The last 12 months have been the worst of my life. But they’ve also been the most liberating. I lost my job, went on unemployment, moved to a new town for a new job that was almost immediately dissolved, and spent the next six months searching for yet another new job. My savings took a big hit, and now I’m too far away to see the therapist I really liked.
I also learned that going on unemployment is not shameful. I applied to so many jobs (around 170 since last April) that writing resumes and cover letters became as easy as breathing. Even interviews lost most of their terror. I learned I can book movers, stand my ground with stupid apartment complex managers, and drive myself through downtown Austin during evening rush hour.
Through some of my favorite people — Jenny Lawson, Wil Wheaton, Linz DeFranco — I learned that anxiety lies to me. It tells me I’m a bad employee, a bad wife, a failure, that I constantly disappoint those around me.
I learned that one of the best ways to fight anxiety is to be open about it. I’ve started blogging more about it, and using #anxietygirl in some of my tweets and Facebook posts. Some things I’ve shared:
- It’s incredible how fast I can go from being okay to hating every single thing about myself. #anxietygirl
- What I hate most about being #anxietygirl is how my anxiety saps all of my energy. I’m sitting on the sofa, exhausted and paralyzed by all the things I know I have to do before bed. And this is one of my good days.
- Things only I think when about to meet strangers: “Damn it, I should have looked at my small talk flash cards!” #anxietygirl
- When the prospect of attending a social event full of strangers in a few days makes you have to stop what you’re doing now and meditate. #anxietygirl
I don’t post these things to gain sympathy. I post them because 40 million people in the US have an anxiety disorder, but only about a third receive treatment.
I want my friends who count among those 40 million to know that they are not alone; I want those who don’t have anxiety disorders to understand a bit better what’s happening in my brain.
Being more open is scary — it might mean that some people will think less of me, or that I could face prejudice at work.
But I’m tired of hiding, of pretending that I don’t have to fight my brain every day for who gets to control my feelings. I’m being honest, I’m using my anxiety against itself, and I’m better off for it.