My name is Mitch and this is my story of taking shame and turning it into acceptance. I live with anxiety and finally, I’m good with it.
My intention for writing this is twofold. First, the more I talk about it, the better I feel (more about that later) and second, to inspire and encourage others to do the same. If you are reading this right now, trust me when I say You are not alone. You’re not the only one feeling the feelings you are feeling. The shame you might feel about your suffering is simply a construct of your mind.
I have suffered from anxiety for over 15 years and if I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing. It started with social anxiety and it affected my stomach. For years doctors thought I was lactose intolerant or that I had IBS. I tried changing my diet – to no avail. It turned out my anxiety was simply manifesting itself in the pit of my stomach and building tremendous fear about being in public. Finally, after resisting for a while, I decided to begin taking medication in the form of SSRI’s (These basically ease depression/anxiety by increasing serotonin in the brain) to help ease the nervousness, that uncomfortable feeling I was living with day after day. I bounced around to a few different meds with different doses until I found one that numbed those feelings just enough to get by and to live a “normal” life without the constant stress.
During this time I had such an unhealthy relationship with my anxiety; it felt like this lingering black cloud that was always present. Something I was ashamed of. I couldn’t talk about it and I didn’t want to either. I had so much shame that I wasn’t normal and that I had to keep control over myself with prescription medication. What I didn’t recognize at the time is that I truly wasn’t alone. Many of the people in my life were also suffering from the same bullshit that our minds create every single day.
There was something about this conversation and the support I felt in talking about it that helped me be so firm in that decision. I didn’t want to be numbed anymore; I wanted to feel again.
Side effects aside, these meds served a valuable purpose for me, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it during that time. The challenge was, I spent those 10 years completely robbing myself of the feelings that make human life so precious – the joys of connection and love, as well as sadness and fear of the unknown. It was a tough period but I made it through and I think I did a pretty damn good job of coming out the other side.
Fast forward to the end of 2016. I met a new friend and we went for coffee at the Royal York Hotel. As we sat in the grand chairs of the lobby sipping tea I proclaimed that I was done. There was something about this conversation and the support I felt in talking about it that helped me be so firm in that decision. I didn’t want to be numbed anymore; I wanted to feel again. Right then and there I made a choice, and this person became my support, my rock, in my path to coming off medication. Over the next few months I slowly decreased my dosage. Constantly checking in to see how I was feeling – and I was feeling pretty damn good. I was so excited to feel again. I knew I was ready and could handle anything that would come with it. Two years later I’ve never felt better and through a tremendous amount of reflection and growth I realized I’ve been gifted with some incredibly valuable lessons on this scary yet beautiful ride. In hopes that maybe one person that reads this can relate, here are some lessons I’d like to share with you.
- Embrace the highs. It’s important to be aware when you are in a state of joy, surrounded by love or feeling satisfied. Try to get to a place where you recognize when you’re there. Take a moment and appreciate it.
- Learn from the lows. Similarly, notice when you’re feeling down, getting frustrated or overwhelmed. Try to show yourself some compassion. Explore those feelings and know they’ll be gone soon
It’s always a choice – realize that you are an unbelievably capable creature. You have all of the tools you need to make choices as to how you want to feel. Find the tools that work for you and use them. Empower yourself, try not to fall victim. For me Creative expression, Community, Exercise & Meditation/Breathing are the tools I’ve learned to utilize.
- Don’t hide – We all desire to feel heard, accepted and supported. We all crave that but our natural tendency is to shut down and internalize. The challenge is, often times that can feed the feelings even further. It’s actually counterproductive. I found that the only way to combat this is to talk about it. Shift the perception and give others permission to do the same
Hopefully this message resonates and you relate to some of the things I’ve shared and the lessons I’ve learned. Accepting this as part of me and beginning to talk about it changed my life.
It was tough, especially as a male. We’ve been taught to always be strong and not share our emotions. Well, I’m calling the bullshit on that and encouraging all of you, as human beings to share your feelings, be vulnerable, be courageous and support those around you to do the same.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle & The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer are the two books that really helped change my life.
Academy of Lions, a CrossFit and personal training gym, gave me a place to push myself supported by an incredible group of individuals.
Camp Reset gave me an incredible community and allowed me to truly embrace the present, have fun & let go of expectations or judgement.