// birthdays & anxiety

A Wildflowers Home // anxiety and birthdays

Let’s talk about birthdays, emotional rollercoasters, dreaded birthday songs and anxiety. 

I haven’t seen or read a lot about birthdays & mental health / anxiety. 

We all have birthdays, and people with anxiety are a growing number, sadly - especially since our school systems still aren’t changing, but that’s a subject for another day. 

People have a lot of different experiences with birthdays, for some it’s just a day.. for others, it’s a lot more than that!

If you’re a 4 on the enneagram I think birthdays are especially filled with expectations, hopes and a wish to feel special on your special day, which often leads to disappointment when those expectations and feelings aren’t met. Add anxiety to that.. and it gets messy, emotional and complicated.


So birthdays and anxiety..

Growing up I was always looking forward to my birthdays because it meant getting older and cooler, GIFTS and usually a fun party. That made the day feel special.

BUT I also dreaded it, especially the school part, because that meant a lot of unwanted attention and birthday songs.. oh, the evil birthday songs.
Having a birthday on a weekend was the ultimate dream.
Having a birthday on the day where the whole school had a gathering, was the ultimate nightmare.
I still don’t get why teachers feel the need to force kids to stand in front of the whole school just to sing a birthday song, when they say no. I’ve seen kids carried to the “stage” who refused. For some that can be quite an traumatic experience. If the kid say no, it means no. Not everyone loves attention.

Some of my most humiliating experiences and situations have happened on my birthday during the birthday songs. I know it’s meant for a celebration and people mean it well, but having anxiety and a big big issue with blushing when unwanted and/or sudden attention, it has turned into my worst minutes. 


I’ve experienced kids, “friends”, schoolmates, my whole class, even the whole school having a good laugh at my extremely red face during what feels like a forever long birthday song. Yes, my “friends”, even the girl sitting next to me would laugh straight to my face, while I was the most uncomfortable tomato. Those “friends” where invited over for a birthdayparty afterwards. And gave each other funny looks and tried to kill a chuckle when my mom asked me how my birthday was at school. I think the word I might be looking for is bullying. Please don’t be like that, when you see people blushing, getting anxious, weird or awkward, you don’t know what hell they might go through and how it will haunt them for years after.


Teachers, you often don’t know what kind of traumatic hell you often put kids with (social) anxiety through. Please be aware. Educate yourself!


There’s so many other ways one can be celebrated than having to be the center of attention for a whole song. Just typing this makes my my body react. So much anxiety is surrounded with those kind of situations. Maybe have a few suggestions and ask the birthday kid how they want to be celebrated, or if they want to be celebrated at all in school. Don’t assume that a lot of attention and eyes on the birthday kid is what every kid wants.

Some birthdays I’ve wanted so badly to be sick to avoid birthday songs (and unwanted attention) that I actually got sick, even though I can probably count on one hand the number of sickdays I’ve had. If I didn’t have such a bid consciousness I probably would’ve just skipped school on my birthdays. Not probably. Definitely.

Anxiety and fear is a powerful thing. 


Back to adulthood. I recently turned 24, I don’t go to school anymore so anxiety and birthdays look different for me now.. the day isn’t as dreaded as it was before. And most adult parties are usually at night when it’s darker, so that helps a little tool. I know, crazy, but that’s how someone with anxiety might think. Every little detail.

Anyways, I invited a few friends over, even though it was very chill, down-to-earth and it was with friends I’m very comfortable with and something I did look forward to, I still had little to no appetite + an anxiety-filled body and diarrhea (let’s be real) for two days including my birthday.

Enjoying a birthday cake or anything sweet is impossible for me on my birthday. I can’t get a bit down of something too sweet when on my birthday. For some people I might be other tastes, but sweet stuff is the worst when my anxiety is high.

So why invite people over if it brings me so much anxiety? Well, don’t I deserve to be celebrated and have a normal life? Yes. I also do want to share it with friends. Not always, but sometimes. It is worth it in the end. For me. So to have a nice evening, I sacrifice a few days prior and post my birthday where I’m an absolute mess or a zombie walking around. Not all birthdays are like this, but I try to build myself up and beat my anxiety. I refuse to let it control my life.
This is also true for most “bigger” social gatherings, depending on the people and social situation it gets more or less draining.


Last year I had all my 7 cousins over, even though they are family, I’ve known them my whole life, I’m older than most of them, I still couldn’t do anything the whole day before they arrived. My mom asked me to find some cheese or something in the fridge, for some reason I couldn’t handle that, so I broke down and ran to my room crying and trying to calm myself down before going downstairs again to continue the preparations, because well.. the guests arrived soon. It didn’t make sense at all, but anxiety doesn’t make sense.

It was a day I had looked forward to very much! The evening with my cousins is a night I won’t forget (in the best way possible), but the days and especially the hours leading up to the event was extremely draining, tough, messy and painful, but I’m so glad I didn’t let that stop me from having one of my absolute best days!

For me, I know that once people arrive and the party/events begin my nerves mostly calm down and I can have an amazing time. But.. my mind has been overworked and my body has been exposed for something very intense, so if I don’t make sense, forget a lot, seem a little shaky the first half hour, eat slowly or nothing at all or maybe zoom out on your story.. it’s because of what my anxiety just put me through, but I do still enjoy my time and your story! Please don’t take it personally, but maybe show a little mercy and don’t make me feel stupid for telling you the same thing for the 3rd time, hah.

I also use 1-3 days mentally drained after this day without any mental capacity to do anything except maybe watching netflix, do a brain-less actitivity, stare into the air and basically just be a zombie. So don’t expect to much from me the days after a big and/or social event.

Not all experience it like I do. Anxiety looks different for everyone, but this is one story. One person with anxiety. Maybe you can relate? Maybe you know someone with anxiety. I hope this can help you understand them a little bit more or at least give them some credit for what they go through, for something you or others take for granted.


I just thought it was important to address this and talk about birthdays with anxiety. 

anxiety is not glamorous. 
anxiety is not attention seeking. 
anxiety is tough
draining 
exhausting
frustrating 
unfair
scary
and stealing too many moments and memories that was suppose to be fun, nice and carefree.

Why am I sharing all this? Not to make you feel sorry for me or those with anxiety, that’s like the worst. Don’t feel sorry for us, but to openly share about my experience with birthdays while having (social) anxiety. I hope for those of you who can relate that this might be helpful or give some hope or comfort and I hope that for those of you who are happily unaware, that this might give you some insight on how to be there for and understanding your classmates, co-workers, friends or family with anxiety.

last thing I wanna say is,
be kind
you don’t know the size of the battle someone is going through.

Dear Anxiety // a letter

A Wildflowers Home // Journal // a letter to // Dear Anziety // mental health

a fighters battle with anxiety

july 2018

 

I struck anxiety in the face and taught myself to be fearless.

That self-taught skill was crucial when my walls were torn down,
 and the anxiety monster itself was loose.

I know better now how to handle her,
yet she still manages to shake me at times.

In social settings, I manage to hide her away,
but they don't know
how hard she beats me when we go home.

When I'm uncomfortable and *watched*,
she threatens to take over my body and paralyze my mind.

She's a constant voice in my mind,
 tearing me down at every chance she gets.
A real bully.
A real mean girl.

On my journey,
I've learned a lot of truths,
truths I can fight with
fight her with,
when she attacks,
attacks with her big ugly lies. 

I won't let her win.
I will fight her back.

I am a warrior.
I know because I've been at war with her since before I remember.

She doesn't play or fight fair,
but I won't fight dirty,
I fight with honour.

And I will keep fighting till she's defeated.
Just wait,
I know how this ends,
and it doesn't look pretty..
for her.
 

 

My Story with Mental Health // Rorie

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Dear readers,

may I represent you a friend I've met through the internet, we live on each side of the globe and still haven't met in real life, but that doesn't hold us back from connecting and sharing dreams.
Today she courageously shares her story. It's an honour to have her on A Wildflowers Home and I can't wait for you to read her heart.

Remember to show her some love in the comments below. I'll let you read on..

 

So first off, let’s get the basics down; what do you want me/us to call you?

“Rorie” (artist name, nickname) 😊

 

What decade were you born in & what do you love most about that decade?

I was born in the early 1990s. I love that I got the chance to have a social-media-free childhood. I spent hours in my room writing stories, listening to music, playing my instruments, dancing to cassette tapes and CDs (ha). Now that I’m an adult, I love using social media and feel that it’s such an amazing way to be creative and connect with people all over the world! I think it’s cool to have had a taste of both (even though there would have been benefits to having access a little earlier too).

 

Where/what do you call home?

Anywhere that family is. Sometimes this includes a few different places, but they all feel like home because it’s the people that matter most.

 

What are the things you do now, that you're the most passionate about?

I love to tell stories through music.

 

What was the last quote that really spoke to you?

“and when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” – Francie Nolan, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn // I recently read this book for the first time, and I really identified with the main character (especially because I have crazy dreams both while sleeping and awake). I was so surprised that I hadn’t read it before!

 

If you could change one thing in the world to make it a better place - what would it be and why?

There are so many things that would be great to change, but as someone who has worked in the anti-human trafficking realm in the past, I definitely want to see that completely eradicated. Modern-day slavery, sex-trafficking, and any time that a person is taken-advantage of is completely unacceptable.

 

What's your favourite season and why?

I am a typical fall girl. My favorite part of the season is actually the second half (Halloween-Christmas). This is usually when fall allergies start to go away, and everything is so nostalgic with deep shadows, crisp air, and so much beauty. I coined this time of year “deep autumn” both because it’s further into the season, and because it’s a great time to think deeply.

 

What's the last photo you took on your phone?

My handsome and adventurous husband Steven by the Potomac River.

 

What does your name mean?

This seems like a good place to tell the story of my stage name! Erin Rea Ochocki (my real name) is kind of hard to pronounce and look at – so I was trying to come up with an alias that would really fit the sound of my music. Growing up, friends and strangers alike used to tease me (or approach me out of nowhere) and say that I looked like Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. This became a joke that prevailed to the point that groups of people called me Rory for fun. Not wanting to associate myself too closely with the TV character, I changed the spelling to “Rorie” – which ended up being a combo of the letters in my full name, and also a representation of the sound of my music!

 

So, we’ve gotten to know you a little more, now let’s take a dig deeper. How are you feeling right now? (let’s skip “I’m fine”)

I like the idea to skip “I’m fine.” 😊 I’m usually feeling multiple ways at once (guessing I’m not alone in this). Right now, I am hopeful because the season is changing – both literally and metaphorically. After a kind of rough season health-wise during this past fall and winter, I’ve been discovering new ways to be well and to embrace what I love to do. There is also some stress that goes into dealing with chronic health issues, so I have been navigating that and taking care of myself not only physically, but also mentally.

 

What's your "story” with mental health? 

During my late teenage years (about 7 years ago), I dealt with a lot of chronic asthma, headaches, and other related issues, which contributed to what became a season of depression. It’s not unusual for physical health problems to affect your mind, especially when you’re first dealing with them. I noticed that my emotions felt very out of control, which seemed strange to me because I was someone who always wanted to work hard and excel. There were days when I had trouble getting out of bed or looking at situations rationally. Sometimes I would leave class or wherever I was to try and get a moment alone and calm down. My “achiever” personality had created a lot of pressure within my mind to excel at everything, when in reality I needed to give myself some room to rest. I had also moved pretty far away from my family to go to school, and I didn’t realize how much the transition had affected me.

 

How was your process of finding out that you struggle? When and What made you realize that this was more than just a bad day?

I was blessed to have loving family and friends in my life who listened to me and made me feel understood. This was huge because I could approach the situation from a hopeful angle rather than one of complete despair. I knew that there were people around who I could talk to (and some who could even relate), and that they would help me find the right outlet to get help. It made me feel like these problems weren’t the end of the world, and that I would be able to feel free from them again. I know that it doesn’t always feel like there are people around who understand what you’re going through, but I am sharing this because I think it’s a real testimony to why opening up is important and can help so, so much. You never know who will in turn reach out to you when they are going through a difficult season, and your story can be an encouragement to them.

 

What was one of your biggest "relief" moments in your mental health journey?

In addition to some of the above (and without going into TMI), I discovered that my doctor could help me through the process. It made me realize that what I was dealing with wasn’t strange or abnormal, but that there were things I could do to feel better. Being able to find help in that way made the rest of the healing process more effective, and I could put less pressure on myself to “fix” things.

 

Has your life changed because of your mental health?
..if you don't struggle anymore: something you're aware of or do so you won't "struggle" again?

This is a really interesting thought, because something I used to say a lot was “what if this happens to me again!?” I think it’s important to realize how much strength you gain from moving through trials. As a Christian, I honestly can’t answer this question without saying that it is my faith that reminds me that I cannot worry about whether or not I’m going to struggle, because in reality it is through God’s grace that I’ll be able to find the strength to move through anything. There is always, always reason to hope. A few verses that were particularly important to me during this time are: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 1 Corinthians 12:9, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 and “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

From a medical standpoint, I still sometimes struggle with the physical/chronic illness that I did before. I am now really aware of what medicine I’m taking, and what kind of food I’m eating (balance is key). There are always going to be good days and bad days, so I find it important to remember that the low moments don’t last forever, and that they aren’t the end of the story. My song “Fall and Rise” talks about this in a general sense: “We rise and fall, we fall and rise.”

 

What things/experiences/memories etc do you feel like your missing out on or have lost because of your mental health?

I am super grateful for my life experiences, and don’t feel that I’ve missed out on anything in particular. I found this awesome (and yet very simple) quote on Pinterest that inspired me to keep being present when I just wanted to hide: “Show up, shine, let it go.” In the day to day, I’m often reminded that overthinking or doubting (something that I have a natural tendency to do) can really hold me back. So that is often something that I keep in mind!

 

What are some of the things you've gained from struggling mentally that you're thankful for?

My love for songwriting was initially a direct reaction to feeling things very deeply. I have been able to move through some of my lowest emotions by writing a song.

On the same note, I don’t choose to dwell in depression so that I can be a good writer. Honestly, a lot of my songs are about deciding to find hope and to believe truth over lies. Without the experiences that I’ve had, I wouldn’t have had that story to tell. And even on the good days, I still tend to feel things very deeply, so there’s always plenty to write about. 😊

I have also been able to have great conversations with friends, both new and old, about dealing with these issues in a healthy way. I remember having a Skype conversation with a childhood friend that I hadn’t really talked to in years. We realized that we had been dealing with very similar things, and ever since then we have reconnected and shared a lot of life together!

 

What tools, advice or help have you used to deal with and help your mental health? Anything you wish you knew sooner?

You don’t have to feel like crying makes you weak. Sometimes a good cry is exactly what I need to literally conquer the day. My mind is cleared and I’m suddenly way more rational than I was before. Sometimes: emotion means movement!

Also, something that my dad told me still rings true to this day: if you’re feeling really down, or crazy, or mixed up and it’s late at night…say a prayer and go to sleep. There is a huge chance that you will feel a lot better in the morning, and even if you don’t, you can find someone to talk to in the daylight and with a rested mind.

 

Something or someone you couldn't have done without in relation to your mental health and/or illness?

It sounds cliché, but family and friends! There are too many to call out individually, but we can all play such an important part in helping one another through the most difficult parts of life just by being present. Sometimes all you need is a completely unrelated hangout with a best friend, and/or a really good laugh.

 

What do you wish the world knew, did or didn't do or say?

That those who feel deeply are the weaker link. Being a quiet/thought-full (literally), and caring person can actually be your superpower! So often I think we’re led to believe that whoever is the loudest – or most entertaining - wins. Whether or not that is true, I hope that we can look at that through a different lens.

 

What would you say to someone who struggles with the same as you?

That there is always, always hope. It’s OK to see medical professionals, talk to someone, take a day off, challenge yourself, and to do what you need to do feel confident and restored. It’s when you are filled up that you are able to give the most to others. We’re all going through something, and you never know when you being you will help someone else feel less alone.

Also, in industries like the music industry, it can be really easy to get caught in a downward spiral of comparison. Constantly comparing yourself to others can prevent you from giving the beauty that you and only you can give to the world. Opening up to friends, cheering them on, and remembering that we are all a part of the same, larger story can give you confidence to shine so that others feel free to shine. I saw a good quote on the “A Wildflower’s Home” site: “A flower doesn’t think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms!”;)

 

What would you say to anyone who wanna help a friend who struggles with the same as you?

There is definitely a time and place for giving advice (and listening, and venting), but what a friend usually needs is someone who just wants to be present, whether it be making good food and watching a movie (especially when you just need to rest and not go out!), going on an adventure (hiking, day-trips to nearby towns, or exploring something new in your city are good ideas), working on a creative project together (my personal favorite), or laughing til it hurts.

 

Thank you for sharing! Before we wrap up, any last word of wisdom you wanna share?

I think it’s important to share our stories, because we not only realize that everyone has struggles, but that together they can be overcome. Also, thanks for the interview!

 

If people wanna reach out to you, follow you and/or know more about you where can they find you?

Rorie's Website
Rorie's Spotify
Rorie's Instagram
Rorie's
YouTube

 

If you wanna spread Rorie's story you can use these posters to pin it to Pinterest.

A Wildflower's Home // My Story with Mental Health // Erin Rea Ochocki aka Rorie Music
A Wildflower's Home // My Story with Mental Health // Erin Rea Ochocki aka Rorie Music
A Wildflower's Home // My Story with Mental Health // Erin Rea Ochocki aka Rorie Music
A Wildflowers Home // My Story with Mental Health // Rorie Music aka Erin Rea

 

That is all, I hope you enjoyed reading along as much as I did.

If you want to share your story here on A Wildflowers Home, you can read more about it here and/or shot me an mail. I'd love to hear from you!

 

// Line Xx

 

 

PS:
all the beautiful photos of Rorie are from her website. So I'm not the photographer behind it.