“On the outside I was a confident person with everything going for me, but I was a nervous wreck who just wanted to get away from it all. ”
I have lived all my life waiting for the game to be over. Feeling anxious and sick to my stomach before high school games, I’d say to myself, “I just can’t wait until the game is over so I don’t have to feel this way.” I was so fearful that I’d make a mistake, disappoint my coaches and family, and let my teammates down. This feeling has stayed with me ever since. Rather than be honest with myself and others, I pretended everything was okay, but inside I was dying.
On the outside I was a confident person with everything going for me, but I was a nervous wreck who just wanted to get away from it all. Well, it eventually caught up with me. The more responsibilities placed on me, the worse my anxiety became, which eventually led to full-blown panic attacks. I bottomed out in March 2010 and took a medical leave from work. I just couldn’t function anymore. I tried medications, but they didn’t solve the problem. My marriage was on shaky ground, and I was an absent father to four children. I realized I needed to make a lifestyle change.
No longer could my life be a checklist of things to accomplish so I could move onto the next higher-level job. I was stressed out all the time. I needed to find what made me happy. So I entered therapy and began having really honest conversations with myself, my family, and friends. Therapy and medication have helped, but it’s proved most helpful to be honest with myself and understand that I need to live up to my expectations rather than others’. Life is not going to be perfect and neither am I. I needed to stop having this all-or-nothing mentality. For too long my thinking that “if it wasn’t perfect, it was a failure” was flawed. I was missing the journey and as a result, I became miserable.
It has been a little more than two months since I hit rock bottom, and I feel much better. Journaling, therapy, self-reflection, and honest conversations have been very helpful. I still have a long way to go to develop new routines and break old habits that led to my panic. My marriage is much better, and I could not have lived through this without my amazing wife. I ask for her forgiveness for everything I have put her through, and I need to forgive myself for getting to this point. My kids are seeing a more present father but still not the fun-loving and relaxed dad I know I can be.
I will be resigning from my old job and accepting a new position with fewer responsibilities and lower pay. But I’m returning to my roots and getting back to what I believe I was meant to do—and that is a wonderful feeling. I have finally realized that I can’t enjoy life waiting for it to be over. I need to enjoy the journey; I need to look forward to life and its experiences and embrace all that comes with them. It feels good to be honest with myself and others, and I look forward to enjoying the second half of my life.