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Who My Anxiety Makes Me

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I should probably begin with my name, but my name is irrelevant to who I am.

I believe names are the least important factor when it comes to discovering who someone is. We are so much more than names, nationalities and things that can be recognized from just a few words. We are each a mind with a thousand and one different thoughts rushing to be expressed. We are each a heart that’s bursting with a hundred emotions all at once. I cannot be summarized into “Nadine Khalifa” or “Egyptian” or “Journalist” or “Muslim” — I need more, because I am more.

You wanted to know who my anxiety makes me, but I am finding it rather difficult to translate myself and it, two entire identities into just two paragraphs. I am a new person every day and my anxiety takes a new form all the time, I would need a lifetime to genuinely be able to talk about who I am. I am a writer today, a reader tomorrow and a mathematician next week. I am whatever life needs me to be. Like a chameleon, I cannot take one form and live with it forever, I experience too much every second to not change colors every hour. I am a new person in every situation. I am uninterested, demotivated, cold and completely ignorant watching a sports game. Nevertheless, you will find me cheering my tonsils out for a team whose players I know personally.

I am a spec of dust waiting for my vacuum machine amongst over seven billion other specs. I am a memoir written by a tear-stained, broken hearted girl praying for things to get better, but I am also an article written by a strong, independent woman who understands the guidelines of the world. I am everything and nothing all at once. I am here and I am there and sometimes, I am all in my head.

I am too complex to expect anyone to understand who I am by just reading a few words. I am me. I like eating baby food, burgers and a well-done steak with pepper sauce and a side of sautéed vegetables and mash potatoes drenched in gravy sauce. I like watching the presidential debate and how to contour my cheekbones. I like going for jogs and miserably failing at football and spending the day in bed on my phone. I like talking for hours and staying silent for days. I like romance movies but hate “The Notebook” and “Titanic.” I like action movies more than I like to admit. I hate horror movies but I watch them all the time. I do not like snakes but I will hold one whenever I see one. I do not like confrontation but I can not keep my emotions at bay for long. I like gatherings but I can not stand being with too many people. I like being warm but I prefer winter. I am an adventure only the brave can undergo and I am a book only the patient can read. That is the me that can be summed up and written down, but that is just learning how to swim in a bathtub. There is still a long way to go before reaching the bottom of the ocean.

The deeper you swim, the darker it gets. You see as long as you know who I am on the surface, you’re safe. Anxiety lives deep within me, far away from most peoples reach. We are too heavy a load for people to carry. We are a tornado hungry for havoc. We are a ticking time bomb that explodes more than once. We are a sea of sharks yearning to turn the water red. We are a bulldozer crushing every ounce of optimism that crosses our path. We are the rope that hung happiness and mercilessly watched as oblivion took over. We are the hand that beat hope too many times and now it lays frozen beneath us. We are everyone’s darkest thoughts and worst insecurities. We are the survivors of the ocean of confidence and forgiveness only to drown in the lake of self-doubt and resentment. We are no danger to you though. We are no threat to anything but our own existence.

Often times, I am unable to differentiate myself from my anxiety. It is I and I am it. The we’s are much more frequent than the I’s and the pain is much more existent than the normality. I’m held captive in an exploding volcano by the burning lava. When the volcano cools down, I see my chance, but as soon as I am almost out, it ignites into even more ferocious flames. Every single time. I have started to shed my old skin and grow thicker one instead. I have come to realize the only way I can become myself is to walk through the fire and let it burn me. Fighting depletes me of me, I need to save what anxiety has left me of myself. I might need it again.

My anxiety has made me a fighter. My anxiety has me smarter, wiser, stronger. Yes, it breaks me down every other day but when I get up, I stand tall and proud. My anxiety has surrounded me with people who want only what’s best for me. My anxiety has built around me a barrier of genuine relationships and strong characteristics. I am safe. I find it hilarious how the thing that frightens me most is also the thing that keeps me safest. I am sheltered. The thing that threatens me most is also the thing that protects me most. Sometimes it’s the things we hate most that do us the most good. My anxiety taught me that in the midst of everything negative, something positive always emerges and it’s always worth it. Even though I am sad more often, I am happier. My anxiety makes me who I am, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Getty image via kevinruss

Originally published: January 31, 2018
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