Today's post is dedicated to my beautiful cousin who is also my sister, and best friend.
If one person could stand out from the rest with instantly building me up, it is Erica. Time spent with her includes laughing hysterically, sneaking baked goods from our Nanny's kitchen, and singing together while she plays the guitar.
We have many things in common. For one, we look alike, and we love raspberries and mashed potatoes. But the biggest thing we have in common..is that we both struggle with anxiety and depression.
When 2 people who are very close are both struggling with mental illness, it can be just as damaging as it is helpful. In general, it is helpful to have someone who understands, but it can be damaging to make that the focus. With us, nothing about our relationship is damaging. We talk a lot, support each other, and build each other up.
I remember one Summer on Martha's Vineyard, we were going for a walk and catching up on the unpleasant truth of the recent struggles in our lives. There were tears, there were rants, but at the end we decided we were going to do something from there. We made a mental health plan for that trip. We chose to go running into town and treat ourselves with nectarines instead of ice cream. We would frequently high-five each other and laugh about it. In all honesty, our exercise didn't last throughout the trip, but our optimism did.
We feel safer when we have each other.
Erica's anxiety is much different from mine. Our anxieties are different, but one isn't better or worse than the other. Anxiety in general is a pain in the ass. We both find our anxiety to be a major trigger in our depression.
Most of my anxiety is centered around social situations. Erica can sing in front of a full room of people, but her phobias are what get to her. Spiders, and the fear of throwing up (emetophobia) are examples of her triggers. When a person with an anxiety disorder has a severe phobia, it is as if the phobia is always traveling with them. The same way it is difficult to "turn off" anxious thoughts, it is difficult to distract your mind from a fear, even if it isn't within the present moment. Because of this, anxiety attacks are experienced. Your racing thoughts reach a breaking point and everything closes in on you.
The first time i had witnessed Erica have an anxiety attack was within a 10 hour car ride to Virginia. In the back seat she was crying and calling out for her dad, and was banging on the car window threatening to jump out of the car. At the time I didn't understand what she was feeling. I looked at the situation and tried not to laugh at the craziness that was occurring. Years later, when i started experiencing anxiety attacks myself, I looked back at the road trip and felt extreme guilt. I now understood what she had been feeling and it is not a feeling I wish on anyone.
At this point in our lives, she is a Junior and I am a Senior. She lives an hour away but i rarely see her. She makes my life worth living because our relationship is like a seesaw. We balance each other out, and we help each other to keep going. Though she is much taller than me, I am her older cousin and i know she looks up to me. In a situation where i doubt myself, or want to quit, i think of her. She helps me to keep going. I'm in this fight with her, and things may get rocky at times for us, but i have to keep on fighting with her. I can't get off this seesaw.
I love you Erica, and I thank you more than you know for the little things you do that make me so incredibly happy. Thank you for the therapeutic laughs. We have a lifetime of them to come, and a lifetime of anxiety's ass to kick.
Thank you for being a person who makes my life worth living for.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.