Written By: Nicole Canovas
Five years ago, I was 23 years old, and I listened to everybody but myself. It took me a long time to get the hang of self-care, and at first it made me feel guilty; putting myself above other people. But anyone struggling with similar doubts, believe me: self care is the least selfish thing you can do! Because it's only through self-care that you can become the best YOU, and that's the version of yourself that the most important people in your life deserve!
I've had an anxiety disorder since I can remember, but I only started opening up about it in my 20's. Before then, I'd rather risk being thought of as a flake than as "weird". I cared so much about what other people thought! Too much! And my relationships suffered for it.
Back then, I was scared that having an anxiety disorder would make me undesireable. I was scared no one would want a relationship with someone like me. I was totally overlooking all the great qualities about myself, and singling out the one part of my life I had trouble with.
So whenever a guy entered my life, I totally disrupted my world so I could re-construct it to fit his. Needless to say, this never ended well. I'd go into relationships sporting this false version of myself, and then when the time came that I was vulnerable, they didn't understand. And I can't completely blame them: I never talked about my anxiety! You know the expression about volcanos just waiting to erupt? That's what would happen. Had I just been open and honest from the beginning, they may have understood.
Or they may not have. Some guys that I dated were just flat out not okay with baby steps (I'm a baby-stepper for life, always will be). They wanted to see and be seen; they had a girlfriend, and they wanted to show her off at bars and restaurants and in Facebook pictures. And that's okay, but that's not me, and it never will be. I'd give what I could into those relationships, but when it came down to it, I was always giving more than I was getting. It's important to ask yourself, "Why am I pushing myself right now? Is it just to impress this guy? Or is this something I actually want to do?"
The main thing I learned through those dating experiences was that I am a great person, and the right guy will want to be with me for ME. This also brings me to another thing that is crucial: a supportive group of friends! I truly believe that your anxiety, or whatever issue you might be struggling with, won't feel like such a big deal if the people you surround yourself with don't make it into a big deal. My best friend is a great example: he'll always offer up chances for me to step out of my comfort zone a bit, but doesn't hold it against me if I don't take him up on it. The best friends know they can't "cure" you, and don't try to- there's nothing to "cure"! You're fine the way you are, it's just a matter of coping with your symptoms in the best ways for you.
My journey with self-care is ongoing, and honestly the most important journey I've ever been on. I only have one life, and it's important that I’m the one enjoying it! And if any of you also feel that your disorder makes you un-loveable, it is so not true. You aren't your disorder, your disorder is just one fraction of the millions of pieces that make up the mosaic of you. You know what else is in that mosaic? All your GOOD qualities! Everything that makes you amazing and funny and kind and smart (and GORGEOUS!), none of that is diminished by your disorder being present. It only makes you stronger and more in tune with yourself and your needs. Focusing on making yourself happy and getting yourself to thrive on your own terms makes it that much easier for everything else to fall into place.