Living with Anxiety

Real talk.

As I’ve made very clear, I’m a rollercoaster of emotions personified. Half of the time I’m tripping over my feels and the other wallowing in an existential mess. However, what I haven’t really talked about is something that affects me in a very real way: my oh, so charming friend, ANXIETY.

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I have lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. At school whenever my teacher told me politely to be quiet, I would spiral into internal CODE RED: “Oh my god! What have I done? I am a worthless pile of banana peels! Why do I even bother?” Similarly, when, by some cruel twist of fate, I couldn’t answer a question on a test, forgot to put on deodorant, or – worst of all – waved awkwardly at someone in the hallway who didn’t acknowledge my existence, my mind would sucker punch me right in the shins and the self-esteem like a ton of farts.  

Ranging from small paranoid thoughts – “Did I turn the stove off?” – to life and death dilemmas – “Omg, am I going to get cancer from eating way too many canned beans?” – to even existentially crushing moments – “What am I doing? Am I wasting my life away?!” – my anxiety sometimes makes life a tad more complicated than it needs to be with its self-doubt, melancholy and compulsive sighing at random hours of the night while staring up at the ceiling.

As I explained it to my therapist, I would compare my entire existence to me ambling along a path up a hill. Most of the time I’m just whistling and having a fabulous time, smiling at the sun a la Disney princess, but there are moments when suddenly everything falls apart. Something springs up on the road ahead or drops from the sky and, instead of assessing the situation with some degree of composure, I simply react by swan diving off the hill, tumbling round and round all the way down and falling face first on the dirt.

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Of course, after minutes, hours or days, I do stand up. I dust myself off, my hair looking slightly more disheveled than before, and amble up the hill once again pretending nothing happened until something else pops up and I fling myself off the hill like an idiot again. 

It can be something small or intense, but in the moment of surprise it’s hard not to react. It’s hard not to freak out and jump off, scratching myself all over and falling on my face like a derp. It really is. Afterwards, I remember that moment of anxiety as something far away. I feel myself so removed from it that I can hardly recall what caused me to lunge off the hill in the first place. I feel strong and impenetrable until it happens again.

Image result for hermione frizzy hair gifIn my case, I think this anxiety catting results from both my paranoid parrot self and my total inability to NOT overthink things. It stems from my fear of being wrong and making any form of mistake, be it paradigm-shifting or simply causing me to look the fool. (It’s my damned Ravenclawness. I know it!) That coupled with my indecision – I spend more time deciding what to watch on Netflix than actually watching anything – results in a moment of panic that starts at the pit of my stomach and travels all the way up the ends of my hairs, making it extra frizzy and extra insane.

Over the years, I have tried to manage my anxiety and definitely gotten better at it. Compared to my poor little middle school self who bit her nails and hid behind house plants at parties (shout out to house plants for always being reliable AF), I’ve become more of a pro at dealing with it. However, I can’t completely shake it. Anxiety is like that inconvenient third cousin who comes to crash in your couch once in a while and won’t leave no matter how much you try. It’s like being struck by a bolt of lightning or stepping on something sticky. There is no knowing when it will come, but when it does, it takes all your resolve to prevent yourself from crumbling down.

It can be destructive and all consuming. That is why over the years I’ve developed ways to manage it, or at least try to pretend like I got it on lockdown even though most of the time I just flail in despair.

Mafe’s How to Be a Baller and NOT a Ball of Anxiety List

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  1. Talk about it: Call someone up. Bother your narcoleptic sloth of a best friend and force her to listen to your whirlwind of constant feels. It helps to put your emotions into words with someone who won’t judge you, but will instead give you a different perspective. (Thank you, friend. You know who you are!)
  2. Treat yo self: Can’t concentrate on your work? Take a freaking break and watch some cartoons instead. Feel like you are so overcome with stress from overthinking even what color socks to wear? That’s okay. Put them all on, or forgo socks altogether and pretend to be a hobbit.
  3. Write: That’s a personal one. But really any form of creative expression that helps liberate intensity is welcome. So if your thing is throwing paint at a wall, playing the piano with your feet or even making Dorito art, do it up, chicken butt!
  4. Impromptu house karaoke: Sing it ALL out. There is no better way to take the edge off than jumping around your living room jamming out to your favorite anime theme song. (Crossing Field, I’m looking at you, you beautiful bastard.)
  5. Take a deep breath: A solid deep breath can be the only thing that prevents you from turning into a puddle of feelings and ruining your brand-new carpet. 
  6. Drink some tea: It’s freaking magical, okay? #matchalatte
  7. Go to therapy: There is nothing weird about talking to a professional someone who is there to guide your thoughts and help you out. (Shout out to my therapist for letting me flail around her office once a week.)
  8. Be honest to yourself: Everyone gets anxious and it doesn’t make you less of a functional person to live with it. It’s important to acknowledge it and try to help yourself be happier.

The bottom line is there is NO shame in wanting to empower your mental health and in coming to terms with your own issues and emotions. There is still such a ridiculous stigma in our society surrounding this that is frankly unproductive and damaging. It’s okay to go seek professional help. It’s okay to feel nuts sometimes. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Talk about it and don’t be afraid to get help because we are all mad here in some way or another.

BONUS: My anti-anxiety song

Credit for banner art: CosmicPonye

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