The conversation: Don’t edit yourself.
In my teens, I began to experience intense anxiety and panic attacks. I would spend hours before I had to go somewhere hyperventilating. I avoided group activities at all costs. Caffeine, too much sugar, even certain smells could trigger an attack. It was a year before a doctor was able to find a medication that quelled the nausea and debilitating fear I felt each and every day. My mother cautioned me to not let anyone know what I was going through, to tell them I was just feeling sick, or tired, and to certainly NEVER tell anyone I was taking medication. This was before social media, before it was “okay” to talk about these things (let’s be real, we’ve still got a long way to go as a society in this aspect).
I lived like this for more than 10 years. I didn’t tell anyone except my closest friends, and even then I barely scratched the surface of what I was going through. I would date someone for months and then when they found out I took medication, they would hit me with one of these nuggets of wisdom: “why don’t you just not get so nervous?” “Just take a deep breath.” “Isn’t there like a tea or herbal supplement you can take? I think medication is a bit extreme.” Gee, thanks, that never occurred to me, thank you for your analysis.
One day I dropped the secrecy. I told someone on a first date what I was going through and we immediately bonded over our shared background and struggles. I realized in that moment I had been creating a second persona I could never maintain longterm. It wasn’t just about the anxiety or the medication. I’ve spent an enormous amount of my life calculating the right time to say something, or figuring out language to dance around what I really *wanted* to say. In doing so I’ve masked who I am and how I felt, all in order to maintain this image of who I thought I was supposed to be. It was exhausting.
You know that phrase “don’t frown, you never know who’s falling in love with your smile?” What if you don’t feel like smiling? What if someone is falling in love with your truth? You never know who else in the room is struggling with anxiety, an eating disorder, a breakup, addiction, or just a shitty day. Drop the persona. Drop the mask. That connection could better someone’s day, someone’s life. Don’t edit yourself.