Two years ago, I was diagnosed with GAD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it leveled my life. My anxiety has taken away a lot of things, but it has given me so much more.
Before I made the decision to see a therapist those years ago, I wasn't living my life. I was standing next to myself, shaking with fear, insecurity, and never feeling enough for anyone or anything. Every move I made was a mistake, every person I spoke to didn't like me, or definitely considered me a burden. I was too much.
I had so many excuses as to why I couldn't go. It was too expensive, I didn't have the time, etc., but it was the collective support of several wonderful people in my life that sat me down and in their own different ways said, "it's time."
So, I made the calls and found a therapist to start with. I almost wish I could go back to that very moment I was sitting, waiting for my first session. I was racked with shame, insecurity, but also a little bit of excitement at the thought of letting all that was in my mind out. I wish I could go back, rest my hand on my own heart and say, you'll be okay. More than okay.
From that day forward, I truly believe my life began. My therapist is like another part of me. She has taught me so many coping skills for my extreme insecurity and GAD, but the most vital one she's educated me on was finding my voice.
My whole life, I think I've been searching for her, my authentic voice. As a child, I didn't speak up or say what I felt. I was too afraid of people leaving, too scared of being a burden. Too much. I never knew what it was to know myself, love myself, and protect all that I am.
It was each week that I learned, and unlearned, everything. I learned that my voice is loud, unbreakable, and worthy. I unlearned that I'm not good enough, that people will leave if I show my emotions.
I learned that not everyone comes with you on this journey of growth. I've lost many, many people along the way. When they would fall away, I couldn't help but think that it was me. Guess what? It was. But, not in the way you think. It wasn't something I could have done, or that I wasn’t a good enough friend or partner—my voice was too strong. Too loud, too real. It's one of the harder lessons I've come to accept, that even the people you truly want to have join you, just aren't ready themselves.
My past two relationships have taken place while I've been battling my anxiety, and they haven't ended well. I'm still learning what is good for me, and that's okay. I'm learning that my time isn't to be wasted, and that I deserve more than empty promises and partners who are only in it for the fun part. I demand more, I know I am capable of better.
But, I thank those men for breaking my heart because without that pain I wouldn't have my blog, Anxiety Erica. Heartbreak is a special kind of emotion. You grieve in stages and they aren't always in order. To distract myself at first, I made the leap into being a mental health blogger and never looked back. It's been the best time of my life.
When I started writing on my blog about my own journey, I thought a couple people would read it, maybe my dad and a close friend. They did read it, but then more people started relating to it. Then, after a month or two, I was blown away by the support that this community provides.
Beautiful, struggling souls, my followers on Instagram and through the blog, are filled with unconditional love. Every single word I write is for them, and in turn they give me something that I will always cherish: hope.
What I hope others can learn from my experience and my words is that they aren't alone. That growth is a process, it takes time and serious commitment. That it's okay to feel so worthy and beautiful in one moment, and a few hours later not be able to see it. You are still trying, and that's something special.
Written by Erica Arvanitis