This is the face of anxiety. 

This is the face often filled with so many intrusive thoughts it becomes debilitating. 

These things can be hidden well behind fresh curls and a good makeup day. 

They are hidden best behind a smile.

This is the face of OCD.

It’s the face of someone with obsessive hand washing routines and frequent observations of the health of those around me. I can notice a cough a mile away. Sometimes, I even hold my breath. It’s irrational and I know it, but my anxiety doesn’t. When anxiety takes over it erases rational thoughts and replaces them with fear and delusion.

Anxiety is easily hidden behind a smile and a good conversation. Most people don’t know the battles and turmoil it causes. Some days are harder than others. I never wanted to be an actress but I’ve gotten really good at acting like everything is OK.

I’ve become a pro at masking the anxiety. I’ve gotten so good that sometimes I start to think I’m handling it.

Anxiety can be lessened by distraction, but it cannot be forgotten or ignored. It will pop back up. It will find you. It can take the most beautiful moments and turn them into a fearful disaster. It can take a moment filled with joy and turn it into chaos and confusion. 

Anxiety doesn’t always look like heavy breathing and freaking out. It can be invisible. It can be silent. Usually, it’s both.

It can be the face of your next door neighbor or the face of your child’s teacher. It can be your youth minister or your doctor. It doesn’t discriminate. 

I didn’t use to be like this. I didn’t use to worry about every sneeze, cough and runny nose. I didn’t use to worry about my health and the health of my children every second of every day, but now I do. I wish I didn’t, but I do. 

I wish I didn’t irrationally worry about every car ride my children take, every sleepover they attend, every friend’s hand they touch, or every toy they share.

I’d love to be a “normal” mom, a carefree mom, a mom who worries less and enjoys life more.

One day, I will.

Every day I become better equipped to handle the fear and obsessive thoughts.

Every day I get stronger in defeating the thoughts that try to cloud my mind.

Every day I learn ways to replace the fear with faith. 

Anxiety may have control over my mind at times, but it will not win. It will not defeat me. It may have stolen some moments, but it will not steal my life.

You see, this is the face of anxiety . . . for now, but not always.

One day I’ll proudly say this is the face of freedom.

Until then, I’ll keep taking deep breaths and reminding myself that the moment will pass.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Wife, mother, and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is married to the love of her life, Justin. She’s the mother to three beautiful and spunky children. She has a deep love of teaching and has always enjoyed helping inspire students. She is a Ball State graduate but an Indiana University Hoosier at heart. Chelsea’s mother always encouraged her to write. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. She decided to honor her mother's wishes and write. It was one of the best decisions she's ever made.

Instagram Handle: chelsohlemiller