How Anxiety Both Hurts and Empowers Me

Some days, my anxiety is a drop of rain on a mountaintop. Some days it’s the mountain.

Most days I don’t notice it, but other days it feels like the weight of the world is crushing me and no one can lift it.

When my anxiety manifests, it’s a lump in my stomach — noticeable — but I get on with my day. Every once in a while, my breath catches on that lump and I can’t breathe, can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong, yet there is nothing I can do.

It’s difficult to rationalize that my body and my mind are betraying me and I have no say over what will happen next. To know that I am definitely overacting, but not being able to react any differently.

Some days, my anxiety makes me feel like I’m in a spotlight even though I’m in the middle of a crowded room. I’m a dingy in the middle of the ocean with nowhere to go; no island in sight to find relief. I feel completely out of touch with my surroundings and I don’t know what to do.

When my anxiety makes me want to hide (and I mean hide) — under a blanket, in a closest, away from everything – I know others might not understand. How could you?

How could someone know what it feels like to be trapped inside their own body by something they can’t explain or rationalize, something that makes them want to die — to stop existing – just so they don’t have to feel this way anymore? How could someone understand that feeling if they’ve never experienced it before?

When you hold me and tell me it’s going to be OK — I don’t know it’s going to be OK. Your words ground me, but I’ve often convinced myself that this feeling is going to last forever. I’ve convinced myself that I’m irreconcilably broken and there is nothing I can do to fix myself.

But some days, my anxiety is strength. After everything I’ve experienced, I must be strong. To feel terror and fear on a regular basis and still be OK — I have to be strong. Even when I can’t get out bed or I call in sick to work for the second day in a row, I am strong.

Anxiety has hurt me, but it has also empowered me. It has shown me that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and even if no one might understand what I’m experiencing, no one wants me to experience it either. Panic attacks inspire me — they inspire my art, they make me a kinder and more caring person. Anxiety is terrible, but it is a part of my life and I can’t imagine myself without it.

Some days, my anxiety is a ball and chain at the bottom of the well, and I feel like I’m drowning. But some days, I’m just me.

Follow this journey here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Unsplash photo via Ant Rozetsky

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