It all started with eternity.
Or, more precisely, my fear of it.
There I was, no more than ten years old, perhaps even younger. Laying in my bed in the middle of the night, pondering over the universe and the size of it, and how I’m going to die one day and then I would just exist in the afterlife. Forever. The mere thought of it would send chills down my spine, or just straight up throw me into the vicious arms of a panic attack.
So I stopped sleeping and became this one crazy kid, the one who is always tired and talks about some weird thing called insomnia. Of course, ten-year-olds cannot suffer from insomnia, or that’s at least what everyone else thought back then. So they told me to stop spending so much time on the computer and drink warm milk before bed.
But none of that ever worked and I was forced to spend entire nights alone with my thoughts. And I would think a lot. And I would worry a lot. Am I going to be tired at school tomorrow? Is anyone else also awake? Why does it happen and do other people go through this as well? What if they don’t? Then I’m most definitely some sort of a creep!
Worries turned into anxiety, anxiety would often turn into panic attacks. I’d walk up to the window to check how many windows still had lights on. Oh boy, did it get lonely when all I saw was darkness.
Anxiety kept poisoning my mind as time went by and it seemed like things were just getting worse. First, I developed a curious case of an imaginary, stress-related bladder infection that proceeded to ruin my life for another two years. Then I went through cycles of different types of anxiety disorders, out of which generalized anxiety seemed to really enjoy my company, so it stayed with me for years.
Ironically, things got really out of hand somewhere in my early twenties, when I managed to get my life together and was genuinely happy. Do you know what’s one sure thing about happiness? It can end, any second. Well, not necessarily, but that’s what anxiety would tell me, every waking moment of my life. It just wouldn’t shut up, it was always somewhere in the back of my head. Even when I was laughing, doing something I love or simply relaxing, there was always this background noise.
Do you know that there’s a big chance everyone you love will get in an accident today? And if they don’t, they’ll leave you anyway. What are you even happy about, life can get ruined in a matter of minutes. Bad things happen. You may get terminally ill, maybe you already are. Yes, you most definitely are terminally ill.
At some point I was so convinced that some tragedy is awaiting me, that I started feeling genuinely sorry for myself. Do you know the feeling when you’re watching a really sappy movie where something terrible happens to one of the characters and you feel all the empathy towards them, and sometimes you even shed a tear because you feel so bad for them? Well, I was this empathetic towards myself, even though nothing bad had happened yet. How ridiculous is that?
At some point I realized that I seriously need to take care of this. So I did.
Well, maybe just not like that, it required some self-discipline, lifestyle changes and sacrifices, but I did it. No meds, just lots of nature, nutrition and meditation. Things that don’t sound effective to a lot of people, so they don’t even try.
But let me tell you what happens if you do try them, at least in my own experience. The background noise is gone. You wake up one day expecting the inner voice to tell you that you’re going to die soon, but instead you catch yourself wondering what you’re going to eat for breakfast. Or maybe counting hours until you can lay down and re-watch Parks and Recreation. And when you do, you laugh and that’s all there is in this moment: laugher. No hidden worry, no paranoia, just genuine laughter.
And sometimes, when you dive deep into your meditation practice, you will find that there’s nothing occupying your mind. Only blissful silence, the exact opposite of anxiety. Now, this is something worth fighting for.