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How Anxiety Affected My Relationship With Time

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My entire life I have always seemed to have it together; straight A’s, obedient, well-spoken, always excelling. My parents thought I was destined to be the next Oprah. The epitome of black girl magic. What my parents and everyone else failed to see was that my mind, the thing that made me so admirable, was more like a torture chamber between my ears.

For every action, there was an equal and opposite reaction in my mind.

Not good enough. Why did you do that? Why can’t you be normal? Weak. They’re laughing at you. Can’t do anything right. No one sees you. Your friends don’t love you. You’ll always be alone.

These were a few of the thoughts that would saturate my mind every day.

These voices have bullied me since I was about 7 years old. I called these thoughts “the voices” and I was terrified of these voices (which ironically sounded a lot like me). I lived two weeks into the future so I would stay so busy, these voices would be silenced by my unnecessarily long to-do list. Assignments, extracurricular, cleaning, etc. Whatever it took to remain occupied. However, at times, being so overwhelmed by my self-imposed workload, “the voices” would catch me, and lecture me on how what I had done was mediocre and how that mediocrity would lead to a really horrible life. The incessant harsh criticism from these voices in my head made it impossible to ever relax. Pushing my mind and body to the limits was the only way I felt in control of my thoughts.

It wasn’t until I was a 20 year old college student that I learned these voices I was so afraid of were a mental disorder called anxiety. Until then, I thought being scared every day and having intense moments when I felt like I couldn’t breathe, with chest and back tension, tears welling up in my eyes and an inexplicable feeling of dread was just a part of my weekly routine. After a series of incidents in school I later learned where severe panic attacks, I sought out help from a counselor. After speaking with a counselor about my feelings and the bullying thoughts I had to endure every day, I realized I no longer had to hide my anxiety behind this “strong, black woman” persona who could handle any and everything. It became OK to acknowledge my feelings out loud and share them with my loved ones. The more I vocalized my anxiety, the quieter the voices in my head became.

I realized that handling my anxiety required me to slow down…literally. Attempting to remain busy all the time kept me from being present and enjoying my time. I had lived my life like I was riding a horse; going 50 miles per hour, not seeing anything around me, just running rapidly toward an obscure destination I thought I needed to get to. Counseling helped me learn to live my life more like riding a camel; being slow and deliberate about my actions, remaining grounded in the camel’s movement, and taking the time to see everything around me.

Three years later, I still use therapy and meditation to work through my anxiety. Anxiety taunts us with our deepest insecurities and then tricks us into wasting our most precious resource; time. We stop living in the now and only live to anticipate what could happen tomorrow, next week or in five years. Although, I still struggle daily with anxiety, I have decided to fall in love with time, taking life second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour. I try to remain grounded in every moment of every day, finding peace in the noise. I say all this to say, make life your camel not your horse.

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Thinkstock photo via Aaron-H

Originally published: November 5, 2017
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