to me when I was in the middle of it all. I also have seen the TikTok trend where people reflect on what their younger self would think of them now. And I think of all the things I wish I could tell my teenage self.
High on the list of things I wish I knew is that recovery is so freaking hard. What made it so hard for me was everything that I needed to do to get better was all about me. I was the one who had to implement the changes. No one could get better for me. A therapist could give me all the tools and resources in the world, but it was up to me to use them.
And worst still, I had to believe in myself and believe I was worth getting better for. However, I was convinced that I deserved to suffer for a long time. I thought that I deserved to live in a constant state of a self-loathing, anxious spiral. And if that feels like you reading this, you don’t deserve to live like that either; no matter what your past is, I wouldn’t wish how I used to live on my worst enemy.
I also wish someone had told me my feelings were real. I didn’t get the help I needed for a long time because I discredited my experiences, essentially gaslighting myself. I told myself that others had it worse. What if I was just a better person and wasn’t so paranoid? Then I wouldn’t need anyone else’s help.
No matter how small or how trivial you perceive your emotions to be, they are real, they are affecting you. I want you, the reader, to feel validated knowing that your feelings are real.
Also, healing is not at all linear. I have yet to find someone whose healing was one complete upswing. It has dips, highs and lows, in the quest to reach the ultimate goal.
It’s not a straight line from rock bottom to a healthy, happy person. It wasn’t like I had my first therapy session, and then I never had another panic attack again. I had times when I was doing well; I would gain back some of the weight I had lost, and then times when something would trigger me, and I would be throwing up and having anxiety attacks all over again.
Having highs and lows does not mean that you are failing at recovery. That is part of the process.
Finally, I wish someone had told me I didn’t have to be anxious forever. There would be a time when I would go months without having an attack, and if I told my 16-year-old self that, I don’t think she would have believed me. I wish I could tell her where I am in life right now. Abby of three years ago would be so proud of me.
It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. And even when recovery is at its hardest, you are fighting for yourself and your future. Those are things worth fighting for.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have anxious days. In fact, I had anxious days back-to-back this weekend. My life can be super stressful sometimes. I have a lot of change happening. I am very, very afraid of the unknown, and there is a lot of that in my near future.
But, I have yet to have an anxiety attack. It has taken years of work to get to this place, but I am here. And I believe with my whole heart that if you are seeking recovery, all the sleepless nights, all of the tears shed, they will have been worth it. There is such a thing as living with mental health issues instead of life encumbered by mental health issues.
I wish I had told myself, these are just things that I don’t speak for everyone and their hurts. I am not a therapist (yet), and if you aren’t struggling with something other than anxiety, I hope this helps you know it gets better.