I Thought I Was Immune to Anxiety — I Was Wrong

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When I was a teenager, I was scared of throwing up, so I’d look for trash cans everywhere I went and couldn’t eat much when I was out. Disordered, yes, but no one told me that was anxiety.

Living in Philadelphia in my 20s, if my husband failed to come home on time, I was sure he’d been killed in a car accident. But that’s just being loving, right? 

When my kids were babies, I’d check to make sure they were breathing. All moms do that, don’t they? The doctor said I had “adjustment disorder,” which means I was anxious because of circumstances. Things would stabilize and I’d feel better over time. 

When the pandemic hit, however, and my husband and I divorced, my anxiety became too obvious to ignore. Faced with the collapse of everything I knew in my life, I woke up to an anxiety attack every day. 

Stress vs. Anxiety: There’s a Difference

My health care provider gave me a prescription, but it was months before I could schedule a regular therapy appointment, where I was eventually “upgraded” from adjustment disorder to generalized anxiety disorder. I still see a therapist weekly and a prescriber monthly to manage the courses of adrenaline and lack of serotonin that imbalance my ability to “deal” with my life — a life that is, admittedly, stressful

It Doesn’t Go Away When the Stress Subsides 

I had an even harder time handling that this mental illness diagnosis wasn’t going to go away when my divorce went through, when I got vaccinated, when the kids went back to school, or even when mask mandates were lifted. I thought I was immune to anxiety, that it had skipped me. 

Hiding it From Those Around Me

After all, I was “high-functioning” — which is not the preferred nomenclature, by the way, in the mental health community. But it’s what I told myself. I wasn’t depressed and in bed. I wasn’t calling 911 thinking I was having a heart — not anxiety — attack. I got up every day, worked, completed tasks, and took care of the children. No one knew I wasn’t doing well. I hid it from everyone. 

I’m not alone. Many of us struggle and continue to struggle with anxiety. It is not failure or a sign of weakness to want or seek help. 

I’m doing much better now that I have some distance, some medication, and regular therapy. I wish for mental health care for everyone — no matter the severity of your feelings and experiences. It hasn’t been an easy pandemic, but even without the virus, we don’t have to wait for a crisis to seek support and community. If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, there are ways to get help. You can start with the National Institute of Mental Health to find resources for you, a friend, or a family member.

Tags: Mental Health, Self Care

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Written By

Laura Wheatman Hill

Laura Wheatman Hill lives in Oregon with her two children. She has been published by CNN, Real Simple, Parents, and others. See Full Bio

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