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When Anxiety Is A Constant Companion: A Personal Story Repost

I wrote this story for the October 26, 2020 edition of the Gainesville Sun. It was a very different time of my life but I find that the themes still ring true for me today and in our 2024 world. 

In rereading it, I decided to share it here because I think it's relatable for anyone who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder or other mental health struggles that activate fear frequently. 

I hope what resonates uplifts you and helps you feel a little less alone. 

Here it goes...

Anxiety has always been with me. I didn’t know what it was as a child and even into my adult years, but looking back now, I see it.

Like a constant companion, it joined me. It showed up as a pressured reminder to study more for every test, to strive for perfection. It took me on journeys of worst-case scenarios. It showed up in relationships, reminding me the other person may leave at any moment.

Like the taxi driver with me just along for the ride, anxiety drove my life, except I thought the anxious feelings in my body and the catastrophizing loops in my head were actually me. That they were just who I was as a person. I believed that those feelings and thoughts were the truth about the world. I believed that the world is a scary place.

And here’s the thing — there is truth to that. Here I am in 2020. I don’t need to tell you the world is scary.

But — that is only the partial truth. When I believe that the world being scary is the whole truth, I am actually believing a lie.

The world can be scary, yes. I won’t recap the global pandemic, status of the economy or oppression. Needless to say, anxiety is reminding me of those terrors.

In the midst of all of that, I also just left my home and community of the last decade, the place I grew into the person I am. I left the people I love, and my beautiful 1930s cottage I had the privilege to live and learn in. All of that is behind me now. And I actually haven’t landed anywhere yet.

Is moving in the midst of this turbulent time ideal? Um no. And yet, it was my time.

I would never have been able to do this back when I believed anxiety and I were the same voice.

My turning point was several years ago. As I was biking down Main Street, a car made a quick left and pummeled into me. I flew through the air, hit my head on the hood and landed in the road.

After that, anxiety got louder. This prompted me to reach out for support. I came to learn that this accident simply revealed a deeper trauma. One that anxiety had been telling me about all along. I don’t feel safe. I am ungrounded.

See, a few years prior to the accident, my whole view of the world came crashing down. It left me feeling even more isolated and controlled by anxiety than ever before. Through the help of a wonderful counselor and the resources I had gained from studying therapy myself, I began to learn a different way.

My therapist helped me to know the voice of anxiety, separate from my true self. I learned about mindfulness — being intentionally aware of the present moment. I began using resources to help my body know she’s safe, that I’m here to take care of her.

Last October, I went away for the weekend, alone. Work had been stressful and I needed the time to reset. I also sensed being on the precipice of change but couldn’t have put it into words then. I overlooked the ocean and let its power and peace calm me.

While watching the sunrise, I listened to a random comedy podcast. A phrase the host said hasn’t left me since. “Wherever I am, I am home.” They talked about the present moment being all we have, and how to be here and home in it.

Now, I see the world differently. My home is within myself. Anxiety is a companion in my life. Sometimes it’s helpful but sometimes it’s unhelpful and causes me to leave the moment; but, as many meditation teachers have taught, it is one wave in the sea of emotions and experiences I have. I have tools to tolerate it without getting swept under.

Although, it still happens from time to time. However, when it does, I know that just as when I’ve been tossed by a wave in the actual ocean, it is an unpleasant experience but I can recover and get back out there. Or not. But either way, I don’t have to beat myself up for a big wave surprising me.

So here I am, ungrounded again but not without home. The world can be scary but it is also beautiful and surprising and welcoming.

Home is wherever I am.

In this moment, I am home.