My story, not so pretty.
Most of my life I denied my anxiety. I kept it from everyone so that nobody thought anything was wrong with me. (And let’s be honest so I didn’t think something was wrong with me). I was pretty creative in my ability to dodge it. I had millions of excuses. It took many forms: I opted out of social gatherings, lost friends, dated people who took care of everything for me and became a home-body. I made it 28 years this way. Then I went through a particularly challenging point in my life and I knew it couldn’t go on like this anymore.
The most surprising thing I learned, when I finally faced my anxiety head-on, was how many people were dealing with these same feelings. I felt relief in the realization that I was not alone in my struggle. Yet the relief also brought sadness. I had wasted so much time not reaching out to others, not opening up about my life.
Unfortunately, I faced another problem when I did decide to face my anxiety. I wanted to be perfect at overcoming anxiety. I wanted to completely eradicate it from my life. (Spoiler alert, that’s never going to happen.) I wasted even more time like this. I’m sad to say I wasted years trying to be completely anxiety-free. Needless to say, this came crashing down on me again after another one of life’s curveballs came at me.
Finally, something clicked.
It was only a few months ago that I really truly let go. I came to peace with my anxiety and I let it be a part of my life. I’m not saying I feel good all the time. I’m only saying I don’t feel like I’m on the run from it constantly. I found ways to let it exist in my life.
I’m not entirely sure how I got here, it was a long and personal journey. I’m not going to pretend I know what’s right for anyone else or that one thing really worked for me. However, I will share a few things that ended up helping me long term. There’s always a possibility that they help others too.
Here are some of the things that worked for me:
I found a therapist that I clicked with. I committed to showing up and doing the work. This is tough. It takes a while and is more difficult than you expect.
I pay attention to what triggers my anxiety. Feeling alone, vulnerable and stuck really set me off. I know to expect anxiety in these situations and don’t feel thrown off by its presence anymore.
I find ways to cope with my anxiety spiral. The most useful tool I found is in the book Dare by Barry McDonagh. It gives me something to do with my mind when nothing else helps.
I set limits on the number of things I could opt-out of. The more I cancel plans, the more limited and lonely my life becomes. I have learned to accept its presence and continue on with my life.
- I found outlets for my anxious energy. The creativity of photography and the release of exercise really work for me. They keep me from sitting around and ruminating. (They also bring me community which is key!)
A personal journey, you don’t have to take alone.
I wish I had more advice to give, I wish I could do more to help but I also know that anxiety is deeply personal. We all experience it and cope in our own ways. There is no right way to do this. It’s a personal journey but you don’t have to do it alone.
If you are feeling stuck and don’t know how to move forward, reach out to someone you trust. (Or seriously email me!) There is no right way to manage this, so don’t’ be too hard on yourself.
By Danielle Polini