I used to be afraid all of the time. I was afraid of being afraid. I was afraid of not being in control of events and thus lost control of my body. My brain told my body everything was a threat. People, places, places with people. I went from being an outgoing, extraverted, social butterfly to a recluse. I never wanted to venture too far away from home or run the risk of interacting with people I didn’t know. My fear became my safety. I was so safe, I was slowly killing myself.

Then, I began my journey. The first big step outside of myself was allowing someone to see me as I was. Clinically speaking that would be diagnosed as: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Words. Diagnoses. Labels. Call them what you will, I call them little bits of who I am, but they are not me. Now, my therapist when we began our journey together never said “This is what you are”, but instead, “This is what I see”.

For me, what she saw that day gave me at least a little power. I find so many arguments surrounding the stigma of mental illness. There are entire theories in psychology dedicated to not “labeling” someone. I see it as a badge of courage, a symbol of control. It took me two years, once a week in an office to gain my power back one small piece at a time. One day I realized part of that power is realizing that I am in control, not my illness.

Years, a lifetime, passed and my illness controlled me. A fear seeping into me so deeply I could not breathe. The thoughts racing so fast, nothing else had room in my brain. It was easy to give in, sink back, let the illness take the wheel of all that was hard and just disassociate myself. It took a lot of hard looks in the mirror before it hit me that I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I wanted more out of life. I wanted a life worth living, and fear is no way to accomplish that.

Every day is hard. Some are worse than others. Yet, in the hardest moments I find the greatest power. When I feel that panic begin to seep in and I am able to stand and say “NO!” I am powerful. When a thought makes its way into my brain and begins to run through over and over and I am able to think, “Not right now,” I am strong. Realizing what it is that stands before us is the key to overcoming our obstacles.       

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