Sunlight breaking through misty forest

Welcome to the jarring world of anxiety,

The world of fear, what ifs and instability

Where no moment is ever yours to hold

“You can’t do it” is what you’re told.

Anxiety is the monster in my brain

It fights for sovereignty over my terrain

Day after day, night after night

It won’t give up without a fight.

A fight that has cost me dear,

Because anxiety won’t let anyone near

The walls it has built for me are too high

To get to me, well, why would you even try?

A shape shifter this monster is

Sometimes a thick heavy mist is what it fits

My mind and my heart in its fold

No moment, no memory is free from its hold.

Sometimes, strong black ropes it wraps around me

Tightly binding me so I can never be free,

“Stay with me,” it gently says

I obey, and watch my dreams waste away.

Anxiety is possessive, you see,

It wants me and only me

It has for me a world created

A world where I am always hated. 

It weaves around me a spell,

A world where no one wishes me well

Where I am no more than a fleeting thought

As relevant as an ugly moth.

Sometimes, anxiety becomes me.

It tells me, “This is who you will always be.”

It whispers that it will never leave

This is a lie I almost always believe.

It tells me, “I am you, you are me.

That’s all the world can see.

Broken, flawed and alone you are,

Stop the fight, give up the war.”

But anxiety, I won’t let you win,

Even when you wear me thin.

Bruised, broken and alone I will still stand,

Fight to protect my own land. 

Image via Thinkstock.


Most worries come and go quickly, and you are conscious of their entrance and exit. Your heart rate leaps, your breaths start quickening, your fingers start tapping. And then something comes along – perhaps an answer or source of comfort – and you realize your worry had been unfounded. You’re going to be fine. Yes, others wouldn’t have reacted in the same, startled way you did… but that’s OK.

But sometimes, out of the blue, a thought you hadn’t looked at for months makes an appearance. And you can’t let it go: it lingers, stuck to the inside of your mind, begging you to roll it over on your tongue again and again. If you try to forget, your mind ignores – and makes sure it’s right there when you’re reading or eating or trying to concentrate. There is a flurry of unrelated, incapacitating thoughts that has infused itself in your skull; and the more you try to tame it, the more powerless you feel. 

At one point, you become conscious of your worrying – but still can’t seem to stop it. You notice it’s disrupting your daily routine, making you more forgetful, prompting you to retreat into isolation. You hope it goes away – that overnight or after a meal, the dark shadow in your mind will be lifted and blown away. You know deep down, your anxiety is baseless and entirely unhelpful, and conjuring worst-case scenarios is doing you more harm than good. Your negative thoughts are intrusive, almost as if they’re at war with the happy, optimistic side of yourself. At one point, you feel like a puppet; and the strings controlling your body and thoughts are at the mercy of your anxiety. 

You want to stop worrying, but you can’t.

The future is brimming with uncertainty, and you dread that. A part of you is excited about the new people you’ll meet or the new things you’ll learn. But the other part can only focus on the potholes or the darkness that pervades the bottom. It can be so hard to trust people sometimes. 

Ironic as it sounds, your anxiety becomes yet another reason to worry (and it also happens to be the biggest reason). Sometimes, people tell you that you’re overreacting and need to calm down. They tell you life is going to throw bigger curveballs at you and you can’t afford to stress out over every aspect of your routine. They tell you there are people with bigger problems, and you shouldn’t think about yourself so much. They tell you to read the news, so you can “gain some perspective on life.” They tell you you’re going to have high blood pressure and a stream of physical illnesses in the future. But those people don’t understand. You do realize you’re hurting yourself physically. You do read the news, you do realize your problems are relatively small and insignificant, you do try to sweep your problems under the rug and immerse yourself in the issues stalking humanity. 


But if it doesn’t work, why try? 

Sometimes, you look at the laughing faces around you and wish yours could look like that, too. You hear laughs or giggles and wonder why they come out of your mouth so rarely – it seems so effortless for most people. You wonder what it feels like to say something without fear of being judged or criticized. 

Movies, dystopian novels, or videos become your solace during your worst times. It’s easier to drown yourself in other people’s problems, rather than your own. Escapism. 

You wonder what it feels like to not have those awful voices in your head, telling you something is not right – or that something is about to go horribly wrong. The voices that sometimes prevent you from functioning properly, that lead you straight into a terrible period of inactivity and helplessness.

This is what living with anxiety feels like.  

Image via Thinkstock.

So awhile ago I wrote about having depression in your 20s and the response I got was amazing! I didn’t do it for myself. Instead, I wanted to give others the confidence to admit what they are going through and not be ashamed. I struggle with depression that’s pretty minor compared to how prominent my anxiety is. I know lucky me, right? Depression and anxiety? I’m basically collecting them all.

What’s it like to have anxiety? It’s one of those things that is difficult to explain unless you have been through it yourself. However, I think it’s important to try and explain what it’s like so people around you, your friends, your family and your loved ones are sympathetic, and more importantly, understand you aren’t your anxiety. It’s just a part of you.

Everyone’s anxiety is different. I’m going to explain mine. What better way to write this than now, when I’m having a rough week of anxiety attacks.

Have you ever woke up from a night of heavy drinking, where you can’t remember what you’ve done the night before? Did you dance on a table, say something silly or just be a drunken mess? You know that panic you go through where you imagine every bad possible outcome? Well, that’s what it’s like to have anxiety, but intensify it by 10 and having it 24/7.

1. Anxiety attacks are sporadic and seemingly without reason.

My anxiety can come at any time in the day. Sometimes, I don’t have it for weeks at a time. Then, bam! Anxiety attack. A constant stream of tears, hyperventilating and the feeling of being suffocated. I can’t tell you what’s wrong because I don’t know, and I can’t fix it. This is the worst part for your friends and your loved ones because they want to help you. It’s natural, but how can someone help me when I don’t know what sets it off? Sometimes, there is no reasonable explanation for it. Personally, I’m still working on figuring out my trigger.

2. It’s a daily struggle.

On a daily basis, my anxiety means I’m constantly overthinking, but I’m not actually concentrating on anything. Sounds bizarre, right? I can be in work, but I will be on autopilot. Instead, my mind is working at a 100 mph thinking about anything and everything at once. It ranges from random thoughts, such as what shall I do at the gym to what am I doing with my life. It’s exhausting. I used to be the most organized person who would take on as much as I could and get it done no matter what. Now? I forget everything. I find it difficult to concentrate. Instead, I procrastinate like a university student doing exams.


Sleep? That’s a thing of the past for me. I get about three to four hours of sleep a night, and I always wake up at least twice. If on a rare occasion I do sleep, then I’ll wake up with scratches on my face from when I’ve been anxious, I sleep walk or have nightmares.

I’ve got into this bad habit of over exhausting my body and not allowing myself five minutes peace because five minutes to myself just means I end up in my head. Whereas, if I’m constantly busy, then I’m distracting myself. I don’t watch television. I can’t watch films and most of the time, people think I’m ignoring them when I’m not. I’m just thinking about other things. Yet, I’m learning to deal with it. I have found it so helpful to talk about it. Luckily, I have the most amazing friends and family who are supportive and understanding, even during times when I am the worst person to be around.

3. It affects your ability to be “normal.”

“Normal” 20-year-old girls love going out with their friends, working and dating. All these things come so natural for most people. You don’t even think about it. You just do it. Social anxiety is a b*tch. It’s so easy to cancel plans and stay “comfortable” in your own surroundings. No one can judge you there, right? You’re safe. Nothing can set you off. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

My friends are understanding when I cancel on them now, but my best friends make the effort to get me out of my comfort zone. Something I’m always grateful for. Dating? Well that’s is a no go for me. I recently found someone who understood what I was going through and was so supportive of my episodes.

And what did I do? I pushed him away of course. In my mind, no one wants to date that girl with anxiety, right? I made things so much harder than they should have been. I wasn’t honest about how bad my anxiety is, and I couldn’t control it. I don’t blame him for walking away, and I don’t blame myself for the way I am.

4. Music helps create a blank space during anxious moments.

As cheesy as it sounds, music is my little savior. It’s the only time I can get out of my head, stop thinking and instead focus on the words. My song lyric knowledge is impeccable. If I ever feel anxious, then I put my headphones in, whether it’s to sleep, in work or at the gym. Headphones on. World out.

I have anxiety, but I’m not my anxiety.

Image via Thinkstock.

This story originally appeared on The Law Foodie.

I’ve become a runner. I’ve always enjoyed being active, but never on teams. Hello competition anxiety! No, I have always enjoyed challenging myself: swimming, hiking, rock climbing, and more recently, running. I often find when my anxiety is up and I begin to feel restless and desperate, taking it out on the pavement is one of the best things for me. I like to be outside, and I love the solitary time to be with my thoughts. You can run anywhere with only a pair of good shoes.

I’ve also become someone who has committed to regular therapy. My therapist and I have been working through some of my anxiety triggers through the use of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. In a nutshell, EMDR uses bilateral stimulation to help me process traumatic experiences. The bilateral stimulation can be done with your therapist by tracking a pencil left and right with your eyes or by slowly tapping alternating sides of your body, among other methods.

As we’ve begun this intense inner work together I found myself continuing to feel like the experience was opening up other things in my subconscious. Other processing started to happen that I wasn’t even fully aware of. I have moments where suddenly a multitude thoughts and memories collide. Fragments of memories from lectures in college from a decade ago would suddenly integrate with a line from Harry Potter. At times it was so intense that it would take my breath away. It still does.

I didn’t realize this at first, but I was having these intense moments while out running. And wouldn’t you know it, running is also a form of bilateral stimulation. In one specific instance, I went out running after being triggered by hateful political rhetoric. I was so upset and I was thinking about how awful these people were to say such things, and then suddenly it hit me: these hateful things that people say, it’s like what my anxiety says to me. It tells me I’m not good enough, not strong enough, not worthy. It leads me to dark thoughts, dark places, even suicidal places.


But then I heard the voice of Sirius Black telling Harry this: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” I realized that even though there’s this hateful, self-deprecating voice of anxiety inside me, it doesn’t define me. I might find myself in dark places, I have dark thoughts, but I can choose to not be what my anxiety tells me I am. It is hard work, so fucking hard, but I can choose to focus on the light. It takes practice, and like running, I can’t do it every day, but I’m building up my endurance.

What’s more, I have profoundly grasped the impact of the words of others who have told me over and over again that this is all in my head. Of course it’s all in my head! The anxiety, the depression, the darkness and the light. I thought again of Harry Potter, and I had an intensely validating moment from good ole Professor Dumbledore. There’s that moment in the final Harry Potter book — when Harry had just been hit by the killing curse for the second time and it wasn’t clear if he was dead or alive in that instant. Harry was waiting and talking with Dumbledore, and Harry asked if this was real or all in his head. Dumbledore responded, “Of course it’s all in your head, but why on earth should that mean it isn’t real?”

Image via Facebook – Harry Potter

Hello, my name is Anxiety!

woman holding up a sign that reads: Hello, my name is anxiety.

At 27 years old, I began to live my life for the first time. Everything before this was a blur. Every sight, sound, touch, smell and taste was only something I had heard of. Every experience was mediocre. Life was bland. There was no substance. There was no sense.

It’s hard to put these feelings into words, but I will try. The best way I can describe anxiety is going through each day feeling as if you’re under water. Nothing is clear. All of your senses lack functioning. You’re overstimulated, and the only thing you can do is shut down. I cried a lot and it helped a lot. It was my outlet. I allowed myself to feel, to be vulnerable.

Anxiety is something that is too familiar to me. Since age 5, it had haunted me. It had controlled me, and it had torn me down more than once. It didn’t come alone. It came hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly, with depression.

Depression. You know that rainy day that feels like it’s never going to end? Your mood is sad. You’re exhausted. You can’t get out of bed? It’s like that, only times 1,000! It’s not just one day, two days or even three. Sometimes, it lasts for months, sometimes years. You start to become a sucky person, flaky, insensitive and just over all a buzz kill. Not yourself.


From age 5 to 27, until the day I hit rock bottom and had no other choice but up, anxiety robbed me of my freedom. I’ve been to dark places. Imagine if you must. Never physically hurting myself, but, I’ve sunk into a few deep black holes where scary thoughts laughed at me while I wept.

Anxiety disorders are debilitating. No, I couldn’t just stop worrying. No, I couldn’t just relax or just breathe. I couldn’t just get over it. Trust me, I wish I could, but I couldn’t.

This is my first but not my last attempt at describing anxiety. My mission is to educate those who are dealing with it and who have loved ones who struggle with it. There is help, and there is hope. I’m so thankful this experience has allowed me to turn my mess into a message.

Here’s what I learned to be the do’s and don’t of anxiety:

1. Do speak to someone!

Anyone, a friend, a therapist, your significant other or even me!

2. Don’t think it’ll just pass on it’s own.

Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves, thinking we can fix everything. It’s OK to ask for some help.

3. Do everything possible to try to stay positive.

Show gratitude. Show compassion.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Not on Facebook. Not on Instagram. Not in the magazines. Not in real life. Trust me! If everyone threw their problems into a pile, then you would act fast to grab yours right back.

5. Do redirect your thoughts.

Distract yourself. As soon as a negative thought attacks, be prepared. Think happy. Singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” works for me! (Judge if you want.)

6. Don’t forget: Out of your vulnerabilities, will come your strength.

7. Do what feels good to you.

If you feel like you need to stay in, then decline the invite.

8. Don’t be embarrassed to see a therapist.

Here’s a few sentences from a book I read and really found helpful when I was going through my funk: “No study has ever suggested that people in therapy are, on average, more troubled or demoralized than people who are not in therapy. Rather, they tend to be distinguished by the fact that they have chosen to confront the problems of poor self-esteem and inadequate contact with the self. They, thereby, offer us an opportunity to learn of great deal about the psychological condition of the general population.”

9. Don’t forget to be.

Be self-aware. Be present. Be yourself.


When your worst enemy is yourself 

When you overthink every decision 

When everything is wrong

When happiness is elusive

When silence means judgment

When pain feels normal

When feel like a burden

When you are alone in a room of people 

When you are never enough 

When your panic erupts

When your heart races

When the tears fall uncontrollably 

When your vision narrows

When you need to run

To escape

Certain death

And then 

When it couldn’t get any worse

It doesn’t.

It fades.

You focus on your breath.

In for four

Out for four

You continue to live.

You take the next step.

You do the next task.

You pretend you are OK

Until you are.

No one knows 

And you’ve mastered the art

Of faking it

Until you make it.

Because no one knows

Your debilitating fear

Of yourself.

And maybe it doesn’t get better

But you know

It doesn’t get worse.

Image via Thinkstock.

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