How I experience anxiety.

Anxiety comes in many different shapes. Some people have social anxiety, they’re scared of social situations. Some have seemingly random panic attacks and others suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Some break out in sweat, some yell and others turn silent.

To me, anxiety means thinking in worst-case scenarios. It means being worried about everything that can go wrong. It means overthinking all the possible outcomes of any situation. It means being scared of not living up to the expectations of others or the expectations myself. It means becoming tense in my shoulders, tense in my back and tense in my legs. It means becoming less aware of my surroundings. It means not being able to think straight. It means not being able to translate my feelings into words. It means blackouts. It means being afraid of winning and afraid of losing. It means total chaos.

I like to compare anxiety to the fear and restlessness most of us get after watching a horror movie. That feeling you get when you lay in bed afterwards and you can’t sleep because you feel scared. You know monsters aren’t real. And you know they’re not under your bed. And you know it’s just your mind playing games. You know you only get these feelings because you just finished watching a scary movie. You know there’s no reason to be scared.

Yet, you’re terrified of peeking under the bed. You need that blanket on top of you, you get tense and sweaty and you curl up and want to hide. You feel scared. Scared that something that does not exist will hurt you. You reassure yourself that everything will be fine, that monsters don’t exist, but you still feel scared. It’s a real feeling. You really are scared, even though you know there’s no reason to be. It’s weird. It’s irrational. It doesn’t make sense.

You know it’s just an illusion, you know no one will hurt you. Yet you’re scared that when you open your eyes there will be a monster in front of you. And you can’t stop thinking about it.

That’s how I’d describe my anxiety.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 11.16.23
Artwork by me, made while experiencing anxiety | View it on Society6 & RedBubble

Luckily I know the monsters. And I know the horror movie. I know where my fears come from. I know who caused it and I know what triggers it. Which means I can defeat it. I can defeat the monsters. I can defeat the fears. Defeat the anxiety. And I think I know how to do it.

One option is to avoid my triggers. I can avoid them the same way people avoid watching horror movies. I can avoid situations that might make me feel anxious. I can avoid situations with a possibility of failure. I can avoid challenges. I can give up my job, give up my dreams. But that would be a horrible idea. In the end, this wouldn’t make me happy.

Another possible solution is to avoid going to bed after a horror movie. It’s avoiding the feelings of fear. It’s shutting down emotions, ignoring my feelings. It’s forcing myself to only have positive thoughts, not allowing any anxiety to surface. Maybe I can start drinking, or doing drugs, making ignoring the emotions much easier. But that doesn’t sound like a healthy plan either.

The best choice, I think, is taking a peek under the bed and discovering that no monsters are hiding there.It’s facing my fears. It’s learning nothing will go wrong. Nothing bad will happen. It’s making choices, it’s taking on new projects, starting a blog, taking risks. It’s also failing, but learning how to deal with it. It’s learning how to turn failure into success, instead of the other way around. It’s understanding that everything will be ok. That’s how I will overcome my fears. That’s how I will overcome my anxiety. 

And I have a long way to go, a very long way, with ups and downs. But eventually I won’t think about the monsters anymore. I won’t be scared anymore. I won’t think about failing anymore. About fucking up. About doing something wrong. About disappointing others. About disappointing myself. I will stop caring and I will start living. I will be free. And the anxiety will be gone. I have a long way to go, but I know I will succeed.

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