The Gifts of Anxiety

I hate having anxiety. I wonder what my life would be like without anxiety. What could I have and would have done by now had I not had such uncontrollable anxiety? My anxiety started when I was about 9 years old. I was always told by my family that I had a nervous stomach. But it went so much deeper than that.

When I was 9 my Mom got really sick. She was completely healthy and then one day, sort of out of the blue, she collapsed. That’s when it all began. To this day I have a fear of people fainting as that moment of horror flashes in my mind. Her illness progressed quite quickly and within a year she had lost 100 lbs and was bed-ridden most of the time. After a multitude of tests, exams and hospital stays, they began throwing around words like Cancer, HIV, Hepatitis, etc. This was in 1995 so the technology wasn’t even close to what it is today. My Mom continued to shrivel and my Dad introverted most of his feelings. My brother and sister had already moved out so I was mostly alone. Those were some of the most terrifying days of my life. She lived on a diet that consisted mostly of Jell-O and chicken broth until one day the doctors had a diagnosis. She had Crohn’s Disease. But she wasn’t out of the clear yet. They began a series of different prescription combinations to tackle her symptoms. Some failed, some made things much worse, some seemed to help for a little while, it took another year before they were able to concoct a cocktail of meds that worked. She still struggles with attacks and other health complications as a result of the negative side-effects of drugs she’s taken over the years. Most recently, my Dad was diagnosed with Colitis. This doesn’t help my irrational belief that I will get a disease one day as I will likely develop one of these myself.

That was a big detour in this story. When I think about my anxiety though, that was the starting point. It all went downhill from there. I never wanted to go anywhere because I was fearful of being sick and being away from home – my comfort zone. To this day, I struggle with this. I have paranoid thoughts and symptom-ize myself to death before a trip. It’s really limited my experiences. As a result, I pay attention to every twinge, every growl, every sound my stomach makes, waiting for something out of the ordinary. It’s a terrible obsession. My therapist has actually told me that my fear is at a phobia level because it is so irrational and the fear is so real. My deep. dark secret.

But I realized something lately, that there are certain things anxiety has allowed me to experience and feel that someone without would never experience. I am so in-tune with my body, I can tell you with 100% assurance that I have felt the blood run through my veins, my heart pound in my chest, the relief of a breath of air filling every part of my lungs. The sense of life that runs inside my body is only felt because of my anxiety. Another way that I cope with my anxiety is by remaining positive. You know, those affirmations that reassure you that everything will be alright? My mantra of “I trust my body, I trust myself” that I repeat over and over when I feel like I’m losing it keeps me on the brink of sanity. I also exercise and maintain a healthy and balanced diet. When I’m eating poorly or not exercising, my anxiety starts to creep up. I focus on my breathing, I try to get enough sleep, I try to put myself in calm and comforting situations, I try to laugh a lot, I push myself to do stuff out of my comfort zone. These are all pretty amazing things that can lead to a remarkable life. I will never become sedentary or complacent, because my anxiety would kill me.

This is the gift of anxiety.

I am constantly striving towards a state of happiness, content, positivity and optimism – because I have to. Though the repercussions are terrifying and could be extremely detremental to my health, as long as I keep on this path, I will be okay. Imagine the impact on and the possibilities for one’s life who is always working on themselves, being self-aware, and ultimately striving for happiness.

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