my war with anxiety

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if you’ve been a reader for a while or an in-person friend or in my family or married to me, then you may know that i struggle with anxiety. if you’re just reading…hello, i’m chelsea and i have an incredibly anxious mind, nice to meet you.

i usually attempt to make light of it and for the past few years have done a pretty good job having it under control but if you are my husband or immediate family, then you know how challenging it can be for me.

for instance, i missed out on a trip my grandma offered to take me on to paris when i was 14 because of anxiety. on the monday i got my very first car, i ended up staying home from high school because of the anxiety i felt imagining driving it to school for the first time. i didn’t study abroad in college when i had the chance because of anxiety. i once canceled a job interview because the nerves were too much. those are just a few example of bigger things of the times i lost the war against anxiety.

on a smaller level, i have anxiety picking out what breakfast to eat each morning. sometimes my OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) creeps out and i have to turn the shower off just a right way, or move my toes a certain way or touch that exact spot on that exact chair just exactly. my friendships, relationships and marriage are all affected by anxiety and no one knows that better than my husband. it’s an exhausting, embarrassing and debilitating battle.

i had a very hard time when i moved away from colorado, my home for 22 years, so i could get my masters degree in portland 4 years ago. i sought out counseling because it was affecting my relationships with my then fiance (now, thankfully he’s my husband). it was helpful. i continued to stay on my medication that i had been on since 15.

about 2 years later i felt like i was finally winning over anxiety, the grip loosening- it didn’t always feel like it was strangling me. i wanted to know how i would feel, what i might be like if i got off the medication that had been a part of my chemical make-up for 7 years.

i saw a therapist and a doctor and slowly worked my way down to lower dosages and finally got off it completely. it’s easy to write that sentence but in no way was it easy. i put my husband through a lot during this time and it was incredibly hard for both of us. of course i’ve had my ups and downs, good days and bad days and small attacks to panic attacks since then. i still haven’t taken any medication for anxiety for over 2 years.

fast forward to the quick move we made 2 months ago from the city we made our home, portland, oregon- to the 4th largest city in the country-houston, texas. from living downtown in a rainy city that embraced being ‘green,’ a plethora of coffee shops and brunch joints (pretty much spot on as “portlandia”) to a muggy, ‘no we don’t recycle that’ suburb of texas.

we went from both working at separate non-profits to starting a business together. we are about to embark on some serious traveling for the next 6 months and in case i forgot to mention…traveling gives me…you get one guess…ANXIETY! while we have had a ton of fun here, it’s amazing to be close to my in-laws and it’s definitely the right move for where we are at in our lives…it has definitely stirred up the calm in my mind that had taken me years to carefully construct.

it’s starting to negatively affect my marriage (while i can sure appreciate that this anxious brain of mine kept my ancestors alive many years ago to run away from everything…not too much good comes from anxiety nowadays) and it’s negatively affecting my quality of life. i obviously have to get it back under my control again because it’s exhausting and we alllll know that i don’t function well (if at all) when i’m exhausted.

like i previously said, we started our own business so we have to insure ourselves. i called our insurance company, blue cross blue shield of texas, to see how much a co-pay would be to start seeing a therapist again and here’s how the conversation went:

me: hi, here’s all my insurance info blah blah blah…how much would a co-pay be to see a therapist?

insurance: oh, you don’t have any mental health coverage.

me: um, that’s not good. how much will it be to add that to our plan?

insurance: oh, you can’t do that.

me: yeah, i’m pretty sure i can, i just change plans or you increase what i pay each month so i can have this pretty necessary coverage.

insurance: yeah, the state of texas doesn’t allow individual insurance plans to have mental health coverage.

me: *silence*

insurance: ma’am, are you there?

me: yeah, i’m here. thankfully i am here. thankfully my mental health issue isn’t so life threatening that if i don’t see someone right away my life won’t end. thankfully. mental health seems like a pretty basic and essential thing to cover.

insurance: i’m sorry ma’am. once you reach $2,000 then we can start covering it but in the mean time there is no coverage for someone in your situation.

me: (i take a deep breath and choke back tears) i apologize because it is not your fault. you did not create these rules-you are simply letting me know my coverage. i’m going to go. thank you for your time. *click.

then i cried. a lot. i cried because it took so much out of me to pick up the phone and have that conversation with anyone in the first place. i cried because i just want to function close to ‘normally’ again and not lose it every other day/hour/minute. i cried because if someone who was suicidal just had that same conversation and learned they had no benefits to cover what i assumed would be basic coverage, i can’t even imagine how hopeless they might feel because i know i did. i cried because of the stupid stigma attached to mental health even though 1 in 4 adults in the united states have a diagnosable mental disorder. how privileged i have been during the rest of my life to always have affordable access to mental health care.

i eventually pulled myself together enough to tell my husband about this ridiculous finding and he said “it doesn’t matter. that’s what we have savings for. if it costs $150 or $500, it doesn’t matter. your happiness and wellbeing mean more than anything to me.” yeah, he’s a pretty great guy. yeah, i cried some more. so i start the process of going to war against my anxiety by seeing someone tomorrow and even though we have to dip into our savings to do this, he’s right…my happiness and wellbeing are important to me too.

i wanted to write openly and candidly about my war with anxiety because i know people may be struggling with similar things and i want you to know that you aren’t alone. i would also encourage you to seek out resources and don’t keep it bottled up because you also deserve to be happy and healthy. i don’t know about you, but i’m willing to go to battle for my own happiness.

the new wifestyle: your wellbeing often affects more than just yourself. it’s important to get the help you need in order to be a healthy participant in the best life and marriage you can be.

**if you found this post helpful or know someone who might be able to benefit from this, please feel free to share it.**

read one of the follow-up posts HERE, where my husband shares his view point of “our anxiety.”

another article and update now that we’ve moved back to portland and how it’s still affecting our marriage 2 years later is HERE.


  1. Kim Daniel

    August 14, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Girl you are SO not alone!!! I’m 6 weeks off my meds and am starting to feel like a human again! Still have those days of “why can’t I be normal” and oh man does it affect those around you!! Thanks for writing about it and good for you for calling someone!

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      thanks for letting me know i’m not alone kim-i really appreciate that! glad to hear you are starting to feel normal again-takes a while to get those out of the system-that’s part of my hesitation to go back on them! i hope you are doing well and thanks for sharing on here 🙂

  2. Holly Duckworth

    August 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Chelsea, I’ve been a reader of your blog for a short while. I LOVE it!! Thanks for your authenticity, your courage and your commitment to self love. You are an inspiration to many, Have you tried meditation? I’m an ADD/ADHD overachiever that found meditation a few years back and it truly has changed my life. Oprah & Deepock have a free 21 day program going right now that has a 15 minute meditation each day. You might want to play with the idea. Please let me know how I can support you.. and don’t let the US medical system stand in your way.

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm

      holly, thank you so much for reading and i’m glad you are enjoying it! i have not (fully) tried meditation but i think you could be on to something. i think i’ll look into the program you mentioned! i am so happy that you have found it helped with your ADD/ADHD. i did acupuncture for a while back in portland and that really helped with setting my balance right-LOVED that! thanks for your support-i truly appreciate it!

      • Victor

        November 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        Hi Chelsea! First, thank you for sharing these thoughts and feelings with us. You are not alone! And you are very brave and worth of tremendous admiration. I am glad you have Ryan next to you to help along the way.

        I second Holly’s suggestion of meditation. It has helped me tremendously with different aspects of my life. Meditations is very simple but it can be challenging. There is much more to meditation than sitting still, and there are many ways to meditate.

        Also, you may want to look into the nutritional aspects of anxiety. Often I read of preservatives and food dyes that affect people in different ways. It would not surprise me if some of the chemicals in the food may affect the severity of anxiety attacks. The only way to begin to tell is to keep a food/anxiety diary. Over time you may be able to discern a trend.

        I wish you well and will keep you in my thoughts.

  3. Donni Krier

    August 14, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Thank you for writing so openly and honestly. I have a daily struggle with anxiety as well and am soon hoping to reduce/eliminate my meds. You are amazing and awesome, just remember that and take it one day (or one minute/one hour) at a time. Good luck with everything <3

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      thank you also for writing openly and honestly donni-it truly helps to know i’m not the only one who struggles with this! i hope it goes well with reducing/eliminating meds-seeing someone through that process really helped me. also appreciate what you say about needing it sometimes even take it 1 minute at a time…sounds like we both know that sometimes it comes to that! thanks for your comment donni

  4. Claire A.

    August 14, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Chelsea, thanks for sharing. Your story is so valuable, and you are brave for putting it out there. There needs to be a change nationally and internationally about healthcare practice meaning whole health. MI, CBT, DBT tells me there isn’t anything else to say, other than thanks for asking for help, thank you for starting this important conversation.

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      i appreciate your kind words and support claire! i was feeling very anxious (obviously) about putting it all out there so thanks for your kindness and encouragement. totally agree that there needs to be a whole shift about meaning of whole health. thank you for bringing this up because i think we are doing a disservice by not treating the whole mind/body.

  5. Heather Hawkins

    August 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I am among the 2% diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder in the entire world. 2% is flippin lonely and its also hard to treat because people turned me to medicine first, therapy if they had time and money. DID, however, isn’t treatable with medicine at all. Because of the way the American health system works currently, doctors found throwing meds at me to be a far cheaper option and easier for a general practice physician to treat with when I didn’t have mental health insurance.

    I agree with you, your health and well-being is the most important thing in the world. My world changed when I had Miss Aiden and I decided my number one goal was to be “whole” for her. I worked for years to do it. Through my pregnancy, through her first year, and was doing great until we found out she had cancer. That kind of stress USED to make me divide, but because I knew I needed her and she needed me, I just worked on it. I can happily say I have divided since she was 1 and a half, May 2010.

    Sometimes we back track, sometimes we break, but we can always become whole again with loving people and determination.

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      wow heather, thank you so much for being so open and honest about your struggles with DID. i cannot imagine how tough it must be for you but it sounds like you have worked incredibly hard on yourself so you can be the best for yourself and your daughter.

      like claire said a few comments up-there has to be a change in western medicine because throwing medication at mental health and sickness are really only a bandage approach-it’s not taking care of the WHOLE person. i am so happy to hear you feel more in control and are able to handle stress (i cannot even fathom how you felt when you found out she had cancer-wow). “we can always become whole again” love that. thank you for sharing heather-you are a strong woman!

  6. david1levy

    August 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I teared up when I read this. I’m glad you’re getting help.

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      me too david. thank you for your comment

  7. Brandi

    August 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    So proud of you for telling your story so honestly and wide open! I saw my self in so much of your story. (except for Oregon treats people so much better than Texas, insurance wise at least) I was recently diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder after suffering and fighting it for so many years in pain and misery. While I knew something was not right, I couldn’t bring myself to see a doctor or therapist because of the mental illness stigma that plagues this country. Finally, when I could do it alone no longer I mustered up the courage to get help from my personal physician. Now with the help of Celexa at just $4.00 per month I’m a new person! I’m enjoying every single moment, every single day and I’m no longer afraid. Thanks for bringing to light this must be talked about illness of anxiety!

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      i appreciate you being candid and open about your recent experience too brandi! i am so sorry that you suffered for many years in pain and misery but so HAPPY that you sought help and are feeling like a new person! that honestly makes me so happy for you and i’m glad you’re no longer afraid and loving every single moment today. thanks for your support brandi 🙂

  8. Brian Paxton

    August 14, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Chelsea – you are one brave soul and as evidences by the comments above. Sharing from your heart like this is exactly what will help your blog grow, and of course the content is something we can “all” relate to, directly or indirectly. You will find care in Texas, it may just look different than you’re accustomed to, and you may have to search high and low for the right fit.. Thanks for sharing this story.. I’m not sure if this is of much help, perhaps you’ve already looked into it, but it seems that the Texas Dept. of Insurance may be able to steer you in the right direction:

    Best of luck – look forward to hearing some positive updates..

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      thanks for reading and commenting brain and you are right-i’m finding what i need it’s just a little bit tougher here and with our situation but by no means impossible. thanks for the link-i will look into it! i appreciate your nice words and thanks for commenting!

  9. Paula Howley

    August 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    What? No questions???? Do you know how mad that makes me? lol!
    Chelsea, I think the world of you and now I think the world and the stars of you. I can only imagine that phone call and how difficult it was to keep it together- kudos for not taking it out on that lady- not sure I would have been able to pull that off.
    I”m so sorry you have to deal with the bureacracy crap on top of everything but I sure am glad you have a kickass husband.

    A family life practitioner told me that anxiety and anger are two sides of the same coin. I have the anger thing. I’ve often wondered if I needed meds too- no word of a lie. I have OCD too. Geez Chels, we’re so alike it’s getting creepy. lol

    Time and hard work do make things better. I really think the meditation would help you too Chelsea. I know my days are less angry when I take some time for prayer and meditation.

    Put it out there that you are going to get better and better. You are. You are such an amazing young woman. I am so proud of you and I would be thrilled if my little girl grew up to be JUST LIKE YOU.
    Lots of love and a big hug from BC.

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      paula! why you gotta make me cry more by one of the nicest things that has been said to me about your little girl growing up to be like me. shoooooot. i do not wish anxiety upon her but thank you for such an amazing compliment. i know, i toyed with a few questions but the best i had was “do you ever just want to lock yourself away for months at a time?” and “what dosage of meds have you taken?” so i opted for none 🙂

      and wow we really are alike-OCD buddies! i think i will have to try meditation. thank you honestly for your kindness, support and hugs from BC-they are felt and appreciated!

  10. Vivien

    August 14, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    chelsea, I wish I could give you a hug in person! I’m sure it was no easy feat to go and put yourself out there (I’m sure everyone has things they are really hesitant to share with the rest of the world) and you did it with so much grace and elegance, like everything else you do in your life. It brings a tear to my eye to see how strong you are and how much support you give to everyone around you and vice versa.

    You are a wonderful role model, and I wish you all the best!

    • chelsea

      August 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm

      awww thanks vivien-i’d love a hug! you are right, it was hard to put myself out there but i knowing that i have helped a few people know they aren’t alone totally made it worth it (as well as all of the love and support from people around me). i appreciate your support and your unwavering kindness-thanks for the well wishes. i hope you are doing well 🙂

  11. Dave Neiswander

    August 15, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Wow, Chelsea! I’m sure that took a lot to publicly admit your struggle with anxiety! I’ve had the same struggle with social anxiety disorder my entire life. I used to freak out sitting on a bus across from the people in the other seats because I didn’t like the awkwardness of strangers looking right at me. At work, I’m expected to give program is indoctrination briefings to small groups in our conference room when the main presenter can’t do it. I’m usually so freaked out that I’m in the bathroom for a half hour before the presentation and it’s almost like an out of body experience as I’m trying to keep my composure during the briefing. I must be the worst public speaker in the world! As sad as it is to know that other people have similar struggles it’s also strangely comforting. I hope you’re able to work through your issues and have more happiness in your life. Thank you so much for your inspirational story, Chelsea! You’re not alone! 🙂

    • chelsea

      August 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

      thanks for your comment dave and i’m sorry to hear that you struggle with social anxiety disorder-i totally know what you mean about the out of body experience! well there is this organization called “toastmasters” that can help with the anxiety of public speaking…but it’s scary to even think about starting that 🙂 i know what you mean about sadness that so many of us feel these intense things but somewhat calming to know we aren’t alone. thanks for also sharing dave!

  12. Allison Boyne

    August 15, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Hi Chelsea, thanks for sharing this. I feel like I can relate to you regarding the anxiety and how exhausting it is. I have to agree with some of the other commenters that meditation is definitely worth trying. I use apps on my phone at have guided stress relief and relaxation tracks and they really do calm me down and quiet my mind. They also help change your behaviors and thought that trigger the anxiety. Best of luck to you!

    • chelsea

      August 17, 2013 at 10:11 am

      thanks for another vote for meditation-i am looking into! glad to hear there is an app for guided stress relief-i will have to search on that too. thank you allison!

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  14. jennifermckennasays

    August 16, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Chelsea, I applaud you for sharing something so personal to you. I would love to give you a hug to let you know I am here for you.. but you are in Dallas.. When (not if) you and Ryan come back to Austin, I will make you my cakeballs- Jeremy calls them “drops of love” and if I do say so myself, they are delicious and a tangible to way to show support.. let me know!

  15. chelsea

    August 17, 2013 at 10:14 am

    thank you jennifer for your kind words and offer of “drops of love.” we are actually in houston (not that it matters too much) except for the fact that it’s soooo much more humid here than dallas-ha! i hope we get to venture to austin sooner than later-seems like such a fun city. thanks again for the offer and support jennifer 🙂

  16. Ryan Avery

    August 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I love you babe! I am so thankful you are my wife and I am proud of you for sharing this with the world. You are going to help so many more people and when you give more, you get more! I love you and thank you for being my wife.

    • chelsea

      August 20, 2013 at 11:13 am

      thank you ravery for your love and support (and for having loads of patience). i feel very thankful to have you as my husband!

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