Let's Talk About Anxiety: Taylor Aller
Everyone gets anxious, so why does talking about it feel so icky sometimes?
Anxiety is apparently the most common mental disorder in the world according to the World Health Organization, but then, that right there might explain why talking about it is so stigmatized. After all, who really wants to admit they’ve got a mental disorder to their bosses, coworkers, clients, or even friends and family? Those words haven’t historically opened many doors or brimmed with positive connotations.
But, we’re on a mission to change that, because all of this internalizing and individualizing is clearly not helping. Our Let’s Talk About Anxiety series is all about sharing anxious encounters and pushing the conversation into the open so we can problem solve together and take back that power anxiety holds over us when we feel alone.
For the next three weeks we’ll be sharing stories and discussing anxiety. Unabashed and unfiltered. So read what others have to share and join in on the discussion on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram so we can create a living document that shows just how powerful working together can be in the fight against anxiety.
INTRODUCING: TAYLOR ALLER
Taylor Aller (@tayloraller), is Mrs. BC, an RMT, educator, speaker, volunteer, mentor, creative and co-founder of The Relationship Project; which is all about busting social media myths and giving people real skills to navigate their romantic relationships.
With so much on the go, Taylor knows what it’s like to feel anxious and is sharing the ins and outs of her own experiences because she’s all about honesty being the best policy.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE YOU WERE, OR HAD BEEN EXPERIENCING ANXIETY?
Oh gosh. I think signs were there as a child but I remember noticing something was wrong as a teen. Maybe 16 years old? My parents were separating and I panicked inside. I remember worrying about everything and pleasing everyone. I would catch myself thinking at hurricane speeds, feeling like everything was moving SO fast and that the world was in slow motion at the same time. I also discovered my coping mechanism. Busy. Instead of processing my fear, or dealing with things calmly, I got busy. At that time, I played on two different league soccer teams, worked between 2-3 jobs, and went to high school full time. I felt I had to do everything myself and as quickly as possible. I was (and still am) your classic “High-Functioning” anxiety case. To see me now, it’s more of the same. It was only when I was in therapy for depression that I realized the extent of my anxiety.
I really noticed when I had a breakdown/burnout after my honeymoon only 4 years ago. I remember being in the Bahamas with my kick butt husband and the idea of relaxing terrified me. After 3 days at the resort, I had done every activity, became a certified scuba diver, and was ready to go home rather than relax. To know we had 6 more days in paradise with nothing for me to do but sleep and eat, scared me to my bones.The rest of that vacation was a sweet sweet learning experience for me in just how bad my anxiety was and how wonderful it can feel to learn to let it go. Going home and back into therapy really helped in that regard, too.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU REALIZED IT?
As a teen with anxiety I just ignored it because I was so “busy”. (Ha!) Then after therapy, when it really sunk in, I felt scared. That’s how I felt about anxiety--afraid. After the fear? I was just mortified. “Who is THAT messed up?” Shame and guilt and embarrassment are in that mix, too.
HOW DOES ANXIETY MANIFEST OR FEEL FOR YOU?
Busy, busy, busy. The more anxious I get, the more I achieve, accomplish, and schedule. I know this may sound awesome on paper, but in real life? It’s awful. My worth became attached to achieving. Whenever I wasn’t, the anxiety would overwhelm me until I had to add more to the list. Imagine a productive tornado that cries a lot--That’s me in anxiousness.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOUR WORK OR BUSINESS?
It massively affects my work. And, as much as I hate to admit it, it affects it negatively and positively too. The need to soothe with action makes me one hell of a productive woman, but it taxes me until I burnout and crash. I have achieved so much, accolades, titles, education, awards, income, you name it. The price? My peace. It was like feeding the masses. I could never achieve or do enough to “earn” peace. Whenever I did, it would just induce more anxiety. I was exhausted. I would wake up in the middle of the night just to work. I remember times when I couldn’t sleep for days because I was so anxious about nothing. As my work would then suffer, I would try to cram in more, it was a vicious cycle for a while. Now, I have some hard boundaries around sleep and scheduling that allows me to manage my anxiety better and in turn, make me a better entrepreneur--but that is still an ongoing process!
HOW OFTEN DO YOU EXPERIENCE IT?
Uh--daily. At least every day there’s a part of me that I have to soothe. I don’t experience panic attacks as often anymore and I don’t break down as much. (Thank you therapy!) But anxiety is just a part of the routine. The healthier coping strategies are an everyday thing for me.
DOES IT INCREASE AT CERTAIN TIMES OR WITH CERTAIN EVENTS?
Absolutely. Before a vacation, being in large crowds of people, social media, situations where I have expectations, lack of sleep, are huge triggers for me.
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND HELPS YOU?
Having a set bedtime and routine, eating well, physical exercise, nature, staying away from screens, and therapy. Being able to use breathing techniques and movement to get from my head into my body is really helpful as well. Writing and talking about it (to those that have earned the right to hear my story and anxious thoughts) can be really helpful, too. And crying, ain’t no shame in a good cry!
DOES ANXIETY HAVE ANY CONSTRUCTIVE OR POSITIVE SIDES FOR YOU?
Having high functioning anxiety has helped me grow multiple businesses, become insanely efficient and performative, and have more empathy for others. I know that feeling of spinning out in your mind, not knowing what to do, where to go, how to fix nothing that is wrong. It’s definitely taught me some skills on productivity and my boundaries around mental health. It’s made me a better healthcare professional and solidifies the importance of REAL self care and self love. The empathy and passion around helping others is something that my mental health journey as fueled for sure.
HOW DO YOU FEEL AFFECTED BY MEDIA AND SOCIAL MEDIA?
Oh man. Do I even want to go here? I think social media and mental health should hardly ever be in the same sentence. It’s the worst kind of pairing during a mental health episode, in my opinion. I believe social media can be a tool for change, but if I’m being honest--social media becomes this silent, sneaky weapon when I’m struggling with my mental health. When I’m struggling, it’s like a kaleidoscope of everything I am not. I have to be so ruthless when it comes to my feeds and time on socials. It’s a strong boundary zone for me
IF YOU COULD BRING ONE THING TO LIGHT ABOUT ANXIETY, WOULD WOULD THAT BE?
I think there’s such a stigma around mental health and success. Like you have to hide your struggles. Like success and mental health can’t go together. I call BS. I want for those with mental health issues to know YOU CAN STILL DO ANYTHING YOU WANT. It may look different, you may have to be resourceful, learn new skills and redefine how you’ll get there--but oh gosh--YOU CAN. That ish can’t hold us back. If it looks like more rest than work, that’s okay. If it looks like crying and laughing in the same day, that’s okay. You have permission to do the damn thing and factor in your mental health at the same time.
And specifically for my high-functioners, I want to whisper to you, friend, who feels the fierce need to pacify the panic with achieving; “Friend, you are enough. Hear me: You are worthy and you will be okay if you don’t do that thing. In fact, you will be better than okay. Even if you just stand still. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. You are enough, just as you are. You don’t have to do a single thing to earn worthiness. You were given that the moment you are born.”