It’s no secret to those that know me that I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire adult life. I was barely into my twenties when I simultaneously started having panic attacks, became a hypochondriac and began battling bouts of depression and the consistent, obsessive, repetitive, draining, worrisome thoughts that have plagued me over the last ten years.
I may actually have had anxiety longer than I can actually account for. I do have memories of being very young—five or six years old—and running to my mom, crying, my face and my extremities having run cold, my heart racing inside me because I’d had a moment in which I remembered we were all going to die someday. I didn’t have these episodes often, but they were regular enough for me to remember with distinct clarity that cold feeling of dread bigger and more powerful than my small six-year-old body.
It’s not hard for me to look back on my life and figure out what exactly it was that conditioned my brain to be in constant fear of the world. I didn’t have the best childhood—granted, I know people who had it far worse than I did, but it doesn’t diminish the constant terror my mom and I (and later my sister when she came into the world) lived in under my dad’s tyrannical rule. Overbearing is too forgiving a word to describe the kind of parent that he was. Tyrannical will have to do. We couldn’t put a toe out of line under his watch—honestly, sometimes we couldn’t even keep the toe IN line, because even that sometimes was wrong, depending on his mood that day, but I digress.
I was a moody teenager and I guess, to anyone looking at me from the outside, they would’ve thought that was the norm. But I know that on the inside I always felt very inadequate, insignificant, ugly, worthless, and like there was just no place in the world for me. It seemed at times that I couldn’t do anything right no matter how much I tried. I don’t think I was depressed because I had a very rich inner world (still do) that satisfied me. Even if no one was ever allowed to see it. It pleased me to sit for hours in my room, staring at the ceiling wondering about things, imagining stories, asking “what if?” I suppose that helped me get through the worst part of it all. But once I was an adult, I found that the real world requires a different level of focus, a more present demeanor. I couldn’t stare off into space for hours and escape my life if I wanted to keep my job or a fully functioning life.
Sometimes, I think that’s what really did it. It was too much and I didn’t have enough experience. I had been berated my entire childhood, brainwashed (even if advertently so) into believing that I couldn’t do anything right; thrown into situations where I wore myself thin trying to meet expectations. Even when others were happy with the results, I never was.
But I guess the why, the when, and the who are not really why I’m here right now. This is all just backstory.
I’m about to turn 33 years old and most of my adult memories consist of me thinking I’ve some incurable disease, worrying about my husband leaving me, worrying about my loved ones dying, mentally preparing for the worst, never being satisfied with anything I create, always being too scared to put myself out there.
I’ve been going through a quarter-life crisis since I turned 27, and though it’s been an uphill battle coming to terms with my own mortality and letting go of the desperate need to find meaning and purpose in this life, it has left me with one very important lesson: I don’t want to waste any more of my time worrying about tomorrow. I don’t want to waste any more time disliking who I am and what I have to offer. I don’t want to reach the end of my life, however long that might take to come, and look back and realize I wasted precious time.
I want to enjoy every moment and every single breath I still have left. I don’t want to worry about what others think or live my life to please others. I have so much curiosity about life and the world and everything that it offers that I don’t want to waste this opportunity I’ve been given to experience it through human eyes.
So this is why I’ve started this Brighter Voices project. It is a personal vow to myself to no longer succumb to the negativity that has plagued my life up until now. If I was once able to be conditioned to think and expect only the worst out of life and myself, then there must be a way to condition myself to think more positively. I’ve made a promise to myself to shut down those dark voices that keep me pinned to my bed, telling me I’m no good and there’s no point in trying and instead turn them into brighter voices.
This will be my place to come to, to empty out the darkness and refill with light. I also hope that anyone out there reading this realizes this is a place of solace, comfort, and positivity. I’ll be sharing my own personal thoughts as I trudge through this challenge and sharing anything that I feel will help uplift those of us who may need a bit of help remembering that there’s still good in this world and there are things still worth living and fighting for.