I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on my blog before, but I volunteer for a crisis line.
I essentially listen to and support people who are having a difficult time, whatever that may mean for them.
Over the past ten months, I have had the honor of hearing the stories of people from all walks of life. In that time, I have also spoken with people dealing with a wide range of mental health issues.
The resiliency of people never ceases to amaze me; the art of continuing on. It’s deep and it’s primal and above all that, it’s moving.
Every time I talk with someone struggling with their own mental health issues, what stands out to me is their strength, and their capacity for empathy. They understand things that not everyone can. They ‘get’ that their issues may not be “big”, but they are “big” to them, it’s the way their mind works, their struggles are and always will be different.
If you don’t have mental health issues, maybe taking an exam you aren’t prepared for is considered difficult.
If you have anxiety, maybe simply being in a room writing an exam with too many people is considered difficult.
If you have depression, maybe you never made it to the exam. Maybe you never made it to class to learn the information to take the exam; maybe the idea of getting out of bed because you were too damn depressed is considered difficult.
If you have bipolar disorder, maybe you had an episode of psychosis and now you are too embarrassed to ever return to school and it’s just too damn difficult.
Nobody’s problems are greater or less than anyone else’s, they matter because it matters to you. It’s difficult for you. Never let anyone invalidate you.
Because here’s the thing: you can only truly understand what the struggle is like if you’ve been through it. If you don’t have my anxiety, you don’t get my anxiety. You don’t lay awake in bed at night unable to sleep thinking about what’s going to photograph well on the top of your picture of tomorrow’s sweet potato lunch, you just don’t, but I do. Why? Well my whole future is riding on it of course! That’s anxiety for you.
It’s dumb, I know that. But it’s as real as it comes to me.
That’s the curse. It’s the feeling alone. It’s being judged. It’s knowing you are misunderstood. It’s fucking torture.
But if you let it, that stupid, piece-of-shit ongoing struggle you have with yourself can also be your blessing, because you have the ability to connect with others in a unique way. Your gift is in understanding, and being able to provide genuine empathy.
I love talking to other anxious people on the line. I get them. If someone is struggling because their toaster didn’t toast their toast properly and it’s ruining their entire afternoon, I get that.
Some way, some how, life lead me here.
Sometimes I wonder to myself what I would be doing in life today if I never had anxiety. Maybe something great. I honestly believe that nothing would have held me back.
But that’s not what happened, this is who I am. Anxiety is my blessing and my curse. I can only hope to find some meaning in the work that I do, I can only hope to effect change in a way that matters. I’m here now trying to help people, I hope it’s good enough.
If I never do anything “great” with my life that’s okay. I always only hoped to do something meaningful with my… gift.
Thank you for reading, you wonderful readers. I appreciate you.