Welcome to ‘Anxiety Stories!’ I (Laura of The Mindful Mom Blographer), started Anxiety Stories after I read Brene’ Brown’s book ‘Daring Greatly’. In the book, Brown talks extensively about shame, which is something I think many people who suffer from anxiety feel – as well as feeling alone.
We all know there is a mental health stigma in today’s society. So how can we remove that stigma? By removing people’s shame, and let them know they’re not alone.
Anxiety is a lot more common than people realize – I know this from all the comments and DMs I get whenever I get vulnerable about my anxiety experiences. Yet still, the stigma!
My hope with Anxiety Stories is that we can normalize anxiety by showing people’s stories from all walks of life. I ask that each person who conducts an interview be willing to be a little bit vulnerable, and each person who reads these interviews holds the interviewee in a loving space, knowing they’ve put themselves out there for a good cause.
*If you are dealing with anxiety or another type of mental illness, please talk with a
Tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you? Where are you from? What types of things do you enjoy doing?
What does the anxiety you experience look like (obsessive thoughts, extreme worry, intrusive thoughts, anxiety disorder, etc)?
My anxiety usually takes the form of extreme worry and intrusive thoughts. Most of my anxiety is around relationships, namely romantic relationships or potential romantic relationships. I think constantly about what I should or shouldn’t say or if something I did or said caused them to be mad at me. I’m a very intuitive person and can pick up on when something is bothering someone, and unfortunately a lot of the time I attribute the problem to myself. It has caused a lot of difficulty in pursuing romantic relationships.
Do you see a therapist/psychologist?
I’m not currently seeing a therapist but I did after I experienced a break-up about exactly a year ago. I noticed that something was wrong with the person I was dating and asked about it (almost constantly). He eventually told me that he wanted to stop seeing each other. While there were other reasons that we broke up, my anxiety was one of the reasons that he named. Going to therapy helped me a lot in re-framing my thinking as well as being having my feelings validated. I always felt like I was maybe asking too much of my romantic partners, but my therapist helped me to understand that while I could do better at communicating, my needs and wants for my relationships were healthy.
Do you take medication for
I’m not currently taking any medication for my anxiety.
How long have you been dealing with anxiety?
I’ve been dealing with anxiety since I was in my early 20s. It ramped up after my long-term boyfriend broke up with me when I was 21. Going back into the dating world was hard and I took it a bit too seriously a lot of the time, which caused my anxiety to spiral when the person I liked didn’t seem to like me (or at least that was the what it felt like).
What are some triggers for the anxiety you experience?
Most of my triggers are around communication – not getting a text back or not calling when they said they would. So actually just using my phone can be a trigger for me because it’s constantly reminding me that they’re not communicating with me. My other triggers can include canceling dates and honestly anything that might make me think they don’t like me anymore.
Have you ever dealt with the dreaded anxiety spiral?
Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with it many times.
Do you experience panic attacks?
I’ve never experienced a panic attack.
What are some things you do while you’re having a panic attack or are in an anxiety spiral to help pull yourself out of it?
Usually, when I’m having a spiral, I need to make the conscious choice to put my phone away. What I do is turn it completely off and then hide it in a closet in an area of my house that I don’t go to often (basement, second bedroom, etc). Then I distract myself by watching a movie or watching YouTube. I usually give myself a timeframe for when I can check it again (2 hours, 3 hours, after I watch x amount of videos). It allows me to calm myself and prevent myself from saying anything to them that I don’t really mean or might regret. My worst spirals usually end in tears and going to sleep.
What are some preventative measures that you take to help prevent the anxiety you experience?
I first try to re-frame my thinking. I try to think of all of the reasons why I wouldn’t respond – I’m working, sleeping, eating, watching a movie – and that makes me realize that they have lives too and they don’t have to respond exactly when I want them to. I’ve also found that calling (instead of texting) can help with preventing my anxiety because I can get an immediate response instead of waiting for a text.
My current boyfriend has also been an amazing support. We’ve talked a lot about the kind of anxiety that I experience and he is always willing to support me and give me reassurance when I need it.
What are some of your favorite anxiety resources (websites, books, etc) that other people could reference if they’re struggling as well?
One of my favorite apps to use is MindShift. It has been so for re-framing my thoughts as well as providing useful general information. HeadSpace (another app) as also great for meditation, though I’ll be honest, I’m not the best at it. I try my best though. YouTube is also my go to. Just being able to find something to watch that can be distracting (I love EmmyMadeInJapan – she does
Crisis Text Line is also one of my favorite resources (not just because I work there!) Crisis Text Line is a 24/7 crisis line via text message, Facebook Messenger, or the Kik app for anyone in the US (we’ve also expanded internationally to the UK and Canada). Sometimes it can be so hard to talk when you’re feeling anxious or depressed and texting in a lot easier for a lot of people. You can text HELLO to 741741 (US number) to be connected with a trained crisis counselor. The crisis counselor will talk to you, validate your feelings, and help you figure out ways to cope with whatever you are facing.
Why do you think the mental health stigma exists? Why are people afraid to talk about their mental illness?
I think stigma exists because for hundreds of years mental health and wellness
Some people feel that if you don’t have a mental illness, you don’t have to take care of your mental health. You do! We all do. It’s important for all of us to take care of ourselves in every aspect of our lives.
A huge thank you to Briana for sharing her story with us!
Briana Hollis is a social worker, blogger, and mental health advocate from Cleveland, Ohio. She started her blog Learning To Be Free to document her self-discovery journey and to help others do the same. She loves to travel, eat great food, be around her family, and educate others. She’d love to connect with you.
Want to read more Anxiety Stories? Check out the other interviews here.
Want to share your own anxiety story? Check out the guidelines here!