It sounds counterintuitive to fall in love with anxiety. When I first heard the phrase, I thought it sounded crazy. Why would I love something so horrible, something that made my life so difficult for so long?
I experienced my first panic attack after I found my brother as he made a suicide attempt. My brother and I are close in age and I always felt protective of him. I even remember pre-school days where I’d beat any kid up who hurt my brother. But the day I found him trying to take his own life I felt completely helpless. My brother was in deep pain and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Worse, I couldn’t understand why he would want to end his life, or to leave me, who always had his back. I had a very hard time dealing with the choice he made, and became bitter and angry about it.
In the following months, I developed anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Anytime my brother would come home late from a night of drinking, I would wake up in a panic. We shared the upstairs floor, so our rooms were across from each other. I lost count how many nights I’d go check on him to make sure he was still breathing. I’d fix his blanket and make sure he had water. It got to a point where even hearing someone come up the stairs would give me an anxiety attack because I associated it with my brother coming home. I remember crying all the time, scared to do anything, afraid that I would live the rest of my life like this.
Anxiety may feel differently to different people. To me it felt like a drug rushing through my veins, from the tips of my toes up into my chest. A flush of heat would come over my face, my eyes would dart all around me looking for danger, but nothing would be there. My mind would eventually realize there was nothing to be scared of–and that mere thought would scare me even more because knowing there was no reason to be afraid didn’t stop the anxiety.
There was a month where I didn’t even leave my house because I was so scared I would have a panic attack somewhere in public. I was afraid to do anything. I lost friends. I canceled plans with people all the time. I missed days from school afraid to have an episode in class. I woke up almost every morning in pure panic, even knowing there was no reason for it. I began to wonder if I was actually losing my mind.
The most commonly prescribed solutions for anxiety are therapy and medication; I tried both. I went straight into twice-weekly therapy after my brother’s suicide attempt. My first therapist thought I was clinically depressed because I was crying all the time (my brother just tried to kill himself the other day; I think it would be strange if I weren’t crying!) I eventually found another therapist who I stayed with for 2 years until he left for another job. It was great to vent to someone who seemed to understand me, but I grew frustrated when the anxiety did not go away even after repeated therapy sessions.
Medications? I tried them all. I was on Zoloft for a year in a half, went off it when I felt like I was making progress, and immediately started getting panic attacks again. Prozac made me feel so numb I didn’t care about anything. Xanax had amazing immediate results but horrendous side effects. And the psychiatrists who prescribed these medications would ask how I was doing without ever looking me in the eye. I felt like no one cared. I also felt like the medications had deprived me of my emotions. A bomb could have gone off next to me and I probably wouldn’t have flinched.
I was scared. I knew medicine was my crutch. It helped me get through my day and I had a hard time imagining how to live without it. Therapy was helping a great deal but was starting to feel like a crutch as well. I was afraid of what would happen if I stopped them. But after about two years of medication and therapy, living without feeling was too much to bear. I was tired of not being myself. I wanted to feel again, even if that meant I’d feel sad, angry, or upset. So I stopped therapy and medicine completely.
Immediately I fell back into my struggles with anxiety and panic. It was really, really scary. But before it got so bad that I might have changed my mind and gone back to medication, a friend of mine introduced me to the work of a transformational comedian named Kyle Cease. Kyle once dealt with anxiety/panic attacks so bad that he almost killed himself, and now does workshops on personal growth along with his comedy. I looked him up on YouTube, saw one video and booked the next flight out to California for the weekend to attend one of Kyle’s events. I had absolutely no idea what I was jumping into. But I knew I was tired of having anxiety. I didn’t want it to control me anymore. I wanted to live again. Kyle gave me one of his programs called Panic Free Life. which consisted of 6 or 7 videos with small activities designed to teach people techniques to conquer their anxiety.
Fast forward to the present day: I no longer struggle with anxiety. I rarely get panic attacks, and when I do, I can handle them. How? Two techniques of Kyle’s, which I will share with you now.
First, realize anxiety is temporary. A panic attack may last for five minutes, but in minute six you’ll be alright again, and you can remember that you’re safe, you’re not alone, everything is alright. Your mind is a powerful instrument. If it can make you feel like you are dying or having a heart attack, imagine what you can do in the opposite direction. As I began to understand the temporary nature of anxiety, I started to take steps to move my mind in more positive directions. I started working out a lot, which brings on a natural high (one pretty similar to Xanax, actually!). I changed my diet, I started eating healthier and cut out processed junk. I reevaluated the people I was surrounding myself with; I honestly dropped all my friends and started from scratch. At Kyle’s event, I met a bunch of new friends who were spiritually aligned with me, very positive, supportive and most of all gave me love. I started becoming spiritual again, getting connected and loving myself. I started doing things I loved, which brought me peace. And the more I focused on these things, the more temporary my anxiety attacks became and the clearer I understood how temporary they were, until one day I realized anxiety no longer controlled me at all.
And second, remember the title of this article: fall in love with anxiety. When you love someone and give them the biggest hug, what do they do? The collapse and melt right back into you, they surrender into you. When you love anxiety, it surrenders. It has no choice. Anxiety loses its power when you decide to love it and embrace it. Whenever I felt anxiety coming on, I acknowledged and said to myself, “Ok good, I’m going to allow this to come through.” It was a really scary concept at first, but when I tried it for the first time and felt anxiety losing its power, it was the first time in a long time where I felt in control again. I practiced that technique every day, allowing myself to fall in love with my anxiety until its surrender was complete and it simply stopped coming.
I thought I would never say I am grateful for my anxiety, but I am. It brought me to where I am today. I learned I am an empath, where I’m very sensitive to other people’s energies, which helped me realize much of the anxiety I experienced was never actually mine. I would have never met the people I’ve met today without my anxiety either. It brought new people into my life who taught me so many lessons about myself. Most importantly it taught me to get grounded and stay connected with myself always.
Everything we go through is meant to happen in order for us to grow. It’s a lesson or a blessing and either one is wonderful. When we look at life with this approach, things are not as scary or overwhelming. We can trust that everything is going to be okay, even when we have no idea what’s going to happen. And we can fall in love with our anxiety.
For the past 5 years, Laura has been on a journey of finding herself again, living her truth no matter what anyone else says. She travels the world, meeting new people and gaining new perspectives on life. Her curiosity for love and life allows for her soul to guide her wherever she goes. She is an inspiring travel blogger, a go-getter who is no longer afraid fulfill her dreams.
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