When you meet Carly of Carly is Inspired, you will immediately find her to be bright, enthusiastic, and kind. What might surprise you is her struggle is one that many people hide and can’t talk about openly. It is all the more reason why we are thrilled that she wanted to share her raw story. During her interview, Carly told us how she chooses joy every day. Read below to find out how she won’t let Anxiety and Panic Disorder stop her from living a joyful life.
“I believe people can change, but I also believe some of our biggest beliefs and habits remain anchored beneath the surface, tied to our souls forever. They may fade and partially slip away leaving us feeling as though we are different. But, they are still there lurking in the shadows and reappearing every so often. I believe this because it describes me.When I was in middle school, I was reading a teen magazine one night before I went to sleep. I was reading an article about teen girls and drug use, and I suddenly became unable to breathe. The only thing I had the forethought to do was to begin pacing in my room. I had never been exposed to drugs and knew it was never a lifestyle in which I would partake; yet I couldn’t breathe and became convinced I was about to die. I was experiencing my very first panic attack.
That night in middle school began my journey of self-awareness. Over the following days, weeks, months, and years, I met with a psychologist sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly, and sometimes monthly. I learned I had an inability to always think rationally. Together with my mind, a thought became a worry, which turned into an obsession I could not escape no matter hard I tried. I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder.
My psychologist would applaud my efforts to fight against my disorder. While I sometimes looked forward to our meetings in which I could talk openly and be comforted by the fact that I was talking to a professional rather than my parents who I would sometimes scare, most times I loathed our time together. I often felt that I had stopped irrationally worrying about something only to leave our meeting thinking the same thoughts because I had talked about them again.
I fiercely believed I could fight against anxiety and panic. I believed if I fought hard enough, if I just tried harder, I would one day break through and be just like my friends again. Though only a handful of people knew I was fighting a battle because I continued to smile, there were days where I fought against myself to keep going. There were moments I became jealous of my friends and peers because they didn’t appear to be struggling. There were vacations where perfection and a fear of anxiety and panic played a more prominent role than simply enjoying my time away.
Just as I was about to start college, I told my mom I was tired of fighting. I wanted to be truly happy and not constantly consumed by anxiety and panic. I met with our primary doctor to talk about further treatment options, and he told me the very best thing in passing. My doctor told me I would never win against anxiety and panic disorder, which had always been my greatest goal. Instead, he said it will live within me but I will learn how to live in spite of it.
On the surface, these words may seem harsh. But they were the greatest words anyone had spoken to me. They were honest, and I realized I had been fighting a battle for years that I would never win. I was trying to seek perfection and rely on strength, but instead I needed to give myself grace. And so I did.
Change is difficult; I have to diligently toss perfection aside; situations I cannot control overwhelm me; I still have this disorder and I always will. But I have learned that an anxious moment or a panic attack do not amount to a day that is not worth living. Anxiety and panic do not make me less; they do not define me, but they have redefined who I am down to my core.
I am fierce and sensitive. I am highly self-aware and strong willed. My smile is authentic and genuine because I choose joy on a daily basis. I have fought to have this feeling openly, freely, and often without thought.
I vow to live in spite of anxiety and panic, to give myself grace when either again infiltrate my mind and being and threaten to prevent me from living a full life. For these reasons, I am proud and grateful to live my most authentic life and to spread a message of self-love and self-worth, hope, and resilience. I have grown and changed throughout my journey, and I will continue to evolve with anxiety and panic tethered to my core. But because of both, I have learned who I am.”
Carly Totten is the owner and founder of Carly Is Inspired. Carly is a blogger, wedding planner and blogger extraordinaire. She lives in Bucks County, PA.