I do not remember a time when I lived without anxiety. It has been a part of my everyday life, a part of me, for as long as I can remember. In fact, if I hadn’t been told that I had a problem with anxiety, I would have just assumed that this is who I am. The racing heart and ever-present feelings of imminent disaster are just aspects of the way I function. I wouldn’t have known to examine my childhood– a disturbed and absent mother, a father who put everything else first, and situations that left me no choice but to act an adult as a child—as the reinforcing source of my anxiety. However, I do know that it is a problem, and I know that it causes me to limit myself every day.
Anxiety, for me anyway, is a constant. It is not something that suddenly presents itself in a time of stress. Don’t get me wrong, it is much worse during times of stress, but for me, it is always there. It is the persisting feeling that at any moment, I could cry, the racing heart which turns into short breath, the tenseness in my whole body, and the overall inability to relax, ever. The reasons for my anxiety are too many to count, with new reasons materializing daily. Always at the forefront of my mind are my fear of rejection and being judged, failure, insecurities or every kind, wondering if I’m on the right path, and not knowing what comes next. These are things that can cause anybody to experience anxiety at some point in their lives, but for me, the anxiety caused by them never goes away and dominates my life.
Anxiety makes things that are an everyday part of life feel unbearable to me. Making phone calls, meeting new people, asking for help, and falling asleep are just a few things that can throw me into an anxiety induced whirlwind so bad that I am often reduced to panic and tears. The truth is, I would rather avoid these things altogether so that I can escape the feeling of being crushed under my anxiety, but life doesn’t allow for that so I must find ways to, or at least attempt to work through my anxiety at every fork in the road, every day.
About five years ago, my anxiety reached a boiling point, and I decided to try medication. Initially, the medication helped me a lot. I was able to sleep better and I wasn’t as preoccupied with worries of what people thought of me. However, as time went on, I realized that medication was one helpful piece but I needed a more holistic package to assist me in re-defining my life: both inner and social.
Since then I have been trying to learn different ways to manage my anxiety. It has not been easy. My body is still tense, I can still cry at the drop of a hat, and I do not relax even with the people closest to me. However, I have found a way to live despite the anxiety. I have come to many points where I was hit with a wall of anxiety, but I’ve been able to break through many of those walls with hard work and remaining present.
Every day, I try to make an unwavering commitment to focus on the positive aspects of my life, and it is this method that leads to my success in fighting my anxiety.
I love to sing, and so during my voice lessons, I try to remain present. I am anxious the whole time, but I am also able to appreciate my chance to exercise a passion that I have. I take solace in the quiet moments.
When I have a moment by myself, I am able to breathe. There are no expectations, and it gives me the chance to gather myself, be reminded of how far I’ve come, and take advantage of the rare opportunity to relax. I take all I can from the people I love and trust. When I am with them, I try to open myself to them because I know that I can benefit from genuine and loving interactions. The reassurance from the few people I trust gives me strength and an extra push, it reminds me to keep fighting.
Things I am passionate about, time to reflect and ground myself and the love of people I trust are the things I use as motivation to fight every single day. In these things, I am able to see my potential, able to understand that my life is more than pain and fear. When I feel weak, I think of these things and make the decision to fight.
I remind myself of who I am at my core, not who I am when I’m blanketed by anxiety, and sometimes I am able to push through. Every day is a struggle, and I am faced with moments all the time when I can retreat into my anxiety or push through. My reality is that I do not always push through, but I choose to focus on the times that I do because it means I am getting stronger. I perceive my anxiety as a tall, thick brick wall.
Over time, I have kicked and pushed and fought against this wall, and it shows its wear and tear. All I can do is continue to fight the anxiety. It is a choice I have to make multiple times a day, but I know that the hard work is worth it.
Anxiety is not who I am and I will not let it run my life.