Why I’m Now Welcoming My Anxiety with Open Arms


“You are not your feelings. You just experience them. Anger, sadness, hate, depression, fear. This is the rain you walk in. But you don’t become the rain. You know the rain will pass. You walk on. And you remember the soft glow of the sun that will come again.” ~Matt Haig

I have been anxious for as long as I can remember.

All of my earliest memories are ones where I was worrying or fearful for one reason or another.

Thinking back, the first memory I have that is akin to that of an actual anxiety disorder, meaning that the anxiety was interfering with my day-to-day life, was when I was in the first grade and I simply refused to use the computers in the computer lab at school because I was scared of breaking them. It wasn’t just a fear of breaking it; it was the full-blown rabbit hole that my thoughts took me down because of it.

I worried that if I used the computer, then it would break, then the teacher would yell at me, then I would get suspended, then I would get in trouble with my parents, then they would get into a fight, and then they would break up, and then it would be my fault. And that’s not even the end of the cycle! There were other twists and turns that led to other irrational potential consequences as well.

I never thought to talk to anybody about troubling thoughts that I was having because I assumed it was normal, that all of my classmates felt the same.

I have always been a quiet and reserved person. The people around me never let me forget about it either. Even in high school classes, the attention would get focused on me and why I wasn’t talking and laughing with the rest of the kids during group work. Class presentations? Forget about it.

I always took the failing grade on those assignments.

I finally saw a psychiatrist when I was sixteen because I did eventually open up to my mother about my issues. There have been numerous medication changes over the years, as sometimes I would get nasty side effects from them, or they just plain didn’t work.

To be honest, I have never been entirely sure that they have been effective at all. When I voiced this concern to my psychiatrist, she told me flat out that given my history, trauma, and personality, my anxiety was most likely going to be a lifelong condition. I instantly went into denial mode.

However, she did set me up with a therapist who worked in the outpatient clinic whom I met with several times. Because it was only a short-term thing, we didn’t get to delve deep into my issues, but he gave me tools that actually helped. Even though I have struggled to implement them off and on over the years, I do believe they hold weight.

All of the brief and very infrequent periods of relative calmness in my life were achieved from remembering these two things.

The only way to beat anxiety is to accept it and face it. If there was one thing that the therapist made sure to cement in my mind, it was to never run away from it. In fact, he encouraged me to invite it on purpose. At the time I was too immature to understand it. It sounded like a terrible idea. Why would I want to purposely feel like that?

If you do wind up avoiding the things or situations that trigger your anxiety, it will grow over time and become even harder to contain.

I remember leaving that appointment feeling like there was some type of parasite living inside my mind. A parasite that feeds on fear, and if I wasn’t careful it would grow into this giant monster that would swallow me whole!

Flash-forward a few years to when I have a little bit more life experience, some jobs under my belt, some education to complete, a.k.a. real chances to face my anxiety… and I have come to understand what he was talking about.

Today, I have fully accepted that I am an anxious person. I fully accept that I will always be a little reserved and cautious and live with a tendency to overthink things.

For example, just last week at work my manager took a phone call and I immediately thought it was about me. My mind led me down that all too familiar rabbit hole. Instantly, the thoughts began flooding my mind.

It went like this: They have finalized the decision. I am a horrible employee and am about to get fired. I will no longer have an income, and I will lose my apartment. Next, my girlfriend will break up with me, and after that I will die alone on the street, and no one will ever remember me.

Of course there were other scenarios and weird consequences that my mind conjured up. I liken the experience to some twisted “choose your own adventure story.”

In reality, the phone call didn’t even have anything to do with me, and the rest of my day just went on as normal. I didn’t die. The world didn’t explode. I didn’t lose my mind. And I didn’t get screamed at.

It was just the anxiety talking, and I accept that.

I now know that it can’t hurt me, and it doesn’t make me a bad person. I know that I can be successful in whatever endeavors I embark on in life. I will just have to work a little harder than some people to overcome my own worst enemy… my mind.

Just like the therapist had explained all those years ago, accepting my anxiety has weirdly taken away its power. It no longer has the grip on me that it once had. It is what it is. It is never EVER going away, so why fight it? I have already hit rock bottom several times thanks to my anxiety, and did it kill me? No, I survived and got back up and kept pushing.

The best mindset that I have adopted for myself is that my thoughts simply do not define me. Plain and simple. I know that I am going to be anxious whether I DO, and I know that I will be anxious whether I DON’T, so, what the hell, I might as well DO.

And that right there is the key! Despite that terrible, gut-wrenching sense of terror and unease, you still have control. You have the power to act in opposition to how you feel.

It’s easier said than done, believe me. But whatever it is that you are scared of facing, don’t put it off any longer. Just do it. It’s the only way that you will eventually realize that in the end, everything will be okay.

Sure, you might still be anxious, but it will slowly and surely lose its grip on you.

I forget where I read it, but I saw a quote where somebody said that anxiety is the disease of missed opportunity, and I have never related to anything more in my life.

I have missed out on countless opportunities in life, some potential life-long memories that I will forever regret missing out on.

Life is short. It is too beautiful to shy away from. I don’t want to miss any more. From here on out, I am choosing to fight my anxiety by welcoming it with open arms.

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