Personal Essays

Lessons I’ve Learned from Anxiety

GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE

No matter how much you’ve got your anxiety under control, it’s still going to creep up on you from time to time. I hadn’t had a real problem with it in years, and then BOOM, it snuck up on me last week.

Like an awkward family member who insists on squeezing you too hard, or giving you uncomfortable massages, or making misogynist jokes, get used to the squeeze of anxiety.

You know how astronauts do High-G training in centrifuge machines before they go into space? This iskind of the same thing. I rode in a simulator at Epcot once, and that chest-squeezing feeling pushes all your human panic buttons.

Except, it doesn’t freak astronauts out. Why? Because they train for it. They know it’s a normal part of this crazy thing they’re doing.

Remember what an anxiety attack feels like. Know what to expect. The more you anticipate, the less it can surprise you.

PREPARE FOR IT

Expect it. Make it dinner.

What are you going to need when it shows up?

Whether or not you want it to be there doesn’t matter. You are in an intimate relationship with it and you have to be able to deal.

Because I guarantee, it will keep showing up. It’s not like a friend you can hope to avoid. It is in you. It’s family.

Is there a certain tea that helps? A movie? An exercise? A food? Stock up. Sometimes just knowing you’re prepared to deal can help prevent an anxiety attack.

For me, it’s earl grey tea, noodle soup and mindless comedies. Find out what it is for you.

YOU MAY SPEAK ITS NAME

I used to treat anxiety kind of like Voldemort, or the devil. I was afraid if I would speak its name, it would come.

I didn’t even like reading things about anxiety, or talking to friends about their anxiety, because I was afraid it would trigger an attack.

I forced myself to talk about it, to normalize it.

Similar to getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, get comfortable reading it and saying its name.

As Dumbledore says, “Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself, (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling).

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

I’ve always felt that the grip of anxiety is kind of like being on a bad trip.

You feel like you can’t unlock your brain. You know your brain is thinking in patterns that are not normal, but you can’t stop them.

You might be sitting on the floor, staring at your reflection in the oven door, feeling like your face is going to melt off, thinking, “Oh my god. I’m going to die.” And no matter how easy it is to be outside that situation looking in and say, “geez, chill out. Everything’s really fine.” When you are inside that bubble, logic is useless. You might as well be on acid.

Despite that, even a particularly long anxiety attack does eventually end. Everything that rises must fall. Things need a baseline.

IT’S NOT WORTH IT

Anxiety triggers can be anything. For me, it’s often goals. I really like goals. I love achieving shit.

I can be really hard on myself, especially if I don’t meet my (sometimes) ridiculous expectations.

But the reality is, in the grand scheme of things, the only one who cares about these things is you. The reality is, things will be okay. We get caught up, we make things seem complicated and important. But, you know, a lot of it doesn’t really matter as much as we say it does.

And you know what? If someone else dares to tell you, ‘you let me down’, or says ‘I expected more from you’, then fuck that person. Seriously. Get away from them. Now.

You owe your life to no one but yourself. People will always try to indebt you to themselves. This is a power play. Do not fall for it.

TL;DR

Anxiety is just an horrible family member that shows up from time to time.

Learn the best way to deal with them.

You can do it.

You rock.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “What twaddle! I have anxiety and it’s nothing like this! “and that can be true.

As a non-doctor, the best I can tell you is what’s worked for me. This is all anecdotal. What I do know is: The happier and healthier we all are, the better. Let’s talk about it.

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