I've written this blog, this post, this story more times then I can count. Today will be the first time that it will be shared.
I used to say I was an anxious person, though that’s not exactly accurate. I was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, among other things at 19, after spending a year or more doing MRI’s and cat scans. I wondered if I had a brain tumor, I wore a heart monitor because my heart palpitations were so strong. I was frustrated, exhausted, scared to drive a car because my vision was always blurry, and I always had a headache. My Mom finally took me to her PCP, who happened to also grow up in my father’s group of friends. He looked at the stacks of test results from specialists. Then he looked me in the eye and said “Franki you are having panic attacks and you have an anxiety disorder. It runs on both sides of your family and since you’ve been medically cleared by everyone in the county, I am confident this is the explanation.”
I was relieved at first. It was comforting to have a name for my troubles. Yet, it turns out anxiety is a b*tch and not as easy to treat as an ear infection or a common cold. I tried therapists, who I’m sure were great, they just didn’t fit my particular needs. I tried many medication regimens but either I was a zombie or nauseous. I blamed myself and thought I was weak and defective, while wishing I could be strong and brave. There were good days, and good months and mercifully mostly good years. At least I thought they were good at the time, as good as it would get.
Many years later, I was drawn to kids who were so much like, the younger, me. Their anxiety often came out as whining, they were needy, and some adults thought they misbehaved or were rude and bossy. I didn’t. I knew they were amazing and fighting an inward battle daily if not minute-by-minute.
When my anxiety was bad, I cried and wondered why it had to happen to me, why some days everything was harder than it should be. I slowly realized it gave me a special gift. Having this firsthand experience led me to a fascinating, fulfilling and interesting career. I often thought if I hadn’t lived this life and this struggle, I couldn’t really do what I do, the way I do it.
More years later, one of my children started to have similar struggles. Things have improved so much since the 90’s and finding a medication and therapy regimen that fit still wasn’t quick or easy, but it was so much more attainable than I had imagined. After all I had seen my students, campers and clients feel better.
This motivated me to stop accepting my “goodish” days and I tried new meds and therapy. This changed my life in a way I had truly thought wasn’t possible for me. I now don’t see myself as an anxious person. I see myself as so many things one of which includes a person living with an anxiety disorder that is very well under control, a fact that I am thankful for every day.
More clearly than ever I see the gift that this disorder has given me, though I still think anxiety is a b*tch. This is perhaps the biggest "why" that brought me here. I want to help as many people as I can feel their best, not just as good as it gets--sooner and more often. Whether it’s directly or by helping their educators, camp staff and parents understand differences in our brains and in our hearts.
When I create a new product, like these calming cards I launched this week, I wonder how things may have been easier for me if something like this had existed. We live in an amazing time when the competition is fierce on Etsy to sell mental health products. This is the just the beginning of the story I’ve been trying to tell. I figured if my kids know that mental health needs are nothing to be ashamed of and they agreed to share some of their stories in my writing then I could do the same.