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I beat anxiety!
It’s easy! You just need to…
Kidding. Sorry. I don’t know if there’s a “cure”. And just in case we get to be friends for a long time, I’ve been trying to learn as much as possible on how to deal with it.
My experience might be completely different from anyone else’s, but I hope that some of the thoughts can spark a little bit of hope and maybe new ideas.
I think that the main problem with anxiety is that it isn’t innately bad. It has a purpose: keeping us alive.
For that same reason, sometimes I only need to remind my brain that there aren’t any lionesses trying to eat me nearby, and all on its own it starts calming down.
Unfortunately, life has a tendency to beat us hard on the way, and somehow, in some of us, this defence mechanism gets broken and ends up becoming a vicious endless circle.
Initially, I didn’t really know what I experienced was anxiety.
And even when I knew, for the longest time and up until very recently, I couldn’t connect that the emotional dread that is a daily torment is so difficult to ignore because it’s a useful feeling.
I’ve probably suffered from depression and anxiety in some form and extent for most of my life, but the boiling point came two or three years ago when most of what I’d been building for years, disintegrated down to the ground.
I’m still rebuilding, so mine is very much an experience from the trenches, but I think I’m finally making noticeable progress within myself.
My therapist helped me discover that the personal way in which my anxiety manifests is a dark grey weight pushing on my chest. If it gets bad, my heart starts pounding, my hands start shaking and all the blood and heat drains out of them.
I haven’t cracked how to not feel anxious, but I have found ways to cope. To help myself deal with the pain.
I’ve learned my main method is a distraction. I need to keep my brain engaged but contained, and my favourite way to do that is playing video games on my phone while half watching a TV show I know by heart.
But, when the anxiety hits a certain level, I’ve also finally found a way to channel the feelings into something useful and easier to digest: I write.
I’ve always loved to write stories since I was a child. And as my existence was fast-tracking to disaster, I realized it was alongside five whole years without picking up a metaphorical pen.
I started slowly, putting ideas down that I couldn’t get out of my head otherwise, and now I’ve written an entire novel fuelled by what (it wouldn’t be an understatement to say) were the worst two years of my life.
I still can’t believe it, and it serves well to remind me that sometimes, even when I think I’ve been stripped down to nothing, I still have worth and something to offer.
Eventually, I realized that writing is the thing that I most love doing in life, which makes it a great way to self soothe (at least for me).
For example, I wrote this in the middle of an attack caused by other circumstances, because I’ve realized that I can also hack the anxiety and make it work for me, instead of against me.
Personally (if I manage to ride out the waves, rather than getting submerged by them), it helps me focus.
Generally, I use any negative emotions as a resource to better depict moments of high stress, and I feel that my pain comes through on the page, and gives my words more authenticity.
Strangely, describing in excruciating detail the most horrifying things I’ve felt inside in the last couple of years while associating them to a character outside of me, somehow helps me exorcise the feelings and give them a purpose.
For years I didn’t even know how to begin to face the overwhelming unhappiness, but though I still have many many reasons to feel anxious, rationally I know that letting it run rampant is only going to make me less fit to deal with the issues.
I like to think that the hack and my return to something that makes me feel happy and fulfilled is the silver lining of all the pain, and I think it makes the entire thing come into a nice full circle.
My anxiety feeds my creativity and my creativity heals it in turn.
I still feel it, don’t get me wrong, and it takes a while before my heart stops beating fast and I get warmth back in my fingers. But eventually I do and I remember that the feeling is there for a reason. I remember it’s my gut telling me something is wrong.
And instead of trying to shut the anxiety up, I calm it to the point where I can hear it. I ask myself why it’s there.
Though I may not know exactly when it started or why, I know that though weak and battered, I’m emotionally the fittest I’ve ever been at dealing with issues. I understand more about what I can or cannot do, and what’s worth worrying about.
I’m learning about balance, as for many years I ignored my apprehensions, and though I’m still not completely there (and often over-correct), I am actively trying to always listen to my gut.
Once I started to understand that anxiety is there in the first place to help me, I started cursing my brainless when I was struggling with self-love.
My mind is only trying to help me remind myself that I deserve better than the box I’ve tried to force myself in.
I’ve learned to recognize which type of anxiety just needs squashing (as it’s about something I can’t do anything about), which type needs to be redirected, and I’m slowly learning to interpret the unease I find myself feeling often.
My theory is that it’s like the faint smell of cigarette left over, or something rotting in the fridge.
It’s like nagging, but a difficult one to pinpoint, and I need to understand whether it’s something that needs addressing in the back of my head or just a general feeling due to the uncomfortable situation I’m in.
I’ve learned is that the only way to heal it is to take responsibility for my own happiness.
Currently, my anxiety is still hypersensitive, but I’m working on retraining it back into what it is supposed to be: a defence mechanism, just without all the harm.
I acknowledge now that the feeling of dread is there to alert me to something wrong. And while there are no lionesses, clearly there is something that I’m not happy about.
I now know I have a duty to myself and to my happiness, so I hear it and try to act accordingly. And when I can’t do anything about my current circumstances, I just promise myself that I will live through this and that I will make sure there is sunshine behind this boulder.
I promise myself that one day soon I won’t be scared of dreaming of the life I deserve. A life I don’t want a vacation from.
I don’t know what your peace is, but you do. And if you don’t, you definitely have the power and the awareness to find it. I hope you do.
Written by AC Wilhelmson