Tossing and turning, I was sweating profusely. My hair and back were wet. I looked at the clock – 4:30 am and I hadn’t slept yet.
Actually, I hadn’t slept for 2 days in a row. My thoughts and heart started to race. “What is happening to me?”
I sat up, called out my mom, and pleaded, “Mom, I’m not sleeping anymore. Please take me to the doctor.” Seeing how awful and serious I looked, she embraced me immediately and assured me that we were seeing a doctor that morning.
Weak, eyes popping out, and as pale as a sheet, I told the doctor what I was going through. His face tightened. He took his prescription pad and wrote the words I dreaded – Anxiety Disorder.
Despite a terrible brain fog, I began to examine every area of my life as best as I could. Throughout this terrifying and eye-opening journey, I let go of seven big things in my life. I’m glad I did.
1. Job Title
How many of you daydream about your current or next project while having a meal with your family? Do you text reminders or call your colleagues or clients after work? Or, do you do “quick” paperwork on a weekend?
I was not the only one, was I?
Six months before my diagnosis in 2011, I was promoted as the head of our teaching department. It was just a small department but it was a very fulfilling job to help students to read, write, and speak confidently in English.
When I hit my rock bottom with the anxiety disorder, I was not the brilliant teacher and sharp leader my students and colleagues used to know. I’d stop mid-sentence not knowing what to say next to my students. I’d sit for hours preparing my lessons but I couldn’t finish anything.
With the demands of my work and diagnosis, I decided to give up job (at least temporarily).
2. (Some) Friends
Crying my heart out, I told Mindy (not her real name), “I don’t know if I can survive this. I’m so scared.” She looked at me and hugged me. A second later, she turned to our other colleagues and said, “Hey, I got new sets of beautiful dresses, wanna buy?”
Did she leave me hanging just like that? I was dumbfounded. So, I thought my other friends would treat me better.
I took a deep breath and confided to my closest friends that I was suffering from anxiety disorder. Laura (not her real name as well), a friend for more than half decade, replied, “Mary, I didn’t know that you were that weak. Just fight it off and be positive. It’s that easy.”
That’s another punch in the gut.
I let go of friends like Mindy and Laura. Despite their indifference and painful words that decision wasn’t easy, though. Eventually, I was able to back off and set boundaries to support my healing process.
My pants became tight, it was hard to zip them. No, I did not gain weight. I probably lost a lot because I lost my appetite.
I was bloated and my tummy looked like I was pregnant. And I wasn’t pooping for almost a week at a time.
Aside from inspiring me to have more faith and hope, my mom tirelessly encouraged me to eat. Since I couldn’t take the usual amount, we focused on the nutrient dense food that supported my healing. That also meant eliminating junk foods.
I said goodbye to processed food, fast food, and sugar. I ate the rainbow (veggies of different colors) and lots of bananas.
I learned that it was not a good idea to go online and research your diagnosis while you’re having brain fog and lots of terrifying thoughts (especially if you don’t have a trusted place to go to). One piece of advice I read went something like “Don’t talk about your anxiety and depression to your friends.” I was like, “Oh no, I’m doomed!”
I panicked. Then my mom said sternly, “Shut that down and stop searching!”
The internet has a ton of conflicting information while social media has lots of drama. I stopped going online, at least until I was mentally healthy again.
I was desperate to get out of my “darkness” but at the same time, I was losing hope. I even imagined my wake, funeral, and eulogy. Then I’d weep, feeling sorry for myself for dying at the young age of 28.
My world stopped but life around me continued.
I observed my sisters going through their day with puffy eyes and dark circles under them. Were they having trouble sleeping because they were worried about me? Were they crying themselves to sleep? Or, both?
My parents and sisters were trying their best to be cheerful and positive for me but I could smell the strong stench of worry, stress, frustration, and the fear of losing me.
This one got me the most.
Losing my will to live, my mom cried and pleaded, “My daughter, do you love me? Please fight and let us help and support you. We do not want to lose you.”
My heart was squeezed.
“This is not only about me.”, I realized. I had loved ones I hurt so much by not fighting, hoping, and taking steps to recover. We were all in it together.
I let go of selfishness and let love fuel me to stand up again and fight my battle.
Debt is one of the top causes of stress and anxiety. So it was one of the first things I dealt with before I took a long vacation.
No, I did not pay it in full. I was almost broke because of my medical bills and no money would come in because I stopped working indefinitely.
One debt was a loan in the office. I met with our finance officer to discuss it and she assured me that my monthly billings would stop and resume only when I get back to work.
The other one was an expensive gym membership. I asked for my older sister’s help and she gladly paid it in full and terminated the membership on my behalf.
7. The need to be needed
I was a perfectionist, know-it-all, get-things-done-girl who secretly could not get enough of praise and recognition for a job well done.
It was music to ears when people say, “Mary, could you please help me on this?” I was elated when they came up to me over and over again. I was needed!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discouraging helping, serving, or going above and beyond. These are beautiful things! But I got it all wrong. This need turned into pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness. Worse, I became exhausted, depleted and empty.
I learned to set healthy boundaries, check my motives and say ‘no’ when my plate is almost full.
Bare-naked But Fulfilled
Anxiety Disorder stripped me naked. Suddenly, I was a nobody. I lost my job, health, money, some friends, ego, etc. I was painfully peeled layer by layer until it reached my core.
But…I got my life back.
Over To You
Have you also given up one of the seven big things mentioned above after a diagnosis? If so, which one?
Have you given up something else? How did giving this up help you?
Is there anything you need to let go but you’re having a hard time doing so?
What’s holding you back?
Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
About the Author
Mary is a thriving spoonie, an online solopreneur and a natural healing advocate. Despite chronic illness, she believes spoonies are valuable, strong, and capable of making a difference in our society. Get 10+ Simple & Life Changing Tips To Improve Your Mental Health here.