16 September 2017
Guest Post! Molli Moran - Putting Together the Pieces of Me
***As many Saturdays as possible, you'll see posts from people regarding their own experiences with their mental health. Use #BreaktheStigma on Twitter to share yours!***
Trigger warning: this piece contains mentions of living with anxiety and panic attacks. Please read only if you are comfortable.
I’m in high school and I’ve turned down an invitation to a party because of what could happen. Later, I wish I’d gone.
I’m a young adult and I’ve talked myself out of taking a risk because I don’t believe I can, because of all the worst-case situations that could spring out of it.
I’m working my first job and breaking under the stress of the position I’ve been put in and the lack of support. I can't breathe in the bathroom at my job—but to me, this seems normal.
One of my best friends invites me to a gathering at her house. I back out at the last minute because I’m overcome with nerves at the thought of going and my nails are chewed almost to the quick.
My family is fighting; I’m crying and can’t catch my breath, no matter how hard I try. This happens often when they fight.
It takes until I’m almost 30 to begin to connect the dots between all these events. It takes joining the YA community on Twitter and listening to important conversations about mental illness. It takes hearing the word “anxiety” and—for the first time—linking it to myself as something other than a what-if.
Looking back on my life before I realized that I have anxiety is like finally grasping the missing pieces in the puzzle that I’ve long considered my behaviors, thoughts, and motivations. Even as I told myself, “Everyone thinks this way,” or “Sudden changes in plans throw everyone for a loop,” or “Everyone has worst-case scenarios for everything playing on repeat in the back of their mind,” I knew I was trying to rationalize something that never fit.
As I grew up, I didn’t realize that all the things about myself I didn’t understand were anxiety-related—from triggers to panic attacks to anxiety spirals—because no one around me ever discussed mental illness. In the South, we don't talk about it. (We don’t talk about mental health enough at all, but especially not in the South.) We might dance around it, brush off, or only know about harmful stereotypes. But it’s rare for people here to openly discuss mental health in order to break stereotypes and diminish the stigmas around it and around getting help.
Thankfully, that’s changing slowly. At times, it’s frustrating to no end to have to wonder who will take me seriously when I talk about my anxiety or when the topic of medication or self-care comes up. But I keep going. I keep talking about my anxiety without shame or hesitation.
I always will.
For the most part, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had family and friends sit and listen and offer their support. I’ve had a few conversations where people meant well but still said unintentionally harmful things. And I’ve had those discussions where I’ve encountered ableist and hurtful language and stereotypes, and I’ve done my part to teach and counter those with information and patience.
Now that I’ve begun to understand myself and my mental health better, I want to help others. I want to reach a hand back for anyone who hasn’t put together the puzzle pieces of themselves, and let them know that I’m here to support and uplift them. To break the stigmas together until mental health is something we all talk about (if we’re able to) and normalize those discussions.
About the author
Molli Moran was born and raised in the middle of nowhere, Tennessee, and brings a love of all things small-town to her . She grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds, and not much has changed since then. Molli found her own happily-ever-after on the West Coast. Give her Kay and coffee, and you’ve never seen a happier person. Other things she loves include road trips, the ocean, and Captain America. She’s a personal shopper during the day and a romance writer at night, and firmly believes that all books should have a happy ending. Molli writes about girls who are chasing down their own HEA.