photo by Clutch Cabin
Anxiety…She feels like a long lost friend now, a friend who I had distanced myself from. Our relationship wasn’t healthy and it was time to break ties. It’s almost hard to believe that just a year ago, she was making daily visits to my door, creeping her way in, attaching herself to my hip. She was my conscience. She answered to every situation in my life. I didn’t have a voice. Now, her visits are occasional. She only arrives when something big is coming up or I have to get something done. Her presence is subtle, no longer overbearing.
EVERYONE gets anxious sometimes, but there comes a point when it isn’t normal anymore. It gets paralyzing and uncontrollable. It isn’t excitement or short term. It turns into everything, a way of living, and I know that life better than most.
I recall feeling anxious as a child over small things; trying something new, before performing in a school play, a little fight between a friend and I. As I grew older, it became more familiar and frequent. In middle school, it became my best friend. And, as I moved into high school, it was a roommate, an overlapping personality. Social situations felt overwhelming and hectic. Getting ready made my heart race and my hands shake. I would hang out with friends and all of a sudden, a switch would shut off inside of me. I’d become blank-faced and would barely talk. I was happy- and then it shut me down.
As I went into my sophomore year of high school, my anxiety was unstoppable. Getting up for school was a no from my mind and body. I’d wake up and immediately have to vomit from a night of overthinking and tears. It stopped me from going to school and on days I would, I was plagued with nausea and an uneasy stomach, making it difficult to focus on anything. It felt like someone was choking me, preventing me from getting words or feelings out. I couldn’t perform my daily tasks. Eating was challenging and sleeping a solid eight hours per night was nonexistent. I would lie there for hours, frozen, thoughts hovering over me. I wondered what the next day held and how it’d affect me. I thought of myself as worthless. I was shedding tears regularly. I’d sit in the shower, for an hour at a time, multiple times a day, just to calm myself down.
Doctors visits were no help. I’d try to explain myself, but I either couldn’t get anything out or what I did get out wasn’t a good enough explanation. Countless tests proved nothing. My body was fine. “Go to a therapist. If that doesn’t work, we can supply you with a medication that will rid you of the feeling.” And at that point, that’s all I wanted. Going to a therapist gave me anxiety. Medication seemed like the easy way out. I didn’t want to feel it anymore. I missed me, but I thought taking medication would mean losing myself even more. I wanted to function normally, like everyone else, but I didn’t want to be dependent and foggy. I also knew that there had to be an alternative. Medication and therapy aren’t the only outlets. What ever happened to self-healing?
I left my last doctors visit feeling determined. I had felt every ounce of pain anxiety bestowed upon me and I was done. I hurt. I hit rock bottom, harming myself as a distraction to what felt like millions of little ants crawling through my system. I spent so many hours of wasted time worrying. I felt alone and I would no longer allow myself to feel miserable over something, at the time, I had no control over.
Being so alone in this feeling, forcing isolation onto myself and drowning, taught me something extremely valuable. I held the power to get through it. I held the power to control it. I just lost myself and that stopped me from seeing it.
I started small. I held myself. I allowed myself to cry and feel whatever I had to. I taught myself that I wasn’t disabled by this. I removed myself from people and situations that hiked my anxiety up. I created art and wrote about my experiences. I spent more time by the ocean. I looked at myself and said, “you are not your anxiety”. I began to surround myself with supportive and loving people, who tried to understand what I was going through. I began to see that there were so many other individuals around me who were plagued by the same loneliness. Then, I communicated my hurt and began to feel more open. I started to help other people with their anxiety, which in turn made mine lessen.
When you look at things through anxiety’s perspective, they look much bigger than they are. You begin to unconsciously convince yourself that the world is intimidating, when in reality, it is a beautiful, inviting place. Where did your perspective go? Try and look through it, instead. Believe it or not, spending time with yourself, alone, is a crucial part of healing. Every tool you need to relieve yourself, your own mind and body contain. Use that time to look into yourself, to remember what you enjoy, what makes you happy. Create. Express yourself through art forms. Go outside and remember that the Earth wasn’t created to hurt you. It was created to heal you.
Be gentle with yourself. You are not worthless or incapable. You are NOT your hurt.
You are the conquerer.