Let's Talk Anxiety: Rita Catolino
I have always struggled with minor confidence issues and coping with stress but last year things came to a head when I just had too much on the go. I had made some major life changes- I moved (for the 5th time in 5 years!), I started a full-time Master’s degree and was still working in clinic- and it was too much. In the summer of 2016, I started experiencing intermittent panic attacks and what felt like paralyzing anxiety. In an attempt to make some positive life changes, I contacted transformation coach, Rita Catolino. Anybody who knows Rita personally (or follows her on Instagram) can see that she is an extrovert, she exudes confidence, promotes self-care and thrives off helping others. Recently, she started discussing her own experiences with anxiety on her social media platforms and I was struck by her ability to share such a deeply personal issue with so many people.
Seeing Rita be so open and accepting of her anxiety helped to make me feel more comfortable with what I was going through. I am so grateful that she has had the strength and humility to talk openly about this issue and I think we need to talk about it more. The more I have opened up with people about my own experience with anxiety, the more I realize that it is far more common than we all think. We are going to start a discussion here today, but certainly this is not the end. Rita talking about her own experiences has helped me become more confident and comfortable talking about my experience so, it is my hope that we can do that for someone else too! Take it away Rita!
When did you first start to experience anxiety? What sorts of things trigger your anxiety now?
I can’t remember exactly, but I believe it was around high-school. I remember just walking down the hall to go to my locker was a big deal. Every Sunday afternoon I would get sick to my stomach with the thought of going to school the next day.
I am still trying to find out my triggers- that is half the battle. I believe, for me personally, a lot has to do with lack of control, not knowing what is around the corner, lack of routine and definitely exhaustion.
I love your frank honesty when you are experiencing anxiety and willingness to share this with your social media circle. Why has it been important for you to speak out about your experiences?
Thank you. I am an open book in “real life” and my social media is an extension of that…so “real deal” is what you get from me. I always think that if I share my struggles, and not just the highlight reel, then I may just help someone along the way. Perhaps someone may reach out and ask for help, ask me about my journey (like you), or even just think to themselves , “ok, I'm not alone.”
What does your anxiety look like and/or feel like?
I know the minute I open my eyes in the morning what kind of day it will be. Anxiety, in my case, is slowly escalated on the inside until I wake up one day and I'm “spinning”. I don’t know what to do, where to start, even simple tasks like “brushing my teeth” seem impossible. I'm half-way through the simplest of things, and I get “lost”, don’t know what to do. Everything around me is negative. I start these “movie” reels in my head about what others think of me, or start feeling guilty about things/people I have not talked to in a while. I cannot take a deep breath and feel like my skin itches all over. Sometimes I get nauseous and other times I cannot eat. Other occasions, I will eat and eat to feel numb.
I know you’ve talked about “looking inward” when you are feeling anxious- what does that look like for you?
This has been fundamental in my journey. It means going OFF social media and putting my phone on airplane mode. It means yoga, meditation and talking to myself in the mirror out loud and listing all of my blessings. It means spending a LOT of time alone, with my thoughts, letting them happen, not judging myself, but knowing “this too shall pass”, and I WILL come out with more knowledge and power on the other side. Being with my 10 year old daughter helps A LOT. When I get lost in her wonderful world, I tend to forget my own anxiety and just live her joy. There have been times I have kept her home with school with me so I can just “live in her world” for a day. It's ok to confront your anxiety/fears and talk to them. I find it quite cathartic…it is there for a reason, and I usually find that it is just my soul yearning for more, or for change or for a breakthrough.
Anxiety is certainly more common than we all think- why do you think we feel the need to keep it hidden?
Just like any “negative” experience or “type of behaviours” that make us different and unique seem to make most people ashamed or “in hiding” because most of the time they think they are weird, alone or what they are going through is self- inflicted. That is one of the beauties of being open and honest and real and raw on social media….you connect with other human beings if you allow yourself that space and allow them “in”. I think we ALL deal with certain levels of anxiety at certain times. Some people will call it fear, stress, anxiety….so many different words…..I do find that a lot of the “high-achievers” I share this “secret” with resonate and go through this. It may be a “gift” to push us through to the other side.
Thank you so much Rita for sharing yourself and being so real and open with your story. Find Rita on Instagram @ritacatolino or at her website ritacatolino.com. Certainly, I've always felt like my own anxiety has not always been entirely negative- part of it has driven me to be as successful as I am today. I look forward to keeping this conversation open and getting more wonderful people (like Rita!) involved.
This discussion should not take the place of discussions with a trained mental health professional but please feel free to comment, share advice and/or your own experiences below.