Many of us live with some level of anxiety. My husband Rob battled with anxiety driven depression. He lost his battle to depression 13 years ago.
Since Rob's passing, I have witnessed my own children struggle with anxiety and understand how difficult it can be to live with someone who has high anxiety. It took me a long time to realize that I too, suffer with anxiety and have experienced depression start to take over.
For a long time, I thought it was grief or a normal feeling after such a loss. Losing someone to something I had no understanding of, the thought of saying the word suicide, the concern of judgement that others would think my husband was crazy, or the fear of someone asking how my husband died brought out a fear in me that I describe as turtle fear. After Rob's death, I came out slow, looked around and made sure I felt safe. As soon as someone asked me the question "hoooow arrrrre yoooou?" in a curious manner, or when I heard the whispers of people talking about how Rob died (do you know her husband killed himself), and when I felt the looks of pity (how could someone do "that" to their family), I returned immediately back to my safe turtle shell, not wanting to come out. I was fearful of being uncomfortable in social settings because I was often the fifth wheel and felt disappointment that I was no longer included with our friends as couples. I think girls night out was the most difficult. I was always the only widow, and certainly the only widow to death by suicide. Not one of my friends could truly understand the pain I was experiencing. Being told to get over it was insensitive and made me feel like my grief was misunderstood and minimized. My divorced friends thought their pain was so much worse since they still had to deal with an ex. They couldn't see that I was truly alone with no help. My husband wasn't an ex. He was dead and his passing was never talked about. I would sit, listen and then think about how their worries, pain, struggles were so different than mine. I'm not saying mine were worse, but I longed for my partner, I longed for my kids to have their dad be part of their lives. Even my divorced friends had Wednesdays off or every other weekend to themselves and their kids still had their dad. It became so painful to listen to their struggles while I was grieving that I would often resort to turtle fear and became reclusive, heading back in the shell, not wanting to come out. Then I joined Facebook and became even more depressed. Why is everyone so happy? How does everyone look so good and how is it that everyone has perfect kids? That was not my life. I was getting sadder by the day, wondering why life was so different? What am I supposed to do and how can I turn turtle fear around?
Anxiety is a terrible thing to experience. My recent loss of Rob in a judgement filled world made me feel overwhelmed by anxious feelings and fear. I began to recognize that I needed to be the one to change these feelings within myself. I didn't want to live like a turtle anymore. I wanted to feel safe, live a good life, and release the fear.
I began forcing myself out, ignoring insensitive comments, and reminding myself that ignorance comes from not experiencing what I had gone through. I felt grateful that those comments came from a place of ignorance from others that haven't been in my shoes and wouldn't understand what was or was not appropriate to say and do. Finding a meaningful and emotionally fulfilling purpose has been part of my journey to permanently rid myself of the turtle shell.
It's finding a purpose and a reward, it's making time to exercise even if it's just a walk around the block, it's finding people with similar stories to talk and share with, it's releasing toxic people from your life and being with those who make you want to laugh even when all you want to do is cry. It's going to counseling sessions and every now and then, it could be medication. All these things have helped me help myself. If you battle with anxiety, work hard at finding ways to release its grasp by recognizing it, finding people who won't judge you, and seeking professional help that may include medication. Once you take the steps to recognize and treat your anxiety in a healthy way, you can focus on living instead of focusing on the anxiety you're living with. If I can do it, so can you!