“Wow! It takes such strength to say what you said!”
I was dumbfounded. I didn’t understand. It wasn’t like I had to argue with myself, calm shaking hands, take a deep breath, before telling my coworkers I have anxiety. I just said the words.
It seems to have mattered more to my listeners than to me. My motivation, though, was honesty. And to be human.
Team building exercises are always going to be either awful or great. Ours started with separating us into pairs and then interviewing each other. The first question: “What makes you happy?”
Oh, shit. My immediate thought was, “Nothing.” At this time in my life, dealing with a constant low-grade anxiety, it takes a lot to feel wholly happy. But can’t bring others down, right? On the other hand, I didn’t want to lie.
So, seven coworkers and two team building coordinators all learned something new about me (my boss already knew). The team building coordinators told me I’d demonstrated the sort of trust and openness a good team needs and that it took strength to do so.
It takes strength to live with this shit. Strength to acknowledge that this may be the New Me—for a while or forever. And since I tend to tire of being stuck (my saving grace, that), I start looking for ways to feel good again, to move myself out of the bad. (Which previous blog posts have addressed.)
I don’t know that sharing my situation came from strength; I think it came from awareness. Awareness that I would not have managed as well had it not been for others sharing their journey. So I am sharing mine. Not because I am strong, but because I was helped by others. And I want to be someone who passes that help on.
Knowing so many of us have been down this rocky path, are even still on it, makes the trek through mental illness so much easier. We learn from each other and take comfort in knowing that this is actually normal.
I think in admitting something many do not want to talk about, the bar is set lower for everyone. We all need that. My coworkers need that. We are a department of eight really responsible, really conscientious women and one ditto man, and we push ourselves hard and worry about not being good enough.
Our team building day led us to an awareness that we both admire and really like each other. In the eyes of our coworkers, we’re great. We all need to remember that when our inner critic pipes up. It takes strength also to admit our personal greatness to others—and ourselves.
We all struggle with imagined fears. Reality is better than we think.