By: Eryn Erickson
It was May 2012, and I remember staring at a box of milk in a tiny grocery store in a small town thinking, I am going to be this way forever. I am going to be this girl that is consumed with anxiety, racing thoughts and always on the verge of panic attacks for the rest of my life. This way of thinking is uncontrollable and I will always think this way. This will be my life and I some how traded the joy I thought I had for fear. Why did I do that. I felt I betrayed myself.
Prior to this moment, Jared and I had started our first year of us both working for ourselves. It was January 2012 and we decided to move to the North Georgia mountains where we lived on 16 acres, made friends with barn cats, hung in hammocks, and learned how to shoot bow and arrows.
It sounds romantic.. Right? The entrepreneurs dream of simplicity and living a minimal lifestyle.
It was romantic for the first month. Then it started. There was a shift in me.
Racing thoughts, tremors, panic attacks, and then talking myself into a calm state morning, afternoon, night and then in the middle of the night.
I was antsy, fidgety, and not ok with just being still. The silence in my mind was loud. Very loud. It was moving to the country and living a slow paced life made that very apparent. There is a quote from one of my favorite books called “Calm My Anxious Heart” and in it there is a line where two women are in prison. One saw stars and one saw bars. I was in the country and I felt I had no stars. I felt I was in bars and couldn’t actually see the beauty around me.
There were a few things I experienced in life that triggered this but one thing I didn’t know I struggled with was contentment. Being ok with the here and now. Being ok with silence. Alone in my thoughts. Being still. The loud city lights and noises turned into crickets and dark nights suddenly and that’s what triggered this next chapter of my life. When you deal with anxiety attacks you don’t talk about it because you are scared someone is going to think you are crazy. You try to handle them by yourself and by handling them by yourself, you just suffer alone and it may manifest even bigger all the while believing that anxious state is your life.
The last straw was a dark night where I woke up at 3am and in panic. Sheer panic. Racing heart that felt like a heart attack. What for? No clue. I couldn’t tell you at the time. That's what scared me the most. I decided that night I should see a professional. I had always heard negative things about therapists and never really wanted to see one. I thought, if I am going to talk to someone it should be my husband, mom, dad, a mentor, or sisters… not a stranger. Not someone that doesn’t know me or my upbringing but I decided at the end of June, I’m going to brave it and go. I wanted to do this for me and I wanted to do this for Jared and my friends. I googled counselors, texted people about recommendations and found a place that I would give a shot.
My first session I sat there in silence and full of self-doubt. I remember thinking, this is a mistake. She can’t help me.. she doesn’t know me. She’d ask me questions and I’d have to talk about me, the most uncomfortable thing to talk about. I remember feeling like I walked in there as an open wound. Someone that is confused and terrified as to what is happening to her and being who I am, wanting my therapist to give me a list of things I need to work on, I’ll knock that to do list out and then I’ll have my joy back. Simple as that. Done and done. I was wrong.
I can tell you three sessions in I started recognizing the things that needed changing, because I wanted to change. I didn’t want this for my life. I listened and tried with every bit of my being to modify the things that contributed to the late night panics and shaky hands.
The therapist was part of the solution but the other part was me. It was my effort. I could see her every week but it wouldn’t mean anything to me if I wasn’t willing to apply the things I should. I decided to just talk out every thought I had. Scary or irrational, she knew them. She knew me so well. All the fear, all the lies, all the things I’ve felt or seen. What did I have to lose? I thought if was going to live 70 years full of panic and anxiety, I might as well risk showing all my raw wounds from childhood, lies I’ve carried, and decisions I’ve made and see if I can tape back together this life I felt I shattered.
She taught me how to recognize my triggers and then she taught me how to manage them. The thing is I may always have some level of anxiety. It can be a genetic predisposition, but being able to know how to take care of myself enough to where I can manage my emotions, my thoughts, and rewire the way I view myself was the best start to this journey of understanding me and understanding what a healthy relationship with someone you care for looks like.
I just want you to read this and know a few things. You aren’t crazy. You are able to choose for you. If your struggles are like mine, find a safe therapist and then give it a few times because warming up to talking about the scary stuff is part of the process. It will feel like sandpaper the first few times but don’t lose your determination to get to the root. If it’s a financial issue, think of one person in your life that you can ask to help you financially and I promise they will. They know what's been going on longer than you probably have and that's ok! They want to be a part of your journey to healing. It’s vulnerable and scary but it’s worth the reward.
For me, 4 years later, I now know my body and brain better. My therapist taught me how to take care of myself and fight for a healthy life. I am going through years of behavioral habits that need rewiring, but I know the fight is worth it. I am not just fighting for myself, I am fighting for my relationships and the people that I want to impact.
The confession in her chair lead me to a happier life. While there are up and down moments I now understand me a little more. She didn’t fix me but she helped me to see me. By asking me questions she showed me who I was at my core and taught me how I can mend and heal it.