themighty logo

When I Stopped Telling My Anxiety to 'Shut Up,' and Started to Listen


Anxiety is its own language. I finally came up with this description after repeatedly being asked, “What do you need?” during a panic attack and being unable to answer.

Anxiety is a foreign language to those suffering from it and those around the person with it. In the moment, I have no idea how to translate why I’m having an attack or what I need to feel better. I just know something is wrong.

This makes it impossible for others to help me and it has left my loved ones feeling helpless. We at least are unified in that: feeling helpless. I’ve spent years with my anxiety and years trying to get it to shut up. One day, I decided not to fight it. That day I decided to listen to it and really hear what it was trying to say. I finally heard my anxiety.

I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from an experience when I was just 12 years old. I have had anxiety from that day forward, and since then I have tried to conform to what I thought was normal. The more I tried to conform, the more my anxiety would act up. I was not taking care of my needs and doing what was best for me.

I have had three major depressive episodes from the anxiety becoming too much. The most recent was while holding a corporate finance job, following what I thought was my dream of climbing the corporate ladder. This is the time when I decided to just listen to my anxiety. My anxiety was telling me this was not my path.

I need flexibility to slow down when my body says it’s overwhelmed. Sometimes that means taking breaks or walking away from a project until I feel OK. It means incorporating self-care into my daily routine. My anxiety was telling me corporate America did not fulfill my needs.

I sat with my anxiety longer. If corporate America wasn’t for me, which I have assumed since college it was, then what is my path? The answer: making purpose out of my trauma through helping others. I made an uncomfortable decision to quit my stable job and do just that.

I now own my own business and work around my needs. Even better, I do work that feels good. My anxiety has been fairly silent since I listened to it. While I’m still on medication, I have hope I will one day coexist peacefully with my anxiety.

I’m learning this anxiety thing might be a blessing for me. I am learning to love what I cannot change.

The Mighty is asking the following: What was the moment that made you realize it was time to face your mental illness? What was your next step? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.