I’m admittedly one of the most anxious people you will ever meet. I’ve learned to joke about it, laughing about neuroses and my irrational fear of aneurisms. But, for all that I make light of, I’ve found myself succumbing to full blown panic attacks complete with vertigo, and I couldn’t remember the last time I attempted any sort of public speaking without my comforting friend, Xanax.
I was absolutely never this way until my 20s. In fact, I was quite fearless. I spent the better half of my life as a competitive gymnast. I loved the thrill, risk, and sense of accomplishment I got from finally landing that new skill. I’ve been outgoing, and remained so in casual social situations. I studied philosophy in college, and prided myself on my levelheaded rationality.
Cue panic attacks. I struggled with them for a number of years, clinging to what I knew to be true of myself: I was not unwell. I refused medication. I refused psychiatric treatment.
My choices aren’t right for everyone, but they were for me. I’ve learned to practice mental discipline, and discipline it is; I still actively exert control over my thoughts and try not to let them get away from me. I began to understand myself, and my condition. I learned to recognize triggers, and differentiate between physical illness and the physical manifestations of my mental state.
While I’m certainly thankful that I know how to control my anxiety sans medication, I didn’t want to simply grin and bear it. With that in mind, I set out to change my perspective. I chose to look out, and not in. And that’s when I started to realize: I’m too blessed to be stressed.
I hate to use the term “mantra,” but this was just a little thought that genuinely helped me to get out of my own head and think about all of the exciting and extraordinary possibilities that lay ahead. I’d think about family, friends, my interesting classes, or my exciting internship. Even without all of that, I had my health, a working body, and, arguably, my sanity.
All of a sudden, my irrational anxiety felt silly and, moreover, selfish. I was completely and utterly wrapped up in me.
And then another thought crept into my mind: don’t ever let something that you can control take away the things that make you happy. I was happy actually participating in my classes. I was happy going to parties. I was happy talking to my friends about said parties (and the boys who were also in attendance), and not my anxiety.
What it boiled down to, for me, was remembering all of the gifts I’ve been so graciously given. It was remembering that, given such gifts, I had exhilarating opportunities and that the future wasn’t a terrifying unknown, but an exciting adventure.
Don’t get me wrong; the process of learning about my anxiety and how to control its symptoms was no small feat. But, after doing so, learning to embrace life with optimism and excitement is what ultimately broke the bonds of anxiety, and made way for a life of fullness and joy.