Almost a year ago in an April a little less beautiful than this one, I made the worst acquaintance of my life.
Due to my knack for drama, I call it the shadow of my existence, the world likes to call it anxiety.
At first it was this dreadful, sticky and relentless pest; it screamed in fear, it woke me at night, it told me to listen to how fast my heart is beating, and I would hold my breath fearing it might just stop. My sleep paralysis got so bad, I was afraid to close my eyes and go to sleep every night. It showed up at work, while I exercised, as I ate, it became vicious and I started crumbling under its shadow. I had no name for it, I had no idea what was happening, I just thought that my existence is suddenly and abruptly being interrupted by a fear so furious, that I had to stop and pay attention to it. I was so scared, I stopped drinking coffee to slow down my heart rate, and I started eating 2 bananas a day (rich in magnesium etc…). Funny now, f**king terrifying back then, when I would still get attacks, hyperventilate and break into random sweats for no real reason.
That was the shadow of my existence, the anti-experience, the anti-life, the anti-love and it wasn’t even death. Think internet, and the dark web, well my life was the internet and my anxiety was the dark web and it was creeping into my daily nonchalant life. Imagine scrolling through your Facebook watching cat videos, and then suddenly seeing a human trafficking ad. You become THAT tangled, you have no idea when something terrible will come into your consciousness with no real cause. [Bad metaphor, but serves the purpose I hope]
After some tests, a doctor came to my aid: There is absolutely nothing wrong with your heart; you have been experiencing anxiety attacks. She said with a smile.
ANXIETY!? Really? I had seen a Buzzfeed piece on Facebook about it before and I gave it no mind whatsoever. I suddenly felt silly, but then I felt awkward; now what?
Step 1: I started announcing it to whomever was around me when it would hit, because my face would turn pale, I couldn’t hold eye contact, and I would just focus on getting my heart rate back to normal, it was impossible not to notice how strange I suddenly became.
Step 2: Breathing exercises, meditation and detachment practices were on continuous reruns. I decided that if I were to regain control of my regular functioning, the second step after acknowledging that I was anxious, was to let go. Breathing in I would think “Just be”, breathing out I would think “let go”. Enough times it started to work; I’ve been doing it since then. Very difficult step for sure.
Step 3: Truly addressing my fears; the real ones! became a daily goal. If i were going to be afraid my entire life, I might as well find something worthwhile to fear. No more petty fears for me. My real journey towards personal growth started right then and there.
The Lesson: A Big F*** You to Fear
If anxiety, or my shadow self were going to be my life long companion, then I was going to pick myself apart, I was going to learn everything I could, and I was going to lead by example. Shine the brightest light into every darkness within, and then pick all the skeletons in your chest apart. Take control.
I dare say, that anxiety has made every decision I had to make a crucial one. Being constantly aware of the underlying despair of your human experience, and the fragility of everything you hold true, propels you onto another level, one where you are a choice away from fearing everything, and a choice away from facing it all.
I promise you it comes down to that, choosing every day, every minute, and passing heart beat that it will not be wasted on fear; it will be used to ignite fires everywhere you go, because there really is no escape.
Anxiety has become the best friend I had ever made, it has nudged me so violently into acknowledging the vulnerability of my short presence here, it has pushed me off the ledge to discover that there was no safety to start with; we are all hanging in thin air, so might as well glide through it.
Make it brave, make it glorious, embrace the surreal and keep it simple.