My Experience Living with Anxiety

Since I was a child, I have been aware that my thought processes have not always been healthy. I would find myself constantly worrying and even turning light switches on and off in my bedroom a certain number of times in fear of what might happen if I did not.

As I have gotten older, these feelings have persisted. While I may be more conscious of my anxious thoughts and patterns (undereating or overeating depending on what you are anxious about anyone?), I have also found ways to help combat my thoughts.

Truthfully, there is no one magical cure to anxiety. There is no easy fix, and it is something that you will constantly have to combat throughout your life if you suffer from it.

For me, the most helpful first step was recognizing that I had a problem. While I had been aware of my anxiety and unhealthy coping mechanisms, I had not been willing to confront and challenge them head on. It seemed like a lot of work, and as someone who does not like to bother people, I usually chose to suffer in silence.

By admitting to myself that there was a problem, I was immediately put in a better place to combat my anxious thoughts. However, I only accepted my anxiety as something that I need help with recently.

The next important hurdle for me to overcome was letting go of my fear of experiencing a panic attack. Over the years, I have had a handful of panic attacks in different situations. One of the worst panic attacks that I have experienced happened during high school as I was on stage performing with a choir that I was a part of. Trapped in one of the boxes above the orchestra, I found myself going into a full panic attack which had me sweating, fidgeting and feeling like I was going to lose control. It was terrifying and, by the end of the show, I was exhausted from fighting my own fight or flight impulse.

More recently, one occurred while I wrote a university exam in the Athletic Complex on campus. Sitting down at a desk in a room full of approximately one hundred other students, I found myself panicking over being trapped there and under the professors’ scrutiny to make sure I would not cheat. Luckily, I wrote my exam and was successful in the course. However, my experience was miserable, and I do not look back fondly on it.

In both situations, nothing inherently bad happened to me. However, my anxiety spiraled me into a toxic thinking pattern that made my flight or fight kick in. This is the debilitating part of having anxiety – you never know when these attacks will start, and when they do, it is incredibly hard to take control of them.

Something that has helped me since these two events took place is grounding exercises. When I feel like I’m going to have an attack, I consciously ground myself by looking around the room and picking out different colours, noting what I can smell or talking to someone else in the room to give my mind something to focus on. While this does not always work, it has helped me be able to slowly take back my sense of calm and control.

In terms of my anxiety overall, it is an uphill battle. Some days are better than others and sometimes I feel as if I have magically overcome it. However, one thing remains true – anxiety does not fully go away. It is the monster under your bed that you feared as a child; however, that monster now follows behind you just out of reach, sometimes invisible, but other times clear and looming over you. The best thing we can do is learn how to combat it and ask for help from our friends and family. No one is alone, and there are dozens of people who feel the same way you do.

If you need help, reach out. A wonderful resource on the Wilfrid Laurier campus is the Wellness Centre, which can put you in touch with resources that can help you. The link to their page can be found here.

Maybe one day when I have overcome my fears and anxieties even more, I will write a follow-up to this article with what I’ve learned. However, until then, I encourage you to reach out for help even if you feel that you can manage alone. Managing is not thriving, and you deserve to thrive.