“I am not my anxiety”

Project Description:

Anxiety is a feeling that I would guess most people have experienced at least once in their life. Sweaty palms, stomach in knots, inability to sleep. Could even be confused for nervousness at times. I would assume most people feel it before a big exam, before asking someone out, or any other seemingly significant event. And it’s there in those instances for me too. However at some point it started becoming more frequent, often seemingly unrelated to upcoming obstacles and the longer it stayed the more it felt like it would never leave. I began to develop a baseline anxiety that would only be exacerbated by upcoming stresses. Often it would get to incredibly hard to manage levels, which is when it started feeling uncontrollable, and scary, and subsequently induced even more anxiety about not knowing how to cope with the omnipresent feeling of not knowing.

The best way I can find to describe anxiety, is that it is the child of fear and unknowing, and manifests itself differently in each person. When it first started getting bad, it scared me because I had been through high stress situations- be stress in school, or even family illness or death and had handled myself just fine. But when I started finding myself more self conscious than ever, scared that every interaction I had could be interpreted the wrong way, and then feeling dumb that I was even stressing about these things is when the anxiety started feeling overpowering. I would try to suppress it, often could for a while, but then something small would happen and I would break. The small thing- what ever it was- was never the reason for the break. The build up that I had created in my mind was.

At times, my brain feels like it’s a song on a loop. But the lyrics are a vicious cycle. I’m anxious about “x.” I shouldn’t be anxious about “X.” I want to tell someone. Wait no, I don’t want to bring them down or bother them. No, that’s what friends are for. Wait, I should just do things I have control over so as to feel less anxious. Now I’ve wasted time being anxious. I feel bad for having been anxious in the first place. Cue more anxiety.

It’s not something I can wake up one morning and be cured of. I guess I’ve always been a worrier and to an extent always will be. But it is something I’m learning to cope with. Some days are great. Others, not so much. And by the same token the same strategy won’t always work two days in a row. For me, it’s about being conscious of my triggers but more than that being OK with this part of me. I can’t sweep my anxiety under the rug and assume it won’t be there when I get back. Because it will, and often worse. I’m learning to confront it head on and defeat it. It sounds a little weird to have to battle something inside of you, but I am. I’ve always been competitive, so I treat this like every other opponent in my life. With the intention of beating it. On days that I don’t, I make a concerted effort to really learn from those experience to better combat it next time.