My Personal Story: That Voice in My Head
By Michelle Pedzich
In a powerful recent blog post on FLX Women, called “Choosing Authenticity Instead of Comparison: Quieting the Inner Critic”, Kristen Fragnoli writes about how if we don’t talk about our self-critical thoughts, called the “inner critic, gremlin, saboteur, or negative voice”, we let these thoughts win and this in turn can have a big impact on our lives. But what happens when you can’t silence those voices in your head and the negative thoughts win? When small things become big things and you know that you are being ridiculous and you hate every minute of it but can’t turn your brain off? This is what living with anxiety feels like.
It also feels like this: It’s 9pm and I am stretched out in bed. I begin to overthink and over analyze every little thing that has happened to me during the day. My body feels exhausted but my mind is wide awake and I can’t shut it off. I get lost inside my mind. My heart starts racing. My heart feels like it is beating out of my chest and it occasionally flip flops and flutters. My face starts to feel warm, I am sure my left arm is tingling, and I am starting to sweat. My breathing changes. For a brief moment, I understand that this is my generalized anxiety disorder kicking in, then I think “what if it is not? What if I am having an actual heart attack this time?” My brain tells me that this is not anxiety, it is something much worse. The signs of a heart attack are shortness of breath, tingling sensation in your left arm, and heart palpitations, right? Should I wake my husband up? What if I stop breathing, will he notice? I tell myself if I go to the emergency room again and it is just anxiety, I will be so embarrassed. That voice inside my head says just try to go to sleep and if it really is a heart attack, things will get worse. My brain is racing. If I don’t get some sleep, getting up tomorrow and getting to work on time will be tough. Maybe I should just lay in bad all day tomorrow. I really want to sleep. Please let me fall asleep. I finally pass out in exhaustion, covered in cold sweat.
Sounds terrible, and it is. Sometimes our own resilience can be tested when dealing with a mental health issue. But I am lucky. I am lucky that I have a good medical provider that was kind to me and let me know that I do not have to live this way. I am lucky that the meds I am on are working well. I am lucky that I have a strong support system both at home and at work where I can talk openly. In fact, I had a conversation with a co-worker recently where I was very open about my struggles with anxiety. He then shared this with his wife, who was astonished. She was struggling with anxiety too, and was shocked to find out that I did as well, since I seem to always be “so pulled together.” She decided that she was going to seek some help too. When I thought about this later that day, I cried.
This is why I share my story. I know that I am not alone and you are not alone either. For me, sharing my personal story allows me to take back control. There is power for me in letting my anxiety know that although it feels incredibly real, I am calling BS. I am letting the voice in my head speak, but I set the ground rules. I try to listen to all of its worries and irrational concerns and then let them go. I tell this voice that I will not stress over the things I can’t control. I tell this voice not to race to the worst possible conclusion. I tell this voice that I don’t believe the things it tells me late at night. I try and quiet my mind by slowly breathing in and out, over and over. Then, I fall soundly asleep. Until the next time.
Michelle lives in Canandaigua, NY with her husband Keith and daughter Sophie. She is Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company. Michelle is an active member of the Canandaigua community and serves on the Canandaigua City School District Board and serves as a Director on the Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce Board. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, mentoring young professionals, and spending time with her family.