Guest post: The monster that is anxiety

The following is a guest post written by Tiffany from the blog Ethereal Empathy.


When I was little I made friends with a monster.  She kept me company wherever I went, stayed with me as I grew, and often showed up when I needed a friend the most.  Even though she validated my feelings, was reliable, and was always there for me… it wasn’t healthy.  The truth of the matter was, this monster wanted to keep me for herself.  The only feelings she confirmed were those of fear, and her company never made me feel good about myself.

My monster friend kept me awake at night with her chatter, and convinced me to stay home when other friends invited me out.  She stripped me of my self-worth and confidence, and reminded me of how different I was from everyone else.  In that loneliness I accepted this monster, which we refer to as Anxiety.  After all, she appeared to know me so well. 

Perhaps I clung to Anxiety because she was familiar, or maybe it was because she wasn’t all bad, all the time.  This little monster helped me see potential threats and kept me aware.  The deep understanding of fear, that I had developed, helped me to relate with individuals who suffered similar stress. Still, I had become a prisoner of fear with no boundaries to keep my monster at bay.

“Without darkness nothing comes to birth, as without light nothing flowers.” – May Sarton

It was in my self-doubt that Anxiety held me captive.  I had trained my brain to jump to worse case scenarios and to see the prospective negatives of any given situation. Overwhelmed by uncertainty, and my lack of ability to concentrate, relax, or find calm, I struggled with each day.

My body had turned on me, with symptoms of illness, without ever having been truly sick.  Unexplainable pains and tension would come and go as they pleased.  There was no balance or predictability in the waves that rose and fell, and often times came upon me with no warning or explanation. 

Having a panic attack is much like swimming in deep waters during a storm.  It takes everything you are to keep your head above water, and sometime you get hit by the turbulent ocean which pulls you under.  It is a fight for air, for continued existence. 

I could not see what it looked like to thrive when my constant state of panic made basic survival a challenge.  The very thought of working as a productive member of society seemed impossible.  I looked into the dark chasm of the unknown, unable to find the light.  I saw consequence of failure instead of the potential growth that comes with experience.

Instead of trusting in my own capabilities I sought out healers and trusted individuals to fix me, but there was no cure for this.  No instant solution to repair the broken parts of myself.  Medication only numbed my soul, taking more away without giving enough of myself back.  Therapists were a constant reminder that to be whole I needed to dig deep to find answers within. 

How could I mend the fragmented pieces of me when I was incapable of believing in my own worth?  I couldn’t.  My monster never lied, exactly.  We all have a balance of light and dark inside of ourselves.  Where there is the potential for disaster there is also the potential for success.  What I hadn’t been able to see was the strength in both.

I would be naïve to believe that there are those out there without flaws. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time.  When dark times are upon us, and it feels as if they might destroy everything, we find that we are more resilient than we might think.  Living in the shadows of fear makes it hard to see.  Feeling as if we are alone is an illusion.     

Turns out the cost of not taking risks, and not believing in our own natural gifts, is much higher than the upward climb of facing the monster.  If the choice is to succumb to a life of worry and suffer a stagnant existence, or to battle a life gripped by fear for the chance of actually living…  I choose to face the unknown. 

Anxiety is not a true friend, but it is not my enemy either.  This alter ego, my anxious self, is debilitating but only has power if I give it.  I can use it as a crutch or I can learn her moods and motives, triggers and tastes, in order to respond appropriately.  What is so easy to forget is that we have the power to change the world, starting with our own being.

So I learned to consistently make course corrections along an unpredictable path.  Staying ahead of the waves when possible and bringing along a life preserve just in case the waters get the best of me.  Most importantly I discovered the importance of second guessing my own self-doubt. 

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

The path is hard.  There are times I slip and fall, get scraped up along the way, have setbacks and face detours… but I keep moving forward.  That steep cliff edge that I started on has gotten easier, the journey less rocky.  Somewhere along the way I learned to trust myself and accept that I am capable and deserving of so much more.

Anxiety is still with me, she is my twin who is just looking out for my well-being and here to protect me.  Although misguided her intentions are good.  I accept her for what she is even though she cannot see the error of her ways.  It is my job to not let her define me or keep me from the life I deserve.

It is through this understanding that the light began to seep through and point me in a direction of confidence.  I found my balance and overcame obstacles I never thought possible before.  Instead of struggling each day to survive I learned how to thrive, to have a life that is mine, and meet my fears wisely. 

Anxiety is a sheep in wolf’s clothing, an innocent wearing the mask of a monster.  Although frightening she doesn’t decide your fate.  Her power over you is limited and only exasperated by your own insecurity.  Believe in yourself, trust your own intuition, and the gray clouds looming over will clear. 

There is hope, I am proof of that. 

“On particularly rough days, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%, and that’s pretty good.”  – Unknown


Thank you to Tiffany from Ethereal Empathy for contributing such a thoughtful and honest post to #MillennialLifeCrisis. If you have the opportunity, I strongly recommend checking out Tiffany’s Blog. She is a ray of kindness and honesty in this crazy world and she brings a unique perspective to the blogging community that is the truest definition of one-of-a-kind.

Quitting cold turkey

I’ve decided that I’m not going to take anxiety medication anymore. It’s just too tough on my body. And honestly, the withdrawals are even harder for my body to deal with when I don’t have them then the side effects are when I do. If I’m being totally honest with myself, I’ve been using them to hide from the sheer misery that is my life… and instead of hiding from it, I really need to learn to cope. This is my life, after all.

Addition after the fact: After reading some of the comments on this post, I am feeling a need to clarify. My decision to stop with medication is entirely related to my struggles with medication itself. I am a huge advocate for taking medication if it is right for you and if it helps you. I am not now, nor will I ever, judge anyone for taking medication. In my personal case, it’s reached a point where it is doing more harm than anything else and I need to make a change. I hope that you can understand.

I haven’t been sleeping lately. I doze off for twenty or thirty minute periods two-to-three times in the night, but for the most part, I just end up laying there. Perhaps it’s stress. Perhaps I’m just wired different. Either way, the nights give me a long time to think. I have been taking supplements to help me sleep but the supplements aren’t working anymore so there’s no point in continuing to take it.

Self quarantine has also given me a lot of time to think. Frankly, I’m not too happy with myself. I’m also not really happy with the people who’ve been taking advantage of me for far too long now. People take advantage of my kindness and it’s time I stand up for myself. I saw a quote that said “you can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no” and I realized that’s who I need to be.

Letter to an unconfident soul

Dear Self ,

It’s okay to not be okay.

It’s okay to be a mess.

It’s okay to not have to a plan. To not know what’s next. To not know how to fix your problems.

Newsflash: EVERYONE has problems. Everyone has struggles. Not everyone knows how to deal with them. That’s not shameful, or embarassing, nor does it make you stupid. It makes you normal.

What matters is that you continue to make an effort. What matters is that you don’t give up. What matters is that you just keep going, regardless of what the universe throws at you.

You can take it.

I promise you that you can take it. You can conquer it. You can defeat the demons, slay the beasts, defy on the odds and come through this with your head held high.

No one escapes struggles in life. So please, stop thinking that you’re alone in this and realize that people can and want to help. Likewise, people need help themselves and you can be an ally. Be an ally.

As much as you might not believe it, there is a reason for everything in life. If you’re being tested right now, you’re being tested for a reason. If things aren’t falling into place, no matter how much work you put forth, no matter how much progress you feel you’re making, there’s a reason for that.

Buckle in. Be ready for the fight to continue. Until the tables turn, until it’s your time for the limelight, until things fall into place, you need to keep going. You cannot give up.

No matter how messy it gets, no matter how much you doubt yourself, I beg of you, please don’t give up.

Sincerely, Me

This millennial’s woes

After all was said and done, everything sold and every dollar earned, unfortunately, I didn’t come out on top. Or break even. I’m trying to not get too anxious about it but it has been really difficult.

The company that I’ve been waiting for a phone call from did, in fact, call. They said their hiring process hit a snag and things were delayed and that they’d be in contact with me when they had made a final decision. Apparently “Urgently Hiring” means “we’ll get to you when we get to you”.

On top of that, given that it’s still cold and flu season, I’ve come down with another cold. At this point in time I’m basically a walking advertisement for what happens if you have a shitty immune system. My family says that I’m being dramatic, but I know my body and my history of catching a cold and winding up with pneumonia so I’m just trying (DESPERATELY) to not wind up in the hospital. I’m feeling pretty miserable though. I’m absolutely one of those people who gets whiny and hard to be around when they’re sick.

My brother left his 90 pound rottweiler here for the weekend. I love the dog, don’t get me wrong. He’s a real gem as far as dogs go. Loyal, sweet, cuddly, absolutely believes he’s a lap dog even though he’s almost three feet tall and weights 90 pounds. But, at 90 pounds, I can’t walk him. He’s too strong for me. The moment we see a dog, he’d be gone and I’d be flat on my face. I feel bad keeping him in the backyard all weekend, since it’s so small, but there’s not much I can do.

I’ve submitted my name for a contract to design a magazine for a company in Alberta. The choice likely won’t be made until the end of the month, though, so that’s not something I can depend on now.

So far, February sucks.

I hope someone has some good news for me one of these days.

Letter to a struggling soul

Dear Self,

The struggle is real.

It really doesn’t matter what others might say or think about what you’re going through, what matters is what you say and think. And truth be told, they’re not you so expecting them to understand what is happening is, in itself, a bit of a lost cause.

Remember that age old wisdom that says ‘Don’t fix a temporary problem with rash decisions’? Listen to that. You know it’s right. You know that quick thinking, or perhaps even no thinking, isn’t going to fix this for you.

The universe is testing you. And let me tell you IT SUCKS. I know it sucks. Every second of it. But, how you react, here and now, to what is happening, this will have a ripple effect throughout the rest of your life. Act wisely. Accept help where you can, give help where you can and keep going, always.

The hardest part of being in this time and place is that you don’t know when this test will end, when things will fix themselves, when things will be normal. Will they ever be normal? There’s no crystal ball to tell you for certain, all you can use for a guide is hard work and hope. Hope for a better world for you and everyone else who lives in it.

When you really stop to think about it, it’s important to be thankful for the things that you do have. You’re not starving. You’re not on the street somewhere, struggling to stay warm. You have a lot of blessings in your life that are very easy to overlook if you allow yourself to. So just remember, as bad as it might seem, you are one of the lucky ones. Because you are.

Remember how far you’ve come. Remember that this is all for a purpose. And, when it’s over, remember that you’re going to be stronger because of it. Scratch that, you already are stronger because of it. Silver linings, self, you need to remember them more often. Struggle teaches us just how strong we are. Struggle teaches us just how far we can bend without breaking. And last time I checked you were still standing, in one piece and all.

Hold on, self. I promise you better is coming. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can feel it. Better is coming. I need you to believe that. This struggle won’t last forever. It can’t. You’re stronger than it.

Sincerely,
Me

Real thoughts

I’m scared.
I’m sad.
I’m anxious.
I don’t know how to fix any of it.

Winter is weighing on me. The darkness is weighing on me. The cold, making it hard to be outside for any length of time, is weighing on me. Looking after sick people is weighing on me. Rejection is weighing on me. Not having a plan for life is weighing on me. Feeling lonely is weighing on me. Lack of steady income is weighing on me. People telling me ‘just do it, it’s easy’ is weighing on me. People saying ‘stop worrying so much’ is weighing on me. Feeling like a disappointment is weighing on me. Feeling like my problems aren’t real problems is weighing on me. Everything is weighing on me.

These thoughts, while I invariably avoid them day-to-day, every once in a while tend to pop up all at once and consume my brain to the point where I can’t do anything but worry.

And so I sit here, trying to distract myself, but inevitably, worrying more than anything else.

Things that happened in 2019

A lot has happened this year. But, since most of it isn’t really worthy of recollecting, I’ve picked an event from each month as a memory of a year that I’ll be happy to say goodbye to.

In January I sent a lawyer after my former employer for wrongful termination and, in him working his magic, I was able to get four times the amount that was initially offered in severance. January also marked my mom’s third surgery in less than a 30 days. January was also the month I started this blog. Its inception was with purpose to give me a place to vent about the stress I was going through.

In February I went to the Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise, fulfilling a dream that I’ve had for more than ten years. It might have just been the coldest day of the year, but nothing (ABSOLUTELY NOTHING) was going to keep me from that lake.

In March I got extremely sick. I went to the hospital multiple times, spent most of the month on different forms of antibiotics and sleeping. It was a long, very cold, very dark month. Knight looked after me and listened to my cry the whole time. This man would get up and out of his pjamas to go to the store in the middle of the night and get me a smoothie, because I wanted one.

In April I went to the Cancer Clinic with my mom, five days a week for many weeks. I watched as she got her treatments, cleaned up after her when she got sick and threw up, made her feel better when she was feeling depressed. I saw the people around her, each with different forms of cancer, each in varying stages of the disease, many with smiles on their face because they were thankful for the life-saving treatments they were receiving. Cancer is an extremely scary illness that affects so many people in our world and I am so thankful that my mom’s was caught early enough that she is now happy and healthy.

To everyone affected by cancer this year, I see you, I feel you and I understand you. Whether you went through it yourself, or you helped a family member or friend through it, you’re amazing. Remember that.

In May I went to Niagara Falls/Toronto. It was a quick trip, jam packed with ensuring I hit all the tourist spots and, all the local spots that were recommended to me before I went. I stayed in a room that had the most stunning view of the falls, took a few turns on the Skywheel, walked the falls at night to see the light show… it was a magical weekend for me. May also marked the birth of my niece, Aya.

In June I got a job offer around the end of the month. It was a digital marketing job, working in publishing. The employer hit me with a lot of paperwork – asking me to sign away my intellectual property rights and several other things. After some amendments were made to the contracts, I signed them and was given a start date of July 15th.

In July my job offer was rescinded. On July 13th, to be exact, precisely two days prior to when I was supposed to start. I was mad, pissed, unhappy and felt like I’d been cheated. The only explanation I got was ‘corporate restructuring’. Wowee. July also marked the birth of my nephew Phillip.

In August I went to Calgary to see an allergist and have a breathing assessment test done. I reckon being trapped in a 2×2 box on a hot summer’s day with no air, being forced to showcase who well, or poorly, your lungs are functioning feels quite similar to what summer in Arizona feels like. IT WAS HOTTTTTTTT.

In September I took a few solo road trips through British Columbia. The Gold Rush Trail was stunning and the Highway Thru-Hell was filled with A LOT of road construction. My mom, finally being healthy enough to travel, went with my dad to Denmark to visit their new granddaughter, so I had a month filled with peace and quiet and was reminded how much I appreciated living alone for ten years. I also saw my best friend, her beautiful family and spent a short amount of time in Vancouver. Twas a good month for me. Even if I was still jobless.

In October I worked the Federal Election. It was long, arduous and awful. The supervisors were idiots and the other clerks were extremely rude. But hey, we won. And, much like I predicted in October, Andrew Scheer did lose and has since resigned his post. I’m extremely glad we don’t have a pathological liar in charge of our country.

In November I turned 31. I had a bit of an existential crisis, lost my marbles for a wee bit and god, my birthday, the actual day itself, is not something I want to remember.

In December I made a commitment to purchasing gifts from Thrift Stores for my family. The way we do things in my family is, because there are so many of us, each of us gets one sibling or parent to purchase a gift for. That gift we’re supposed to spend between $75-100 on. After that, we usually gift each other small, minor things that we think would bring smiles to each other’s face. IE My brother Tyler really loves Starburst candy, so my brother Aaron bought him a bunch of Starbust for Christmas. Me, I spent the month searching thrift stores, and wound up purchasing some new, or almost new gifts for each member of my family for between $5-10 each.

2019, I won’t miss you. You’ve been a long, shitty, disappointing, difficult, heartbreaking, gut-wrenchingly awful year. To the good that did happen, I am grateful and I will always remember it. To the rest, it will serve as a reminder of things I never want to experience ever, ever again. This has been, without a doubt, the hardest year of my life. This has been the most difficult of all 30 years and two months I’ve spent on this planet.

I have resolutions. I plan to, hope to, desire to stick to them. Most of all, though, I hope that 2020 is whole lot fucking better than 2019 was.

Out with the old, in with the new.