By: JoJo Ossmen
CHRIST knows better than ALL OTHERS
that the trials of life can be very deep,
& WE ARE NOT shallow people
if we struggle with them ~ Jeffery R Holland
Life is hard people, and I know this because I am turning 25, graduated from college, have an “official real life” job, and recently got married. So by all social terms I have officially entered the “real world”, and am a “grown-up” (minus the whole kids thing and health insurance. I said I was 24, guys! Go easy on me!). Anyways, life is hard. But that is okay because the Lord blessed us with people. Someone once told me that life is too hard to go about it on your own- no one can do it, but you know what? It’s OK because we aren’t supposed to go at it alone! We have friends, co-workers, family, siblings, parents, neighbors, and grandparents… I could literally go on for days. If we reached out to those around us then we would all learn that we are very much not alone. You are loved, supported, and someone else out in the world has had the same struggle (or close to) as you have.
So, life is hard, but it’s OKAY! And contrary to popular belief is it okay to not be okay. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for the last 10 years. It started when I was 15 and after struggling with suicide, I landed in children’s hospital for 3 days. I saw a therapist and was able to regulate my anxiety fairly well. That is until I was about to graduate college. At this point in time I had been dating my now husband for just a couple of months. I was no longer a gymnast, college athlete, and even worse I had no idea what the heck I was supposed to do after graduation. This was the first time in my life that I did not have a plan, and how I had identified myself for the last 16 years was changing. I was freaking out…and in complete denial of my increasing anxiety. I didn’t want anyone else to know that I walked around all day trying to avoid a total panic attack. I couldn’t be alone, couldn’t concentrate at school, and getting out of bed was a struggle. So when my now husband asked if I was okay I would rattle things off like “Yeah I’m fine” (…Total Lie!) “I am just restless today” (…NO girlfriend you are panicking inside!) “I just need to get outside” (…You need someone to talk to crazy lady!). It was not until I freaked out and practically threw a sign at my husband that we realized it all could have been avoided if I told the truth. Turned out, saying, “No I am not fine, I am having anxiety and I need help calming down” was actually a very productive way to —get this — calm down!
Okay, fast forward to the last three months. It’s fall (the season where my anxiety hits an all time high). I just got married in June, switched jobs, moved into our apartment, and I am totally freaking out. I didn’t want to tell my husband that it was back. I especially did not like telling friends that I could not watch any classic scary Halloween movies because of the anxiety attacks that would prevail afterwards.
So I let it get bad, and you know what I learned? That when I finally told my husband and others how I felt, it got better; I developed coping skills. I call my family when I am in the car so I don’t get caught up in irrational fears in traffic. I pray a lot and avoid the triggers that are avoidable. I take our dog on frequent walks, and if I am going to be alone on a high anxiety day I go spend time with others — regardless of how silly or stupid it may feel to me. It is worth it to go do whatever I need to in order to feel okay again.
We need people. Today’s society is great at putting off this persona that we should 1. Never tell people that we are struggling and 2. If they ask us about it — deny it hard and tell ourselves that we will deal with it later.
Let me testify to you that you do not under any circumstances have to feel that way. EVER. Take a breath. Call a friend, tell your loved ones, pray, do anything but sit there alone, letting yourself panic more and more. Remember that it is okay to feel overwhelmed, scared and sad. Trials make us stronger and show us that we can make it even through the darkest of times.
I couldn’t send this out without leaving some coping strategies that have worked for me. My recent favorites are my notecards. They are color coordinated so that pink is coping mechanisms (breathing, getting grounded, finding positive distractions, telling others), yellow are scriptures and quotes that give me strength, peace, and confidence. Green is just a random list of things that make me happy. This has worked great because if I am having a hard time, and am too dang stubborn to use the cards then my husband can pull them out and go through them with me out loud. We actually just gave it a try the other night and it worked!