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Finding My Voice in the Face of Anxiety

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Anxiety hurts. It’s the fear you’ll never measure up. You worry about everything. (Are people going to think this post sounds bad? Should I be working on something else instead? Why did I waste five minutes staring at my phone deciding if I should turn on my music or not?)

I’ve been plagued by these anxious feelings for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, I was labeled a “shy” kid, but I was anxious. I was terrified of being ridiculed if I gave the wrong answer or because my voice has always sounded a little bit like Minnie Mouse. I didn’t want to take some else’s turn to speak. (It didn’t matter that they talked over me.) I was an obsessive rule follower … not just some of the rules; all the rules. All the time.

I finally allowed myself to talk more often in class around the time I started writing, but I was still the shy girl. I can vividly recall my eleventh-grade English teacher writing a response in my class journal telling me she would appreciate me sharing my thoughts out loud with the class more often. It was a struggle. I felt like I was repeating what someone else said. I’d been quiet for so long, I didn’t know how to express myself. I could think of a million things I wanted to say, but getting them to come out of my mouth was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

I still struggle with tripping over my words when I talk in front of people. When I speak in public, it takes days to work up the confidence to do it, and I worry the entire time. Anxiety tells me no one is interested, or they’re only there to be polite.

Even my writing (my profession and my creative outlet) causes me anxiety, especially when I have get writer’s block. I worry myself sick over trends and markets and whether or not I’m the right person to write my stories. I hate that about me.

Anxiety raises its ugly head all the time in my life. I’m writing this story right now because I’m anxious about working on a story for my day job, and I’m trying to reassure myself that I can put coherent words on a page. Writing is the thing I’ve always wanted to do, but sometimes, I don’t even feel qualified to journal for myself, much less write for publication.

When I’m overwhelmed and can’t see past the fear beating inside my brain, often the best thing I can do is put on some music, zone out and write whatever words want to come out.

I start, stop, delete, hold my breath and beg my brain to make sense.

Get through one more sentence.

Finish the paragraph.

Take a breath.

Hands on the keyboard, don’t take both hands off the keyboard or the words might not come back.

Write the next word that comes to mind.

Write another, and another.

Soon I’ve got something. It might be one paragraph that took me an hour to write or an article for my day job that seemed too daunting to approach, but the words flow. They haven’t deserted me yet. I’m still writing and still worrying, but I can do it.

I’ve survived this anxiety for years.

I’ll keep fighting it. I have found my voice, and I refuse to let it silence me.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: July 12, 2016
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