Living Without Vulnerability: My parents got divorced when I was a freshman in high school. Until then, we were the picture perfect New England suburb family. I grew up as an only child, involved in lots of sports and clubs and my parents were involved in the community in every way possible. We took our family vacations over school breaks, and Sunday nights were spent eating together as a family and watching football games. As I write this out, it sounds as if we were robots, but I swear I was so happy. I was very comfortable in this picture perfect life, and when anything threatened to change this comfort zone, I shut it down as fast as possible. I was afraid of being afraid or nervous and would never allow myself to feel anything but happiness. But I was too comfortable, and I don’t know what kind of a person I would be if I had continued on like this. However, I never thought that families being split apart would be so upsetting. In fact, I figured “hey I’ll get two sets of stuff!” My thoughts could not have been further from the truth.
The divorce brought about many new emotions with all of it’s changes. Divorce is the second most stressful situations in life and can take a large tole on the body. If you don’t believe me, here’s a list of the most life altering stressors in life. (No joke I know about this because my mom showed it to me when I was in shock and denial at how poorly my body and brain were reacting to my new life).
If there is one thing you should know about me: I hate change. I don’t adjust well. Change makes me nervous because it makes me realize that I cannot be in control of every aspect of life. I was no longer the happy-go-lucky girl I had been for the previous fifteen years and I did not know how to handle myself. And with this out of control feeling came anxiety. Because I didn’t acknowledge my anxiety at first, I missed my first month of sophomore year and many weeks afterwards. I began passing out often, which as you can imagine is extremely embarrassing let alone inconvenient as a student. I am the first to admit my life was very easy growing up, and therefore when something this challenging came about I was left without tools to combat it.
Vulnerability on the Daily: It is extremely hard to explain anxiety to someone who has never dealt with it before. As frustrating as it is when people think I am overreacting to a situation, I completely understand as to why they think so because I used to be one of those people. Sophie Wright does a fantastic job of depicting anxiety in her cartoons of someone without an umbrella. I deal with a panic disorder, so it is not that I constantly worry about dying or something going wrong, but that in certain moments my senses are triggered by some specific. When I am triggered I go into a panic attack which if left going will result in me passing out. My nervous system is hyperactive, and I am hyperaware of it.
Laughing it Off: Before my parent’s divorce and all the problems that came with it, even mentioning the word therapy would have terrified me. Everything in my life was happy, fun, and easy. I could never admit to being any other emotion other than happy. Therefore you can imagine it was extremely difficult for me to come to the conclusion that I suffer from severe anxiety. The way I speak about and handle my anxiety causes me to be vulnerable every day but it is so worth being open and learning about others’ experiences as well. I truly can’t begin to explain how differently I now live my life. I learned to be honest about my thoughts and I now live vulnerably just about every minute of my life. As terrifying and difficult as it has been there is something freeing about being honest. The cartoon below is so cheesy but honestly how I feel even though there are occasional struggles. I am so proud at how far I have come and that I live a fun and exciting life again. I have learned so many important life lessons from being vulnerable, and I try to continue to learn from it every day. It truly is not always easy, I still have a hard time once in and while when I have to leave a classroom due to feeling sick, or even passing out (yup, not kidding, it happened last week) but I am getting better and better about laughing it off and letting it better me as a person.