Wendy Robbins is the Author of the just launched book "The Box - An Invitation to Freedom From Anxiety" Available on Amazon. She has guest posted today to share with you her journey with mental health and how she's found healing and is now sharing that with you in her book.
In Wendy's own words below about her personal journey - THANK YOU Wendy for sharing!
I had my first panic attack when I was six years old. My parents blamed my symptoms on the MSG in the Chinese food we had for dinner. I remember my dad taking me outside on that bone-chilling, winter night and we walked around the block until it ended. We stood under each street light and held our breath together for 5 seconds. I grew up in a volatile home. My mother suffered from untreated mental illness, so my fight-or-flight response was over-stimulated all the time. We got a new refrigerator one summer and my parents put the box in the living room for the kids to play in and I was the only one who took the bait. I had that box all to myself. Sitting in there I could still hear the muffled sounds of screaming… and dishes breaking... but for me, it was the safest place in the world because I knew only me and God could fit.
When we moved that fall, I took that box with me. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. As I grew and my anxiety intensified, I reinforced those walls to protect myself from anything that would trigger it. Through the years, I decorated the outside of my box, in an effort to hide what was unraveling inside. I developed eating disorders, excessive exercise regimens and destructive perfectionism, all the while fooling myself into believing that the better I looked and performed the better I could hide my mental illness.
My box created a very false sense of security and a very real sense of isolation pushing me into depressions and dissociative episodes that lasted for months at times. I earned an athletic scholarship to Dartmouth and by sophomore year was calling a suicide hotline from my dorm room. I graduated law school using food and alcohol to buffer against the debilitating downward spiral, all the while hiding this dark secret and watching it grow darker because it felt ignored and unloved. When I thought I had it all, the career, the husband, the house and even the golden retriever, the panic became unbearable and I hit rock bottom. The limitations I had placed on my life, both physically and mentally, were literally suffocating me.
My life had been all about creating that box to keep me safe, but it was then that I realized it had become a prison. My anxiety was so all-consuming that I couldn’t find my way out. So I justified the box and got as comfortable as I could in there. I accommodated my anxiety at every turn just to function and lightly medicated when necessary. It was almost a decade later when I became more afraid of not living than I was of dying. Living an unexamined and unfulfilled life suddenly felt like a death sentence. So I was faced with the biggest choice of my life. I could stay in that box, completely limited in every way and controlled by my mental illness. Or I could try to find my way out.
I asked myself, “Will I regret my decision if I stay? Do I have the courage to endure the pain and panic I may uncover? Is it worth the pain and vulnerability of facing my greatest fears on that journey? Is it worth risking every ounce of comfort, safety, and security I have in my box, real or imagined, with no certainty of the outcome? And the answer was yes.
I went back to find that little girl in the box to understand the source of my anxiety and find the power to overcome it. I retraced steps to find open wounds and heal them. I exposed myself to things I said I would never do to trigger my panic and live through it, extinguishing my fear of it. And I wrote. I wrote it all down to make sense of it all. And The Box was born. It chronicles the building of the box as child and then moves to living in the box with all of its limitations. Then the path turns to how I found my way out and what my life looks like now, outside of the box, living not only beyond my diagnosis, but beyond my wildest dreams.