Thinking Differently: Growing Up Anxious

CRFTING a good

Hi everyone! I’m excited to announce a guest post, written by a fellow blogger, Lauren from I’m Fine, Stop Asking. I met Lauren during my writing class in university, and we hit it off! She blogs about her thoughts and experiences with day-to-day life, as well as her anxiety.

She also published a book, Don’t Stop Now, a collection of fourteen creative, non-fiction short stories that she wrote about dealing with her anxiety disorders and her attempts at overcoming them.

I wanted to recognize that others with hearing loss might be facing other things in their lives.

Without further ado, here’s Lauren and her story about growing up with anxiety!

You can check out my post about myself growing up with hearing loss and the anxious feelings that I had about it when it came to telling other people here!

Lauren

Lauren

In 2019, I would be surprised if you didn’t know someone who suffered from anxiety. People talk about it. Celebrities write about it. Parents (many of them, anyway) are aware of it.

But, in the early ’90s, things were different.

I was born anxious. I came into this world and my parents immediately knew that something was not quite right.

I was more sensitive than other babies – to sound, to touch, to temperatures. I had the most extreme separation anxiety anyone in my family had ever witnessed.

Doctors chalked it up to ‘colic and told my parents that I was just an active baby. That I would grow out of it.

But as I got older, it became clear that I wasn’t growing out of anything.

The first panic attacks that I can actually remember happened when I was in pre-school. I would have been around three or four years old.

If my mom was even a minute late picking me up (and yes, I knew how to tell time already because I obsessed over the clock) I would panic. I would think she was dead. That she got into a car accident, and I would never see her again.

By the time I was six, I worried about having heart attacks. A six-year-old convinced they were about to have a heart attack must have been an interesting sight to see. I obsessed over my breathing, I tracked my pulse, and I panicked over any sensation that didn’t feel “normal.”

You may hear all this and think, “Wow, it is extremely clear you had an anxiety disorder!” But unfortunately, this was over 20 years ago. People just said I was a ‘worry wart’ and moved on. Doctors didn’t take my behaviour seriously.

Until I was eight.

When I was eight years old I caught the stomach flu twice in a row, making me sick for almost three weeks straight. Nobody likes vomiting – right? Well, I took it to the next level.

The loss of control and absolute terror of constant nausea, plus my predisposition to anxiety, was the perfect cocktail for creating emetophobia. The phobia of vomiting.

Emetophobia can manifest itself in many different ways. For me, I became terrified to eat. You can’t vomit if you don’t eat, right? At least, that’s what I thought. So, I stopped eating.

From eight years old until around 15, I ate the bare minimum. And even then, I often skipped meals or survived for an entire day on a single slice of bread.

Now, when doctor’s thought I had an eating disorder, they flew into action! But my disorder was not really known – I didn’t have anorexia, even though most of my symptoms presented like it. There were no body image issues. I definitely didn’t have bulimia.

So, after countless visits to dietitians, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and an eating disorder specialist, that was it. I still hadn’t been diagnosed with anxiety. Even when I was nearly hospitalized as I was borderline failure to thrive, no one knew what was wrong with me.

I could go on and on about my childhood experiences with anxiety. As an adult, I was finally diagnosed – with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, emetophobia, and health anxiety (aka hypochondria).

So, yeah, there are a lot of stories I could tell.

But even though I grew up anxious, my childhood was actually…pretty darn good!

Although I suffered from a multitude of anxiety disorders, it was all I had ever known. I did not know a life where anxiety was not a major player.

Because of this, even during my worst periods of anxiety, I was still fairly functional. I still had fun with my friends. I ran for student president in elementary school. I played sports, I joined the choir. I still climbed trees and rode my bike and played ball hockey whenever I could. No one, except my family, knew.

When you hear a lot of adults talk about their experience with anxiety, many of them say “I just want things to go back to the way they were before.”

There is no ‘before’ for me. I have always been this way.

And now, I’ve accepted it. I am 27 years old, and have consistently been in therapy since I was 19. Over the last 8 years, I’ve learned to accept that this is who I am, and since accepting my anxiety, I’ve learned to let it affect me less and less.

I used to be incredibly ashamed of my anxiety. For those of you who grew up in the ’90s – did you know anyone who had anxiety? Did they talk about it in schools? Did you see it on TV?

Now, it’s everywhere – and that’s amazing. I truly believe the stigma is ending. But when I was a kid, a teenager, and even a young adult, I was TERRIFIED to tell anyone about my anxiety.

When I first met my now-husband, I was 21 and knew I would have to tell him sooner or later. So, I choose sooner. Before our second date, when we were about to go out for dinner (a huge trigger for me) I confessed:

“So, um, I actually have…a…fear of…throwing up. It’sreallyweirdIknowandItotallyunderstandifyou…don’t understand it…and…sometimes it’s hard for me to eat. So…don’t be worried if I…don’t eat a lot.”

This didn’t phase my husband at all. And I was shocked. I was SO scared to tell him – and he was just like “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that! …More for me then!” He didn’t think I was crazy, or gross, or weird (at least, not for that reason!)

As I got older, and saw that more and more people were talking openly about their struggle with mental illness, I gained more confidence to talk about mine. I had lived in shame and fear for so long. Eventually, I refused to let my anxiety cause me more anxiety.

So now, I tell anyone who’s willing to listen. Because I’m not ashamed anymore. And if my story could help even one other person – that’s good enough for me.

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