You Are Not Your Madness

By Candace GangerOctober 19, 2016

If you see me in public, hands folded, head down, it doesn’t mean I’m unfriendly. If you approach me, stand a centimeter too close, and I back away slightly, I don’t mean to offend. If I distance myself from the noise or traffic or thick suffocation of a whirring crowd, it has nothing to do with you, I swear. I’ll do my best impression of a mother and wife who has her life together. I’ll run the errands and do the grocery shopping and drive across town, and I’ll do it without so much as a wince. But inside, where the dark, misunderstood parts lurk, I’m screaming so loud, I can be heard shrieking through the heavens.

Diagnosed with a laundry list of depression, OCD, PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, my tics and rituals worsened, becoming more obvious to those around me. I could hide the fact that I rubbed my knuckles when anxious or scrubbed the counter a minimum of twenty times a day because I did those things in the comfort of my home. But when I walked outside my front door, it was different. Certain sounds, like thunder or someone speaking in a loud voice, made me panic. When confronted with very basic decisions like which cereal to choose, I’d waste so much time wading in indecision that I would miss things happening around me. I had to maintain a strict schedule, which forced me to bail early on plans. I always managed to explain my way out, but every time, I felt bits of me disintegrating into nothing.

For the longest time, I hid my anxiety for fear of judgment. Certainly no one would understand how utterly catatonic all the thoughts made me. There was no way anyone could see me as anything more than these disorders once I confessed. These are the things, the lies, I told myself to keep from reaching out. I kept this life secret, these truths hidden, so as not to expose myself even further. I didn’t want everyone thinking things about me, true or not, that changed the way they felt about the person I am. I kept telling myself it would be OK. I could get by pretending I wasn’t dying inside as long as everyone’s opinion of me remained unwavering, no matter the price I’d pay for it.

It wasn’t until I reached a place of reckless freefalling—a place that nearly killed me—that I took the steps necessary to try and reign it all in. This meant recognizing that I couldn’t care about anyone’s opinion of me for one more fleeting moment. I needed help before I fell into a hole I couldn’t climb out of. It was that dire and yet, once I got to this point, I still didn’t grasp the gravity of how far I’d already fallen.

The first step, for me, was realizing all of these things I battle? They don’t define me—just like they don’t define you. You are not your madness, and I am not mine.

We are human. We are flawed. We are learning. We are evolving. And we are broken, illuminating the cracks in order to fit the pieces back together. It’s humbling and humiliating to identify our weaknesses and to work on them day after day. But know this: Pretending everything is calm when a war has broken loose inside you means you’ll never live the life you were meant to live. So tell your truths. Scream them and don’t apologize for what you’re feeling.

You don’t have to hide anymore because you are not your madness. What you are is human.

Candace Ganger is a mother, blogger, contributing writer for sites like XO Jane & Hello Giggles, obsessive marathoner and continual worrier. Her debut YA novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH, will be out via St. Martin’s Press (Griffin Teen) Spring/Summer2017.

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Comments (20)

  1. Lauren Carter

    “You are not your madness, and I am not mine.”
    “We are human, we are flawed.”
    I loved this and I am tearing up in the middle of English from reading this beautiful writing. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  2. Kaitie

    This beautiful. I needed to hear this, and I thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply  |  
  3. Monica

    Thank you dear.

    Reply  |  
  4. Candice Golding

    Thank you Candace. Sometimes we need to hear it from others to believe it, sometimes we need to read it from a stranger. Thank you, thank you, thank you

    Reply  |  
  5. irene

    it made me cry, thank you for sharing this.

    Reply  |  
  6. Sharon

    thank you. this helps me understand more those I know and love who go through anxiety. your sharing is wonderful.

    Reply  |  
  7. Gren Robinson

    Where can I get help? I am still fighting crippling depression of 40+ years. Every counselor I’ve tried just lets me close my eyes and rant for an hour each week. I need help, slow steady patient help. Constructive advice. This is going to kill me.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Gren,

      We’re so sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling with depression for so many years.

      We list resources right here, including 24/7 crisis helplines: If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, please feel free to email us at [email protected]. Our team would love to help you find what works for you, as well as send you some encouragement during this time.

      Reply  |  
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  9. Bindu Mathew

    As a mother, wife and human being I really needed to see this. Thank you for sharing this and thank you for being a light in darkness.

    Reply  |  
  10. Kristn

    As I was reading this I related in so many ways that I started to cry. I also am a mother and wife with a long list of mental issues and physical issues. I am at a level that is really bad and reading this didn’t make me feel alone for that moment. Yes, I have a wonderful husband and 2 wonderful kids that I love and are the reason I push myself but sometimes is hard. Just know you are a beautiful person and your words are inspiring. I have no friends due to my long list of issues so thank you for making me feel normal even for a moment.

    Reply  |  
  11. leah

    You can do this.

    Reply  |  
  12. pcho

    Hi! I wasn’t sure of this is the right channel I should be going forward. I am lost and unhappy. I am deprive of happiness. Can anyone help?

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi there,

      We’re so sorry to hear that you’re struggling with these things. Feeling lost and unhappy can weigh so heavy, but you’re absoultely not alone, and we are honored to have been invited into your story. We would love to talk more with you and hopefully offer you some encouragement. Please email us at [email protected]

      Reply  |  
  13. Carolyn

    I love this. I often feel unheard when dealing with my depression and panic disorder. I feel like I try to reach out to my friends, and they don’t really hear me or they don’t want to talk about the things that make me feel so dark and alone. This post described it perfectly. Especially the part about being at the store, and just trying to decide what to buy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been standing in the store having a panic attack just trying to buy groceries and my family has to talk me down from the ledge I’m on. Sometimes it feels like every move I make is the biggest, hardest decision I’m making.

    There’s times where I can’t eat, move, speak, leave the house…without overthinking it or fearing that each decision puts me in danger. And the worst part is that I know that stepping into the fear is so necessary. I hate leaving my house when I feel so afraid, but I know that isolation only feeds my panic…so it’s necessary. It’s so difficult to live this way, and sometimes I think it will never stop. But there are days where I notice the immense progress I’ve made, so even though those days are few, they do keep me going. Thank you for this post, Candace. It reminded me that I’m not crazy and I’m not alone.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hey Carolyn,

      So glad you’re encouraged by this post! We’re sorry for the hard days, and we’re so glad you have chosen to stay for the good ones. And thanks for speaking about your experience, both your progress and your struggles. Know that there is always help available 24/7 at if you need it, and we hope the good days become more frequent. Like you said, you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone. Keep walking towards hope.

      Reply  |  
  14. Molly

    “It’s humbling and humiliating to identify our weaknesses and to work on them day after day. But know this: Pretending everything is calm when a war has broken loose inside you means you’ll never live the life you were meant to live. So tell your truths. Scream them and don’t apologize for what you’re feeling.” This hit me hard. Love it so much ❤️

    Reply  |  
  15. Chia

    I’d never forget what you wrote. It rings very close to home.

    Reply  |  
  16. Duke

    Thank you

    Reply  |  
  17. barbara

    Please speak up . This illness can be beat. You need to be patient. Please talk to someone you hold dear and be totally honest.

    Reply  |  
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