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Getting a Grip on Anxiety

Accepting That This Old Friend Is Here to Stay

Photo by Thomas Donaldson

Today I'm writing about the thing that made me start writing in the first place. 

When I logged onto Tumblr to find a picture for this article I had a somewhat odd experience. I typed in the word "anxiety" and a concerned notification popped up in the middle of my screen. Are you okay? Was the headline. Below it repeated the same question and then suggested "happier" blogs for me to look at. I had to literally confirm that I was alright in order to see the search results I requested. 

I think it's so easy for us to live mediocre lives because we're unable to accept the fact that there's something wrong. Because it takes so much less effort to ignore the problem than to actually accept it and start dealing with it. I'm not just criticizing society—I'm so incredibly guilty of this.

For a few years, I was having irrational thoughts that I fully understood were not normal, but I just didn't feel like confronting. My boyfriend didn't answer my phone call? He must have gotten into a car accident. My leg is sore? It MUST be cancer. I thought if enough time passed, I would somehow just grow out of this way of thinking. What I didn't realize was that it was so detrimental to my health to constantly be on guard, ready for the worst possible scenario. 

Anxiety is crazy because it finds a way to manifest into every area of your life. When it’s bad, no experience is truly free of anxiety. Whether I'd be hanging out with friends, writing a midterm, or just watching TV, it was always there. I would be grateful for sleep since it was an escape for a few hours. But the moment I opened my eyes in the morning, the thoughts started to flood my mind. Dread would spread throughout my limbs and end in my chest. I had a permanent pit in my throat that I just could not get rid of. I was living life with my mind simultaneously on an anxious loop that never ended.

Finally it all became too much and I was so overwhelmed (and exhausted) from being alone with all of these thoughts. So I started to accept that these were symptoms of a much larger problem that I had to do something about. I started to write and talk about it. Concerned looks and silent pity could be discouraging at times, but it felt so good to finally hear my terrifying thoughts out loud.

What are you anxious about? 

This is a question I’m always asked. And that’s a really complicated question for me to answer. The truest answer is everything. I could go from being completely calm to worrying about something I didn't even know I was afraid of. It’s mostly the fear of "what if." What if the worst possible thing happened right now? What if something tragic happens in the future? Where would that leave me?

I’ve learned that I need to become OK with uncertainty. I have to accept that I don’t have the answers to everything, or anything—because no one does.

I still struggle with irrational thought patterns, which can sometimes manifest into a bit of hypochondria. But what's changed now is the fact that I accept what's happening and deal with it. When the unreasonable voice in my head starts talking, I reason with it. And together we can reach an agreement that's a lot more sensible than believing I have a terminal illness. Usually. 

So yes, Tumblr, I am OK. But thank you for asking.

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