Dealing With Anxiety

Millions of people suffer from anxiety and for creative types these chemical and emotional imbalances seem ever-present, so much so that it’s hard to say whether we were born with our artistic abilities or if those abilities were born later as coping mechanisms. We’re just more vulnerable to emotional stress because our emotions are our tools. Whether we paint or write or build, the very bricks, pigment and thoughts that make up our creations are really nothing more than feelings. We have an endless supply of them, all rushing like some wild stream while we tread water and try not to drown. If you’ve ever had a panic attack or just felt overwhelmed you know exactly what I mean. On a good day we can channel all of those emotions into our work but on a bad day we can’t live in the present moment long enough for an idea to even take hold.

I’ve suffered from anxiety all my life and even though the older I got, the easer it seemed to mentally cope with my stress, my body has always betrayed the truth. Over the past 23 years I’ve gotten the shingles, gained an excessive amount of weight, lost an excessive amount of weight, experienced migraines, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, ulcers, insomnia, anxious ticks, and mild panic attacks. As isolated incidents none of this was debilitating enough to hugely effect my daily life. Or maybe I was just really good at hiding it. It’s hard for me to say because at this point in my life I’m so used to my anxious thoughts that I feel like more of an observer of them than an actual participant. The truth is I’m just more mentally numb to it all. But my body isn’t, which is why all of my symptoms came to a head in recent months and I was forced to face the truth–that my anxiety isn’t mild or manageable or something I’ve grown out of, my anxiety is real and evolved and more potent than ever. And it’s scary.

It’s scary because as painful and uncomfortable as all of those feelings are, I need them. Because I’m a writer. Because I’m human. When I was in my teens I tried all kinds of medications to help with my anxiety but synthetic remedies only hid the issue rather than healed it and each one stripped away my ability to empathize bit by bit until I wasn’t afraid of anything while everyone around me was afraid of me. My feelings were muted and one-note, sometimes non-existent, and that’s no way to live, especially when you’re called to be an artist, or more specifically, when you’re called to use art to facilitate connection. Because you can’t connect if you can’t feel and even more painfully, you can’t create. Or at least, not anything good. Not anything real. And that’s the point of all of this–the human experience, connection, destiny, all of these damn feelings. Sometimes just being alive and all of the emotions that come with that can be overwhelming but the point isn’t to drown in them, to suffer, and feel isolated. The point is to channel them.

I’m no expert at it, this confession about my battle with anxiety is evidence of that. But I have come to the conclusion that it’s better to feel everything than to feel nothing at all. Not only that, but my fears and anxieties can be just as purposeful as my hopes and dreams. One day I will find a healthy way to manage the stress in my life but I will never be the kind of person who can maintain a state of bliss. I will never be the kind of person who is bold and totally care free. Why? Because I’m not meant to be. I’m meant to be slightly cautious and incredibly thoughtful. I’m meant to be the kind of person who loves the people around me so deeply and so desperately that I’m afraid to death of losing them. I’m meant to empathize with others on such an intimate level that I absorb everything they’re feeling, including their pain. I truly believe that is my super power–empathy–and that even though I’ve yet to learn how to control it and its power sometimes overwhelms me, I will someday use it to make the world a better place. And one day, in the latter half of this spiritual journey, I will look back on the first part of my life and realize that the anxiety was not a symptom or an illness, it was not a curse or some kind of karmic punishment, but it was a divine call to action.



9 thoughts on “Dealing With Anxiety

    1. And thank you for your comment! Living with anxiety is a journey that I’m trying to navigate every day. But I’ve definitely felt more comfortable in my struggle since joining the blogging community, and not just because it’s a platform to talk about these issues, but because it’s made me realize that there are so many creative people out there who not only share my passions but also my fears. It’s a nice feeling to know that we really are all in this together!

  1. Anxiety can be debilitating and panic attacks frightening. I’d never had one until perimenopause threw a monkey wrench into my hormonal balance. I have good days and bad days and days that are downright miserable. You are right about dealing with anxiety being a journey. I don’t think my experience with it has been anywhere near as difficult as yours, but it is still a journey. One day at a time.

    1. I’ve had terrible anxiety all my life, even as a child, so I can only imagine how frightening it was for you to experience it so suddenly and with no prior experience or context. I think hormones have a lot to do with my issues as well, which is why I recently found a homeopathic doctor to help get me balanced. It’s definitely a conclusion I wish I would have come to sooner but I’ve learned so much from my anxiety that at this point I know it was no accident.

      1. Hormones have such powerful effects on the human body. I don’t think doctors realize the extent of what those imbalances can do. The panic attacks were worse than what they might have been because they always happened in the middle of the night. I’d wake up suddenly with this feeling that something was horribly wrong with me. I even called 911 once because I thought I was about to drop dead of a heart attack or something. Once I learned what the panic attacks were, I was able to talk myself down from them and keep things under control, for the most part. I’m hoping that when I finally reach menopause, the hormones will settle down and rebalance themselves and I’ll feel like a normal human being again. I hope the homeopathic doctor you found can help you.

  2. Thank you for posting this. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I turned to blogging and writing as a way to deal with those feelings. Unfortunately, anxiety had crept into these parts of my life as well, which makes me feel trapped. I like what you said, it’s better to feel everything than nothing. Perhaps this way of thinking might help me overcome my recent anxieties about blogging and writing. At the very least, it’s given me something interesting to blog about.

    I wish you the best of luck as you fight anxiety. It’s interesting how the battles in our own heads are often the most difficult to fight.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. Writing has always been an outlet for me but after falling in love with it and realizing I wanted to do this for a living, I’ve opened up this sacred thing to the very stress and pressure it used to combat in the first place. The way I see it though is that the things I love and cherish are always going to cause me anxiety because I care about them, and even more I care about losing them. And there’s just no way around that. Luckily though the anxiety I feel about writing or failing as a writer is nothing compared to the stress and discontent I feel when it comes to my day jobs. They are totally unfulfilling but they do offer me some great perspective on how valuable writing still is to me as an escape, whether other people are buying my books or not.

  3. An inspiring and thought-provoking post – thank you. I’ve never suffered from anxiety as an ongoing condition – though obviously, like everyone I know what it is to be anxious and/or stressed out in specific, limited ways, and those occasions are perhaps enough to give me the tiniest insight into your world. I like what you said about accepting yourself as you are, anxiety and all, rather than trying to drug it (and thereby part of who you are) out of existence. That sounds like a very positive step in the right direction, and a lesson many people could learn. I wish you all the very best.

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