Updated: Jan 18
I have always struggled with anxiety. No one ever explained to me what it is or even told me that it was okay that I was dealing with it. But It's something that's been evading my day-to-day activities since I was a child. The main focus of my anxiety was fear. Fear that something would go wrong at some point in my day and it had been that thought, that worry, that fear that kept me company growing up.
In a sense, my obsessive thoughts became companions because I always felt alone dealing with my anxiety, as though no one around me understood what I was facing. Every day would start and end the same and I'd feel like there was no way to escape the constant worry that followed me around like a nagging friend.
As I recall my journey through overcoming anxiety, I realize that it was hard for me to determine if the day I'd just gotten through was good or bad. When I was younger, my worries surrounded my ability to perform in school. From the moment I woke up I worried about receiving bad test scores and about being humiliated by my so-called friends. The thing is, I was at the top of my class in every grade and I always studied to be prepared for tests but the anxiety never cared about what I did. Even if I ended up passing a test, there was always something else my mind would alert me to worry about.
So was the day a success or not?
So it continued when I ventured off to college, only there was a bit more pressure by the exams being more difficult and having to do in-progress evaluations as well. Again, I buckled down and studied hard but the thought of failing was like a constant whirlwind that just wouldn't pass. Somehow, I managed to graduate from college but if you asked me if my time spent there was good or bad, I wouldn't be able to tell you.
After pursuing higher education some people either take a break before going further or jump right into the work field. I had chosen the latter but it was no easier than going into a classroom filled with many faces staring at you and possibly judging every move you make. My process for finding a job was okay at the least. I had received many interview invitations, some of them from well-known companies but as usual, I was filled with dread. My head pounding with the thought of never being hired and never having a stable job.
The days felt like they were being slowly dragged by the cold, tight grip of anxiety. On one of those deliberate days, I interviewed with a successful Tech company. I answered every technical question to the best of my ability and hit every curveball that was thrown at me. The hiring manager found me amusing and I was offered a position at the company right then and there. You would think that I would be ecstatic about landing an amazing job but I couldn't be. It was no surprise to have my joy ripped away from me by the harrowing worry of never doing well in the working field. So a day that had every right and potential to be a good one was lost in the fog of confusion and misery for a future I hadn't stepped into yet.
On my first day at work, I was overwhelmed by everything that came at me all at once. There were a lot of new rules, policies, skills, and processes I needed to familiarize myself with within a short space of time. I felt like I was about to be buried by an avalanche of duties and eventually die. I felt like I would die a failure before I even began to do the work, but I managed to survive my first day. On my second day, although I was still in training, I was tasked with roles like creating forms for inputting sales data using a programing language called Visual Basic 6. I succeeded on my second day. For someone else, they would begin to recognize the pattern of trying and succeeding but my anxiety always had me worried about the next thing, there was no room to breathe and commend myself for the smallest of things I had gotten past. And each day, covered in thick, dark molasses, passed by with every worry that could be imagined taking shape in my mind.
Time flew by, it was my last day at work.
I’d worked in the software industry for almost 20 years and because of the sickness that plagued my mind, I'm unsure of how much of it was good days that were bad or bad days that were good but simply overlooked.
I am now unemployed and I'm grateful for the time I have to process and learn to understand my anxiety. Now, my days are quieter so I'm able to see things more clearly.
You see, part of the way the mind works is adapting to what it's being told. My anxiety is a mental illness caused by all the negative and unhealthy things that were being told to my mind, maybe from as early as childhood. I began to believe the lies that I heard and even started telling them to myself so much that I started to believe they were true. By changing what I say to myself I can change what I believe and my life becomes much easier to move through.
These quiet days have also helped me to realize that change will ways occur no matter what we do and that what we worry about today might not even exist tomorrow because of the constant change happening in our lives. The things that I used to worry about in the past don't matter anymore. I was able to get past them and even if I didn't succeed then, I would still be where I am today because things always happen as they should.
I'm continuing to learn and heal and on this journey I've implemented a technique called the 5-year formula to overcome the obstacles that my anxiety brings. It's as simple as asking myself this question when my worries become obsessive, "Would it truly matter five years from now?". After evaluating the context of the concern and realizing that it really wouldn't matter that far ahead into my future, I simply let it go and allow myself to move on.
I have learned the importance of living in the present.
Keeping my focus on what is currently in front of me helps me to take things one step at a time and to move slower in everything I do. Not as slow as the days felt when I was consumed by my anxiety but slow in the sense of being intentional, listening more, asking questions, acknowledging my emotions, taking my time, and not focusing on getting things right out of the fear of getting them wrong.
That's not what life is about.
We do ourselves so much harm when we allow the things we don't see to dictate how we live. We miss out on the chance to experience things and that is what the meaning of life is surrounded by; experiences. My favorite quote by Buddha says,
"Nothing is permanent. Don't stress yourself too much because no matter how bad the situation is...it will change."
This quote helps me to accept that not everything will work out. Even if I fail at an exam or don't receive a job opportunity one time it doesn't mean that I will always fail or that I would never receive a job opportunity. Situations always change.
As my life continues to change, with me learning to be more in control of my thoughts, I began to practice some simple steps that will result in me ultimately taking my life back from the clutches of anxiety.
I start by waking up early.
Being unemployed means I don't have to rush or worry about meetings, I get to take my time in determining how my day will go. I plan out my schedule for the day which may include some self-care activities. If anything without value arises, I simply let it go. Then, I do mental health care, like practicing mindfulness to remain calm and peaceful throughout the day. In choosing the things I feed my mind, I start every day by deciding that it would be a good one. I no longer wait for the things I can't control to decide whether I have a good day or not. There are much more things that can be added to help me overcome my anxiety but the first step is choosing to place the power of control into my own hands.
Not every day will be completely good but even in the ones that aren't so great, there are little moments of goodness that can be sought and highlighted to remind you of your delicate place in the world. Something as small as writing in a journal or smiling at the person across the street. After all, we are only human and that in itself is a good thing.
Now, I always make my days good right in the beginning.