For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with it.
As a little girl who felt overwhelming surges of unexplainable and uncontrollable emotions, I obviously had no idea that was what it was called.
All I knew was that it was a horrible feeling that made me feel powerless; a sense of inner turmoil that no amount of crying could get rid of; a whirlwind of angst that made me want to scream my lungs out.
Everything started with what I now recognise as separation anxiety. I remember needing to physically see my father while attending weekly singing classes; the poor man would sit patiently, hour after hour, while 15 girls belted out tunes that were probably not on his hit list.
The same separation anxiety saw the need to have an adult holding my hand while I sat in a tuition room with 8 other kids. I’ve learnt since that my parent’s friends had to play “hand tag team” to save their tired arms from supporting me through those hours.
At some point, this separation anxiety morphed into a 13 year struggle with an eating disorder where anxieties revolved around food, exercise, and what my body looked like.
I remember the extreme anxiety during a birthday dinner that made me excuse myself so I could climb up and down the nearest random stairwell… only to get stuck inside. I also remember how the thought of trying on clothes in departmental stores would throw me into a frenzy if what I saw in the mirror wasn’t “ideal”.
Since then, this anxiety has taken on various forms - from social anxiety where the thought of meeting someone would often involve a day of stressing and crying, to “germ” anxiety where I would refuse to shake anyone’s hand in fear of contamination, to travel anxiety where many probably questioned my sanity as I paced up and down the airport aisles hyperventilating.
While the reality of anxiety is, in no way, humorous to the person dealing with it in the moment… the above are just some stories that remind me not to take things too seriously. They are stories that amuse, but also remind me that current anxieties I face will be ones I look back on and [hopefully] laugh at in time to come. I mean, let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, so much of what we tend to get anxious about really doesn't matter.
Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?" - Regina Brett
There’ve been countless times when I’ve worn myself out getting flustered about something like how my pants were feeling a little more snug or how I missed a workout; only to get a call from a close friend relaying an issue that puts things in context: a serious illness, a loss of a job, etc.
Anxiety can be selfish to its very core, it makes us focus on ourselves and get consumed ruminating in our own little worlds that we’ve been the sole creator of; often ignorant (albeit unintentionally and often uncontrollably) to everything that might be happening around us - consumed by the voices or fears in our head that make it impossible to focus on anything, or anyone else.
I can’t say I’ve overcome anxiety. Heck, I’ll probably deal with bouts of it for the rest of my life, whether in one form or another.
Having dealt with it for over a decade, though, here’s some things that I know have helped:
Putting myself out there and surrounding myself with positive people who remind me that the world is so much bigger than my anxieties.
Talking about my struggles with people who love me for who I am, who laugh with me about (and sometimes at) the silly anxieties, but accept me anyway.
Being kind to myself and talking to myself the same way I would to a close friend; we’re often our worst critics after all.
Taking the time to get “consumed” in my friend and what she’s going through rather than spending the afternoon pacing back and forth in my house, worried about what might happen a week from now.
Being candid and authentic about what I’m going through; knowing that there’s no shame in being real and that there’s freedom in honesty.
Sometimes, though, it’s just doing anything to break that cycle, something that challenges the anxiety, something that strips the power away from the internal voice that has made you believe it has greater control of you than your rational self does.
Because every little step is a victory won, every little anxiety faced is an anxiety overcome, every little ground covered is a movement towards freedom.
And, you, my dear, are meant to be free. You were made to live a life free of worrysome thoughts. You were made to live a life of anything but mediocrity - on your own terms.
So don’t let that voice of anxiety (or any other voice for that matter) tell you otherwise!
Can you relate to Nicole's words and would love to share your thoughts too? Drop us a note at: [email protected]manproject.com.