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.