Part I

I have struggled with anxiety for my whole life. I remember in preschool not being able to leave my mom and it
only got worse. I transferred to a different school in 6th grade since the school I was at was not working for me. The same thing happened at the new school – the first day I panicked when my dad tried to leave and bolted out the door after him, teachers chasing me. Once they got me back in and I was able to calm down, I ended up enjoying my day at school, made friends instantly and the teachers were good at working with me. The teachers ended up making me sit down with my class and explain what I have and what it feels like, and how they can help. Back then it seemed so stupid to do, but everyone asked questions and was so nice.

Now I look back and see how much that school changed me. The first time outside of school I decided to speak up
about it was in my dance class, which led to them not letting me move to a higher level because they worried my
anxiety was too much. But a good thing came from it – I met one of my first really good friends. The second they
said they wouldn’t move me up because of it she said then she was out too. I learned speaking up about it wasn’t a bad thing and to not be ashamed of it.

To my surprise, I went to a “normal” high school where I continued my speaking up and lived a “normal” (well as
normal as it can get with anxiety) life and made some lifelong friends there. I even ended up going to college
where I joined a dance team and by senior year was able to public speak in front of my class. I was so proud of how far I had come and all the accomplishments I had made.

Of course, I had bumps in the road and some bad anxiety moments and even developed some OCD, but being so
open about it made it easier for people to help me through any of those times. Sure, there were still people that
didn’t understand just like at my first school, but it didn’t matter when I had a core group who did and stood by me through it all…and still, do to this day. Fast forward to where I am now as a working girl, proud dog mom, house owner, and wife, and beat my OCD. My life really came together despite some of the battles I had to go through.

After my wedding, on my honeymoon, I ended up having two severe panic attacks like I never remember having
before. I felt so helpless and scared in those moments. In my next post I’ll write about how I handled this
challenge, and how I’ll never stop fighting no matter how bad the days get because if I’ve learned anything from
my past, it’s that this may be a part of who I am but it does not define who I am. I have a lot more to me than just
some mental illnesses and those parts just need to shine through again.

Part II

After my wedding, on my honeymoon, I ended up having two severe panic attacks like I never remember having
before. I felt so helpless and scared in those moments. My husband and I came home early since I didn’t feel I
could handle being away, I thought maybe it was just a weird look but something was different. As the weeks
went by I noticed I was worried about more and more things and starting to not want to do much of anything. I
finally had a breakdown and decided to go to an intensive outpatient therapy for it just like I did for my OCD. I
thought it would be a breeze since my OCD training only took about a week. I have drive and determination to not
live a life like this, well I was wrong. They ended up saying I have mild depression now too, and the OCD thoughts
started to grow stronger, but I kept up not doing my compulsions, which of course made the anxiety worse.

It seems like once the OCD was gone I had no way of handling anxiety anymore because OCD was my outlet and now
trying to balance my “normal” working girl, married life wasn’t so easy anymore. I have always been so in touch
with my emotions and what I’m feeling or going through, so to feel so disconnected now and not be able to find
my drive has made this so much tougher. Not feeling like myself, not wanting to talk as much, not having that
drive, not wanting to go out or even smile has been a whole new roller-coaster ride for me. I had to go on another
new medicine to try to help my mood which of course scared the crap out of me. It’s just like I forgot how to enjoy
myself and only know how to worry about EVERYTHING and just get in these weird moods I can’t explain. To battle
through all my life and finally get that “normal” life I wanted to have it taken away again was so toll taking. I do
know I will get through this at some point, but it just seems like it’s going to be quite a journey which scares me.

My support team is still there, but one has moved so that has made it harder and all these emotions flooding out
has taken a toll on my social life and with my relationship. I don’t trust the choices I make now or evening the
feelings I have. It’s like I’m in someone else’s mind and body and just along for this horrible ride. I’ll never stop
fighting though no matter how bad the days get because if I’ve learned anything from my past it’s that this may be
a part of who I am but it does not define who I am, I have a lot more to me than just some mental illnesses and
those parts just need to shine through again.

Written by Samantha Kershaw