Although I have yet to seek a legit diagnosis, I’m pretty sure that I have anxiety. For me, maneuvering social situations can be extremely stressful. I sweat. My heart beats fast. I feel winded and short of breath. Sometimes my hands or legs shake. While all of this is happening, I worry that people can sense my anxiety through these physical manifestations of stress.
Then there’s a barrage of thoughts about how I’m perceived. What am I saying? Am I saying the right words? Did I pronounce that word right? Am I explaining something clearly or do I sound confused, confusing, and dumb? How is the tone of my voice? Am I talking loud enough? What do I talk about next? How do I end the conversation? So many thoughts. All about myself. All at the same time.
As you can probably imagine, all of this makes it hard for me to be in the moment and be fully present in most social interactions. Some days are better than others and it’s not as bad with familiar people or in familiar situations. The more I struggle with my anxiety the more I find tricks and workarounds that help me manage it but some days I consider seeking medication (which I would only do after diagnosis and under the consultation of a doctor).
As a leader and future mental healthcare professional the most burdensome aspect of my anxiety is how it involves so much of my mental energy to be focused on myself. Many times I find this at odds with my ability to be empathetic. I believe one of my strengths and innate gifts is my ability to connect with people in a way that allows me to deeply understand who they are and their perspective but this is extremely difficult to do when I’m focused on all of my own flaws. There’s also a burden of guilt that comes with feeling that I am neglecting those that I’m leading and helping because I’m so focused on myself. Above all of this it’s really exhausting. Mentally. Not only does it prevent me from giving my attention to others but it physically drains me in a way that can make me feel too tired to be there for those who may need me.
In all that I do, be it leadership, ministry, or mental healthcare, self-care – maintaining my own health and happiness – is of the utmost importance. Which is why I’m addressing this problem first here on my blog, second with my therapist, and possibly third with medication. I really can’t afford to let my mental health issues affect my ability to fulfill my purpose and I want to give my very best to those who I lead and help, and most importantly, to myself.