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
There are some great resources on how to get help below:
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Online Resources and Finding Help
- Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741 (US number) to be connected with a trained crisis counselor.
- Finally, this is a great page from ‘Everyday Help’ with a ton of resources for mental health assistance such as financial help for therapy and medications, support groups, etc.
Last but not least, please note that I nor my interviewees aren’t medical professionals, and the resources and tips are not to replace professional medical advice. We are simply sharing our stories and what we know from working through our anxiety with professionals in our own life. If you are feeling any type of mental health symptoms, please seek medical assistance.
I hope you enjoy the interview.
Tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you? Where are you
from? What types of things do you enjoy doing?
I am a mom to two busy little girls, a wife to one techie husband, and a brand new green mama blogger. I grew up in the countryside of Northern Missouri, but have lived all over the U.S. Currently, we reside in Omaha, Nebraska. I absolutely adore travel & culture, wine, the arts, being creative, and strolling through charming neighborhoods.
What does the anxiety you experience look like (obsessive
thoughts, extreme worry, intrusive thoughts, anxiety disorder,
I would say that my anxiety mostly involves obsessive thoughts about social interactions and performance in public. I will worry about how I will perform an upcoming presentation, what I will say in a group setting, or how I will come across to others. I will then return home from these social situations, going over how I may have come across. I have experienced this social anxiety/phobia to varying degrees from the time I was a young child.
Do you see a therapist/psychologist?
No, I did briefly in my mid-20s. I was part of an anxiety group. Funny enough, I had no idea what “it” was until I attended couples therapy in Turkey and I happened to mention my issues to the therapist there. He gave me my diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, and it felt so incredible to have a name for it. I had always just thought I was odd.
Do you take medication for the anxiety?
No, I tried Paxil and Wellbutrin in my 20’s, but I quit them both within a month or so of starting them. I prefer to deal with it in more natural ways, but I realize that doesn’t work for everyone.
How long have you been dealing with anxiety?
My first real memories of it are around the age of 10, when I started refusing to participate in volleyball games, etc, during P.E. class. I would merely stand there–frozen in fear–watching the ball drop at my feet, or even hit me in the head. I wouldn’t speak to hardly anyone all day in class, and I can remember always hiding in a book or trying to appear busy in some way so no one would approach me.
It could be something as small as going through computer rotations one week, where everyone would be expected to do some work on the computer. I would constantly be anxious, not knowing when I would be chosen to walk across the room in front of the class. Something like a class party, that everyone else loved, I hated.
I began clinging to one friend, and would only take classes that she took, or participate in activities/events that she did. It was a rural school in the 80s/90s. I would hope that in today’s world a child in this situation would have a teacher or counselor reach out to them.
What are some triggers for the anxiety you experience?
At the age of 42, with my current status as a stay-at-home mom and blogger, there aren’t a lot of anxiety triggers left for me. After high school, I gradually became more confident in my own skin, and able to have a lot more social experiences, comfortably.
Not to say that it hasn’t affected me in the career world. I have definitely found myself stuck in positions where it may be comfortable, but I am capable of so much more, if only the other side didn’t involve so much social performance. I couldn’t complete the observation part of my counseling degree, so I wasn’t able to receive the certification. I also never obtained a driver’s license due to anxiety.
Today, I may feel a little nervousness prior to meeting a group of people I’ve never met before–like the meetup.com social event I attended a few weeks ago–but I’m proud to say that I have learned to push through a lot of my old fears. Through repeatedly “just doing it,” I have invalidated my old obsessive thoughts. I’ve even had the courage to organize my own social groups over the years.
Have you ever dealt with the dreaded anxiety spiral?
I used to, mostly the night before a college presentation. That feeling of complete dread, and an absolute inability to relax. You have this desperate need to escape, but the cost of doing so is tremendous, so you have to sit with it until the source is over. I would have a pretty restless night, and then that would make me even more anxious because I couldn’t think straight.
Do you experience panic attacks?
No, somehow as bad as my anxiety was at one point, I never did that I can recall. I feel fortunate, because they sound awful.
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?
Yoga has been my go-to for dealing with anxiety for about twenty years now. I also use some meditation. On a typical day I can gain a lot of peace and calm from these activities. However, coming up on something big, like a presentation, it really doesn’t make much of an impact.
What are some preventative measures that you take to help
prevent the anxiety you experience?
Other than yoga and meditation, I have at those more intense times tried repeated positive mantras. Avoidance of the experiences that bring me anxiety has also often been my path, though not the most beneficial in the end.
What are some of your favorite anxiety resources (websites, books,
etc) that other people could reference if they’re struggling as well?
Diagonally Parked in a Parallel Universe by Signe A. Dayhoff was the book that I read when I was first diagnosed. I found it enlightening, and very comforting, to realize that I was not alone in this experience. That book also taught me the power of changing my internal messaging. I had become so accustomed to feeding myself negative messages that were only making me feel worse. Instead I learned to put a stop to those and replace them with more positive ones that made me feel better about myself. I also found great value in the book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, by Susan Jeffers.
Why do you think the mental health stigma exists? Why are people
afraid to talk about their mental illness?
There is something so much less valid about having an illness that exists only in the mind. I think there is also this long history of feeling like someone who is flawed in the mind in any way, is to be seen as unstable, less effective in society and something to be wary of. We all wish to be seen as powerful and in control.
Sufferers and non-sufferers alike need to wake up to the fact that this is an epidemic, and shame should not be involved. As with any disease, anxiety disorders are treatable. No one should suffer in silence.
A huge thanks for Julie for sharing her story!
Want to read more Anxiety Stories? Check out the other interviews here.
Want to share your own anxiety story? Check out the guidelines here!
Julie has a background in family studies, linguistics, counseling and environmental health. She just launched her green & clean living blog for moms, Go Green Mamas. This blogger has lived all over the U.S., but currently resides in Omaha, NE, where she is mom to two little girls and wife to her tech support guy. When she’s not writing, she enjoys travel, culture, and wandering charming neighborhoods.
I love doing these anxiety stories. I love being able to provide a platform for others to share their stories. I love knowing that with each story, the mental health stigma breaks down that much more. I love knowing that there are others out there (maybe you) who identify with these stories. Who see themselves in these stories. Who for a while, like me, thought that you had to be the only person experiencing the symptoms of anxiety you were dealing with.
If you feel moved by these stories, please consider supporting me on my Patreon page. Doing so allows me to continue doing this type of work and even more – which only helps further the reduction of the mental health stigma. Thank you!