If you’re a teenager or have the pleasure of raising teens, you are probably well acquainted with the author John Green. I think my kids have read all of his books and I thoroughly enjoyed “Paper Towns” and “The Fault in our Stars“. His latest story is called “Turtles All the Way Down” and stars a character named Aza who suffers from OCD. It turns out that John was able to write this character so authentically because he has struggled with OCD for some time.
When I was looking for information about “Turtles”, I stumbled across this podcast called “The Hilarious World of Depression” and an episode featuring John Green. I love that he not only shared his story with adults on the podcast, but also put it out there in this vlogbrothers video below and on his Crash Course site for teens. For a teen or adult struggling outwardly or in silence, it can be incredibly powerful to know someone else understands and gets the crazy making that is anxiety. He also shares some resource links with ways to get help.
If you’re a fan of John or simply like stories about people figuring out how to live, survive and thrive with anxiety, check out the links and videos below!
Let me introduce you. Erin is a mother, friend, wife, sister, professional, expert crafter, champion of animals, professional, adventurer and all around cool lady. She also has had anxiety and panic for most of her life.
So, here’s the story. After enjoying a mostly panic free life for many years, Erin experienced debilitating panic attacks on a drive to Bethany Beach, Delaware last summer. She knew the drive would be a challenge, but the resurgence of panic left her reeling. It took the course of the following year from which to recover. Sure, she went to work, managed her family and kept up a normal life (because she’s strong like that), but inside she struggled with daily symptoms. After some counseling and a lot of work, a year later she made that same drive again. This time was filled with dread and panic, which showed up as expected, but she did not let scary symptoms get in her way. She made it all the way to the beach, got to enjoy vacation with her family and felt triumphant. If you have experience with panic, you know that this accomplishment was like completing an Ironman!
After the trip, she was posting beautiful pictures on Instagram and, as people were viewing and adding hearts, she realized she was just portraying one side of the story.
With a huge amount of courage, she wrote the following post and shared her story in hopes it would help someone else. Maybe that person is you! Here it is – posted with permission.
“Few people know this about me, but I have panic disorder. I was always a worried child, but when I turned 20 I started to have panic attacks. I had to leave college at that time to get back on my feet and ever since then I have struggled on and off with my anxiety. After I moved, I started avoiding going places because of fear of panic attacks. And my world got smaller and smaller. I have worked really hard to overcome this and have made huge strides. I was even in almost complete remission for about 4-5 years but then I had a big set back this past summer. So I am kind of starting over. It is a huge accomplishment that I made it here to this beach. I am immensely ashamed of my battle with this, but part of what holds the anxiety to me so intensely is this shame. So I am sharing now and may share more as I keep challenging myself. I hope it is in some way helpful to someone if I share my story. I made it to Bethany Beach, Delaware and didn’t think I could. I am overjoyed that I got to make some more sweet memories with my boys. Thanks for reading.”
Check out the inspirational & incredible story of Katie Crafts who not only bought herself a ticket to Antarctica for her 30th birthday, but then took on the hard work of learning essential skills to make her dreams a reality. (30 minute listen)
Not many of us set out to face our fears buy riding a horse over 350 miles through snow covered mountains & grizzly bear country. But that’s exactly what Kat Cannell did. Here’s the story of her grand adventure and how she was able to find self acceptance along the journey. (30 minute listen)
Most of the time we don’t think of anxious people being big adventurers. Media images tell us that agoraphobics stay close to home. People with panic disorder tend to have day jobs with a high degree of control and predictability, right?
Well, these three anxiety superheroes shake up stereotypes and have found a way to be both anxious and adventurous in the world.
*Tim Cahill – founding editor of “Outside Magazine” – has traveled all around the world, set a world record for driving from Southern Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in just 23 days, has climbed up El Cap on a single rope, almost died while white water rafting through the Grand Canyon and has also dealt with panic disorder. Check out his story here or in his book, “Hold the Enlightenment“.
*Lauren Juliff – author of the travel blog, “Never Ending Footsteps” bought a one way ticket to Croatia in spite of an anxiety disorder so debilitating that at times she didn’t leave the house for months. Lauren has continued to travel all around the world, journaling her missteps and crazy adventures, while also dealing with panic and anxiety that pop up from time to time. You can read more about her travel and anxiety here.
*Tara Lepore – paleontologist, writer, world traveler, self proclaimed geek and anxiety superhero. Check out her anxiety story and how she faced her fears by climbing to the tippy top of St. Peter’s Basilica!
Are you an anxiety superhero that packs anxiety along for the ride instead of staying home? I’d love to hear about your adventures! And here’s a trio of posts I did a few years back about my travels to St. John – part one,two and three.
Ok, so the screen grab is kinda crazy, but this video is so powerful! Watch as Steven Hayes, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy psychologist and researcher, tells the story of his journey into and through panic disorder.
Today I’d like to highlight Anxiety Superhero Erin Craig. Check out this BBC video of Erin taking on Scuba Diving certification! I love how she talks about not letting her panic disorder get in the way of trying something challenging and way out of her comfort zone. But also be sure to read the post which describes her experiences with travel and anxiety and how she found herself in Thailand in a scuba suit in the first place. Go Erin!
Check out Aimee from the blog “The Reality of Anxiety” as she makes her online TV debut. Aimee shares her experiences with social anxiety disorder, the symptoms and what’s helped her to this point. Way to go Aimee!
After planes, taxi’s & ferry boats, we arrived in the sleepy, little island of St. John and made our way to the Maho Bay Campgrounds where we stayed for a whole week. Now, some of my girlfriends laughed when I told them we stayed in a tent cabin, had to walk to the common bathhouse and fill water jugs every day. But, they have no idea what they were missing. There’s something to be said for simplicity and being so close to nature.
I gotta tell you, every anxious moment was worthwhile when I walked into our tent cabin & realized that we could sit up in bed & see the Caribbean ocean. Seriously – right from our beds!
During our vacation, we learned how to snorkel & saw the most vibrantly colored fish. It was like putting your face into a salt water aquarium. The first day we tried snorkeling, I felt a little tense, a bit nervous and then I remembered — it’s normal to feel nervous when you’re trying something new. Oh yeah. OK, let’s jump in then. On our snorkeling adventures we had the exciting pleasure of swimming with a few big & stripey barracuda, a big orange starfish, a friendly sea turtle, and a few nurse sharks. We met the most amazing people along the way and spent time in engaging conversation during breakfast and dinner each day, overlooking the Caribbean & British virgin islands from the dining pavilion. Our first full day there, we spontaneously decided to take a sunset sail with a couple we met at breakfast. There was also lots of time for hiking, napping, and for you parents out there – we were able to complete FULL sentences. We saw iguana’s & lizards in all shapes & sizes, ate delicious food prepared graciously for us all week long, sipped a variety of rum drinks here & there, and felt the weight of responsibility slide away for a while. Every night, we fell asleep to the sound of the ocean lapping gently at the shore; to doves who sang. all. night. long.; to singing frogs; and, most nights, a nighttime rain storm.
I did have moments of real anxiety during the vacation; nights were I felt on the verge of panic going to sleep, feeling very far away from my 3 precious children; creating images of a plane taking off & feeling dread that the only way home was through the air; and times where I just had an underlying feeling of tension. But you know what? I was able to handle those moments when they came up & I still had a fantastic time. Reid Wilson quotes Helen Keller at the end of his “Facing Panic” book & it stayed with me the entire trip & even back home. She said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
The real truth for me is that anxiety is uncomfortable, it feels like something terrible is going to happen, but it’s not dangerous. On the trip I remembered a poignant moment when I was pregnant with my 3rd baby. I had a particularly intense panic attack the night before (intense for me, but my husband said that from the outside I just looked a little tense). After tossing & turning & having trouble falling asleep, I finally drifted off. The next day was one of those amazingly gorgeous January days where it almost felt like spring. I was working in the yard outside & looking up at the clouds, feeling the breeze across my hair & face, and it hit me – for as bad as I felt the night before, nothing bad had happened. It didn’t last forever; I didn’t go crazy; my panic was barely visible to the person I’m closest to; I was still able to fold laundry & talk during this attack which I perceived as intense; and, here I was standing in my back yard gazing at the clouds and almost forgetting that it had occurred. Huh.
I can’t believe how many weeks it’s been now since we came back home. If I didn’t have the pictures, it might feel like a lovely dream. If you’re considering an adventure, something that you know is safe, but scares you a little, why not try? People with anxiety disorders have a hidden well of courage they rarely acknowledge.
When you think about it, what amazing things have happened for you when you’ve been able to live a life of daring adventure?