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How I Came to Accept Anxiety Is Always Changing

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As we grow older, it is inevitable that aspects of our lives being to change — our bodies, our minds, our financial and living circumstances, our relationships, our mental health, among many other things.

One of the hardest changes to deal with for me personally has been the way my anxiety has fluctuated through all of these life changes. Things that once made me anxious no longer hold the same power, and things that once didn’t make me anxious now do, and as I experience new things in my life I am always finding new things that make me anxious. When you’ve spent the majority of your life in a similar situation (for example, 12 years of schooling) you’ll eventually learn love and accept your anxiety for the way it is in that situation. However, this love and acceptance can make it all the more difficult and daunting when new challenges arise. It makes you question your ability to adapt to change and your ability to cope with your own anxiety, it can feel as though anxiety has taken control of your life again.

I recently had an experience in a nightclub which reminded me of this — of the fluid nature of anxiety, and how it has the power to influence your enjoyment of new experiences.

I was out with friends at a local nightclub and a song I love dearly came on — Queen, of course! Apparently, everyone else in the club really liked this song as well as they all proceeded to get a little bit rowdy and pushy. I began to panic; my chest tightened, my vision began to blur, my heart started racing and I knew I had to remove myself from the situation — flight or fight. I had also found myself in a similar situation on a cruise boat about a month before, an experience I had attributed to being the traveling rather than the clubbing.

When we got home that night, I was mentally beating myself up about what had happened: “But it was my favorite song.” “Why can’t I just be like everyone else at the club and not panic?” “Why am I like this?” “Why me?” “I thought I knew how to handle my anxiety!”

After a few days of thinking and reflecting, I came to the realization that anxiety is not just one thing; it’s multifaceted, fluid and moving and everchanging, and that’s OK. As life changes, anxiety will change with it. It’s important to remind ourselves this also is OK. Change is inevitable; there’s nothing we can do to stop it other than roll with it and use it to our advantage. I was reminded of the things I told myself when I accepted my anxiety the first time: “I am not alone. It’s OK not to be OK. Breathe. This will pass and it is only temporary.” Every time you say these things, you begin to believe them a little more until eventually you wholeheartedly believe in them. I really do passionately believe in the power of positive affirmations.

If my anxiety has taught me anything, it’s taught me how to be resilient. Instead of beating myself up about this newfound trigger, I will challenge myself to accept it.

I am not my anxiety. My anxiety does not define me.

Photo by J. Meier on Unsplash

Originally published: March 28, 2019
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