It’s been one of those weeks. An anxiety week. I couldn’t tell you why or where it came from but I can tell you with absolute certainty it’s here and it’s strong. And it’s not pretty. It started like any normal week in the life of Emily Hoschar would. I had a flight in from some random state on Sunday night and was ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning. However, somewhere between answering e-mails, changing diapers and procrastinating making a dentist appointment, my week went off the rails. I was hit with a wave of anxiety and it has been unrelenting for days. The only saving grace to my entire week was that most of my days were spent with babies and those little guys have a way of dissipating my anxiety. There’s something about reading “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and playing peek-a-boo that makes the world feel much simpler than anxiety leads me to believe.
Anxiety is always a treat but you know what’s even better than plain old anxiety? Anxiety that seems to have no source and hits you out of LITERALLY NOWHERE. It’s an unwelcome guest regardless but when I can’t identify the source I feel powerless to talk myself down, to rationalize, problem solve or troubleshoot in anyway. It feels like a tornado tears through to ravage your thoughts and you can’t make sense of the debris it leaves behind. It’s scary, exhausting and not to mention a massive inconvenience. I’ve got errands to run, volunteer openings to fill, pressing wedding decisions to make and a million other things I already do not have time for. I certainly don’t have time to positive self-talk my way out of an anxiety attack 3-8 times a day. Sorry anxiety, I have a doctor’s appointment, 2 meetings and a whole host of e-mails that need answered. You’re just going to have to wait.
If only it were that easy. I did not invite it but anxiety is an unwelcome guest that shows up unannounced and at the worst times too. It doesn’t play by my rules and pays no mind to houseguest etiquette- just ask my house about that one. If you’d like a physical representation of what anxiety looks like please come over. I’m struggling to stay on top of life. I haven’t washed dishes in so long that I have used the same coffee mug for 3 days and I would have to wash silverware in order to each breakfast. So I’m not eating breakfast today. My laundry is piling up, my to-do list is strangling me and I have 35 unread text messages. I feel like a hamster on a wheel and I cannot for the life of me get off. I shrink away from conversations and phone calls and cancel plans. My mind cannot even slow down enough to remember to put shoes on before I leave the house let alone communicate an intelligent string of words to another human being. Anxiety is like a nagging secretary sitting in my brain, relentlessly going over the many, many things I have yet to do but need done RIGHT NOW OR THE WORLD WILL CAVE IN AROUND ME. I respond to every task that comes to mind with, “I just can’t.” I’ve all but collapsed into bed the second I walk through the door each night. Not that I’ve actually fallen asleep because well, anxiety.
Worst of all, I have an overwhelming desire to pretend I have it all together, all of the time. Matched with an equally overwhelming fear that sharing my struggle will undermine my abilities, my sanity and tarnish my reputation as a capable individual. The hard, honest truth is that to some people it will. Which is why I hesitated for a moment to share this. Some people simply do not understand mental illness. Therefore they wish we would all just quiet down about this whole mental health thing and go back to repressing our feelings like in the good ol’ days. It’s natural to want to put my best foot forward but to hide this entirely would be to neglect a truth that I am so passionate about advocating for. Which is this; it’s okay to not be okay. I promise. Some may shush you and others may judge but that doesn’t make your reality any less real. Good times, bad times, anxious times- own them.
I love to write and I love to write about raw, vulnerable topics which are close to my heart and speak to my experiences. But I prefer to write about them when I am no longer in the thick of them. I like to wait until bad times have passed over so I can write candidly and humorously about how God carries us through hard times into rainbows and sunshine. While I’m filing away ideas to share in the future, God is always like “No, let’s write about that hard thing RIGHT NOW, while all of the things are really hard and you feel extra vulnerable.” And to be honest, as much as I like to wait for the rainbows and sunshine, I get extremely frustrated when I hear others share their testimonies in this fashion specifically in regards to mental health. The narrative always follows the “I was depressed, I found (or came back to) Jesus and everything is great” storyline. To give credit where credit is due, society as a whole and even some within the church have begun to speak candidly and honestly about ongoing struggle- mental health and otherwise. I want this to continue. I want the façade of pretending to be okay when we’re clearly not to end. My heart’s desire is to dispel the cryptic, secretive or fairytale-esk ways in which we discuss mental illness. Sugarcoated fairy tales do no favors to those struggling themselves and those struggling to understand their loved one. Please, give us some upfront honesty about the whole deal.
I want honesty so I will give honesty. I had an anxiety-ridden week and it doesn’t make me any less capable of the life I am called to live, any less deserving of love or make true any of the lies or nagging thoughts that anxiety bombards me with. If this was your week too, it’s tough and it sucks but you aren’t alone, my friend. It’s okay to have these dark weeks, months or seasons. It’s okay to ask for help. Do what you need to do to find some light again and be unapologetic about it. Neglect the dishes or laundry for a little while if you need to but do not neglect your mental health or your need for connection and love. Reach out especially when you want to retreat inside yourself, that’s when you need it most. I have no solutions or rainbows or answers other than to say I struggle sometimes too and for those of you in the trenches right now, I’m in there with you. Hang in there, it gets better and it’s worth the fight.