My name is Kristy Dickinson and I live with anxiety.
Anxiety is defined as a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has experienced feelings of anxiety at one point or another in their life. Some people find it hard to control their worries or fears, their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often impact their daily lives. I am one of those people.
I have spoken openly about my physical health challenges in order to raise awareness for my rare disease. I haven’t been as open about my mental health and I’ve spent the last while trying to figure out why. I am not ashamed of my mental health struggles. I am so much more than my diagnosis.
The anxiety that I live with is just another piece of the puzzle that makes me who I am. I fundamentally believe that mental health is just as important as physical health. So today, I will share my story.
I think that I have always been anxious. As a child, I worried about things. I recall trying to calm my mind at night in order to fall asleep. Now, to be fair, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was 8 years old, so I am not shocked that this major life event had an impact on my mental health. I was lucky that my family normalized therapy and provided me with access to specialists to help me navigate complicated feelings as needed. After my mom passed away, we got help. I worked through the loss and didn’t give much thought to my mental health until I started having panic attacks in my mid-twenties.
I am ambitious. I am driven. I like order. I like to feel as though I am in control. I am a type-A personality through and through. These personality traits are, in my opinion, what have made me a successful wife, mother and entrepreneur. However, like most things, these personality traits are a double-edged sword.
I live in a world of ‘what if’. What if this pandemic does not go away? What if I catch Covid-19? What if my children or family get sick? What if their mental health suffers as a result of all the changes in their routine? What if my husband gets hurt while he is at work? What if my business fails? And the biggest one that has replayed for years…what if I am not good enough? None of these thoughts are logical. I understand logically that I have absolutely no control over what I am worrying about. But that doesn’t make them any less concerning to me.
It has taken me years, but I have been able to learn to live with my anxiety and implement many different tools to control the impact of the ‘what if’ thoughts on my daily life. I speak to a therapist, I practice mindfulness and meditation, I exercise, and I am vigilant about getting enough sleep. I am also on medication which I have been off and on throughout most of my adult life.
This past year has made me realize that my mental health is something that I need to be intentional about. Being asymptomatic does not mean I am cured. For me, it takes more than just a pill to keep my anxiety in check. When I ease up on things like exercise, getting enough sleep and minding my thoughts, my anxiety gets worse. Much like an infection or an injury, I need to stay on top of my anxiety so that it does not reach crisis mode before I seek help.
I sincerely hope that we can get to a point where there is no stigma attached to speaking out about mental health challenges. Where there is no judgement when someone has the courage to seek help. Bell Let’s Talk Day is an excellent start, but I want to keep the conversation going. You never know what another person is carrying, and just because they carry it well does not mean that it isn’t heavy. When all else fails, please just be kind.