Anxiety: An Invisible Side Effect
I have been in a cycle of typing about ten sentences to start this article and continuously hit backspace, backspace, backspace. How does one describe the constant nagging anxiety of a deadly disease that no one can relate to? How does one describe how they are feeling? How does one converse about something that they struggle to even think about themselves to someone else?
I can’t. No one with Cystic Fibrosis can.
This has been something that has been on my mind lately. Anxiety. Stress. Depression. And frankly, how to manage it all.
I am here to say life is hard. Life is very hard as any 20-something-year old - you have pressure from your family, your friends, your career, trying to budget time, etc.
Over the past few years, anxiety has slowly become apart of my life. I am anxious about almost everything. It’s hard to differ what I should and what I shouldn’t be anxious about. However, I have come to know that there is no right answer.
I worry a lot. I worry about things because I feel like I have to worry about them. It’s easier to worry about things in my head than to confide it within other people. I often think I’m enough of a burden and I can’t worry other people about what goes on in my head.
Anxiety is real. Medical anxiety is even “realer”.
How do I explain to my loving boyfriend, my parents, my sister and my best friends that I am worried I will simply die before I accomplish all the things I want to? How do I explain I worry that my fears will be a burden to them? How do I explain that my thoughts about CF will make my parents upset because they are the ones who gave me this disease? How do I explain that I am afraid I’ll never have kids to my boyfriend? And if I do have children, that I will die before they are able to know me as a person? How do I complain about my health issues to my best friends who are healthy as can be? I can’t. I never will be able to. I try to, but it’s hard. Maybe I will, but not anytime soon. Instead, I lay in bed at night, more often than not, thinking about how my life may be cut short.
It’s hard to explain the feelings I feel to most people. Most of my friends are starting their lives while I am unsure most of the time where I’m even at. Most people crave another baby while they have many healthy babies in their arms. Most people complain about the one or two medicines they take daily. Most people complain about not having enough money. I often wonder, do these people realize how lucky they are? To hold a healthy baby? To be able take only two pills that help them? To be able to have a job?
However I often go back to the question, would I choose someone’s else’s problems over my own? I consistently answer no.
I have come to know people are selfish. I am selfish. You are selfish. And most people worry about themselves. People are insensitive and tend to make things about themselves. Sharing my thoughts and struggles with most people becomes a topic they can converse with friends about - a topic that should not be conversed with friends. The exact reason why lately I keep 99% of personal struggles to myself. I hate the attention and I hate that other people use people’s struggles as a conversation topic.
I have come to know that anxiety is part of me and will always be a part of me and that it is okay. It is okay to stress about things that other people tell you not to stress about. Sometimes it’s simply easier to say, “Maddy you’re overthinking” than “Maddy I understand.” So I realize it is okay. It will always be okay to think certain thoughts because no one else is you and has been through what you have been through.
I am here to say that life is hard. Life with CF is very hard. I am not trying to compare my life with anyone else’s, but I am here to say that sometimes you have no idea what is going on in someone’s head. Actually, you never do. So be sensitive, be aware, and realize someone may look perfectly happy but may be fighting battles you have no idea about.
Anxiety is real. Depression is real. Over the past few months, I have had a hard time navigating life. I have faced an unresolved health issue that has my mind constantly racing and thinking the absolute worst. However, I realized I am going to be okay. I have also learned how to say no and how to cancel plans last minute because it’s what’s best for me and how to take a few deep breaths and simply say everything will be okay.
Through it all, I have my boyfriend Michael who may actually be a gift from god above. He is patient, kind, and never makes me feel like a burden. I have my parents who are always there for me at a drop of a hat (I arguably have the best parents to exist). I have a sister who also has CF, who is always willing to do anything to make me feel better. I also have my two best friends, Emily and Neema who make me feel like a normal 20 something year old with normal problems.
I am blessed. However, I am struggling. I am not sharing this for sympathy about myself, that’s the last thing I want. I am sharing this for awareness about anxiety. I am sharing this because I’m over people thinking I may live some “perfect life”. My life is very far from perfect. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, VSCO, or whatever social media app is simply a representation of what I want others to think of me. It’s simply what you want to portray of yourself. It’s not you. It’s not you in tears at the doctors office. It’s not you during your darkest moments. Social media is a representation of what a single person wants the world to think of them.
My goal is to raise awareness on a topic that is often overlooked because physical health problems overtake this topic. Anxiety, depression goes hand and hand with physical health problems. So I hope this article about my own struggles turns into a bigger conversation about everyone’s struggles with anxiety, specifically medical anxiety.
If you take away anything from this article, take away this - learn how to say no. Learn what is worth your time. Learn who is worth your time. Learn to realize no one knows what you’re going through but you. Learn it’s okay to feel upset and cry, to let your feelings out. Learn to cancel plans last minute if that’s what’s best for you. And most importantly, to my Cystic Fibrosis community - learn that no one will ever know what goes on in our heads. However, recognize the people who immediately text you after an appointment to ask how it went, who continue to learn about this crazy disease, and offer a shoulder to cry on when everything is going completely wrong. Those are your people. Never forget who was there during your hardest moments and try your best to never rid of them of your journey. Anxiety is real. Depression is real. Cystic Fibrosis is real.
Please, be kind; you have no idea what battles people fight behind closed doors.