World Mental Health Day Is a Day of Education and a Celebration of Life – My Struggle With Anxiety
Today is World Mental Health Day. Like many of you, I too have suffered from mental illness. It's ok, don't be ashamed. We have all had our moments of insanity. Mine isn't what you might think. And how and when I overcame it, is uniquely ME! :-)
I was 40 years old, going through a divorce and standing at the edge of the cliff of life...scared to death.
From the time I was 5 years old I was a dancer. Yearly recitals would put me on stage in front of hundreds of people. In high school and college I studied theatre and performed in several productions. I was ALWAYS the little performer. The one thing I couldn't do was sing in front of anyone. Scared me to death! I would sing alone in my room with my radio, but NEVER in public!
My days on stage came to an end when I married in my mid twenties and became a mother to a beautiful baby girl. Soon after the birth of my daughter, a feeling that had plagued me even in childhood turned into a severe case of anxiety disorder. I'm talking 23hrs of dread and fear a day. It was debilitating. I was afraid to leave my home, much less EVER perform on stage again. No one around me knew how bad I was suffering. I could hide it very well. I was an actress after all! ;-) I was so good at hiding it, during that time, I taught high school children about life through drama and helped start a theatre company for their parents and others in the community. My anxiety was like a vice grip on my life that I hid until my mid thirties. But, I finally decided to take control of my life by dealing with and throwing away past baggage. Dealing with being sexually molested in grade school and getting therapy on how my body deals with stress, I came out the other side healthier and better.
At 40, I felt stronger than ever! My theatre company was holding auditions for the musical, Chicago. I saw the musical as an opportunity to overcome my long standing fears. It also meant a chance for me to leave my old life behind with a BANG!!! So, I DID IT! The director gave me the role of Velma Kelly! What? She was the lead!!! I couldn't do that! Or could I? YES! I could! Perfect!
Opening night, backstage before the show, I was nervous and shaking. I wanted to run but running meant going back to my former life. And THAT was out of the question. So, I took a deep breath and walked up the steps of the set, stood behind the curtain ready to make my entrance. As I heard my cue and stepped out into the spotlight, it was at that moment, I owned the night...I owned my life.
At almost 50, I feel stronger than ever. The last ten years have given me continued strength mixed with challenges. But, all in all, I just take life one day at a time, focus on the positive and love the life I'm living. <3