Befriending Your Anxiety

I had initially thought that this post would be easy to write since the subject is just an exploration of the everyday chaos that goes on inside my brain. But I was proven wrong. Having to write about anxiety is just as anxiety-inducing as anything else. Heck, the word ‘anxiety’ on its own is powerful enough for me to suddenly feel a gripping tightness in my chest and a shortness of breath. But here goes nothing.

Anxiety. *Inhales* What the heck is it? *Exhales*

It’s sort of like stress, but worse. It’s this sort of phenomenon where your brain doesn’t really let you relax, and instead, you’re on this constant level of hypersensitivity and everything you experience will be thought about and then thought about again and then over-thought and then bada-bing bada-boom, you’re upset that some car honked at you a few hours ago, so upset that you’re questioning your entire sense of self. Phew.

I think we have all experienced some sort of anxiety at one point in our lives, whether it’s when we’re getting ready for a date or when we’re panicking about getting that project that’s due six weeks from now done. And a little bit of stress is good - in fact, it’s healthy to go into “fight-or-flight” mode every so often (Google it). But when it’s chronic and crippling...

So crippling that you stop yourself from entering an American Apparel because it’s too empty and you don’t want to be alone and feel the pressure of the store clerks, or you choose to skip lunch because the dining hall is way, way too full. So crippling that you have so many stress dreams at night that you forget what reality is. So crippling that you waste hours of your day messing with your hair or changing your clothes because you’re worried about what some semi-attractive stranger–who does not yet exist–might think of you...

That’s when it can become your worst enemy.

I was diagnosed with, (for a lack of a better, less scientific and stigmatized word), anxiety a few months ago.

For my entire life, I considered myself super shy, introverted and afraid of encountering new things or immersing myself with new groups of people. When I got to college and experienced the chaotic, there-are-so-many-people-but-no-one-gives-two-sh**s-about-you culture of New York City, everything became amplified. All of the insecurities I had ever felt about myself were suddenly raw and gigantic, and that tightness in my chest was constant. I didn't know what it was or how to identify it. But boy, it was there and alive. It was difficult for me to even walk down the street because I feared that people were looking at me and making fun of the way my hands swung by my side or the way my hair lifted in the wind. I hated myself and I truly believed other people did too.

Turns out, there's a nice little word for it.

Some days it wouldn’t be so bad. But then other days it would be. I would fight it and fight it, hating the tightness, hating the way my brain wouldn’t stop thinking about everything, hating the fear that would make me freeze up and want to puke. How could I ever break free?

The answer: I can't.

I can't just get rid of my anxiety because it's a part of who I am. My anxiety doesn't define me - rather, it's a piece of me. The more I acknowledge and accept it, the less intrusive and painful it becomes. If I stop freaking the heck out every time I feel anxious, the less of a big deal it is.

A psychiatrist once prescribed me two different medications to indefinitely treat my anxiety–this was after less than 30 minutes of speaking with me–and that changed my life. Not because I took them, but because I refused to. I didn't want to, for a reason a little beyond the fact that I didn't think I needed them. I was afraid of the chemicals blunting my inner personality and changing who I had built myself up to be all the prior years.  

When I’m anxious, I write (like right now, for instance). I also doodle. Anxiety makes me considerate, organized, motivated and empathetic. It gives me mountain ranges to cross. It gives me pride when I conquer it. It allows me to reach out for help and strengthen relationships. It opens my eyes and helps me appreciate downtime. It makes me feel the subtle nuances of light, breeze, colors and energies. It makes me feel raw and real and fully, beautifully human.

So I decided to be my anxiety’s friend. You know, the kind of friend that doesn't judge you for all your quirks and qualms - but instead stays fluid, open and accepting, and sends as many positive vibes and love as possible.  

I discovered this epiphany quite recently, and I must admit that it's still very hard to constantly accept and believe, but I'm working on it. Life isn't perfect. But you need to keep pushing yourself towards acceptance.

It's so easy to feel like everyone around you is completely composed and normal, while you're off the rocks and curled up in a messy ball of thoughts and chaos. But maybe hidden amidst this chaos and insanity is an abundance of beauty.

I am an anxious person. *Inhales* And I try my hardest to own it. I overthink, over-plan, stress, cry, panic. But maybe I'm also pretty dang cool. *Exhales*