Anxiety is many things. Those of us that struggle with it would never name any of those things in a positive manner. Instead we would say things like, anxiety is...
Life altering (negatively)
...amongst many other negative things. But, what if I told you that anxiety can also be...
Life altering (positively)
Would you believe me? Somebody in the middle of an anxiety episode would probably say no. But here's the kicker...its in the middle of our anxiety, smack dab in the core of its intensity, that we can experience those exact things. That's right. Instead of feeling and experiencing all of those negative things, we can experience the positive ones. Or at the very least, we can have both. Now before you write me off as crazy, or someone who just doesn't understand, hear me out. This advice is not coming from someone on the outside who has no clue what it is like to suffer the anguish of anxiety. To the contrary, I have been at the brunt of anxiety and its many forms (panic, generalized, social, health related, phobias, OCD) for as long as I can remember. To make matters worse, I did not understand what it even was until I was in my 20's. Up until then I walked around internalizing everything and wondering if I truly was crazy. And, 6 years later, I am still fighting the good fight. I actually had one of the worst years ever with my anxiety this past year. But, on the flip side, it was because of this past year that I experienced more growth and clarity than I have in my whole life. Facing the worst of my anxiety head on forced me to become stronger. It pushed me to understand myself better and what I have to offer.
Now when I think to myself “what I wouldn't give to never experience another episode,” I stop and remind myself of all of the good things I would have to give up along with it. In the end I wouldn't be myself anymore. I eventually had to ask myself, is that what I really want? To not be me anymore? I mean, sure I am anxious, but I am anxious because I love deeply, because I care deeply. Some might say I care too much which is why I worry about everything, but whats so wrong with caring on that kind of a level? Would I rather not care at all? Who says that is better? Sometimes I think others could be more empathetic and caring. Sometimes I see what not caring enough can do and I am grateful to be as sensitive as I am. I believe that people with anxiety are more than just worriers. They are what I like to call highly sensitive people. I don't mean this in the sense that you say one wrong thing and we break down and cry. I mean that we are highly sensitive to all aspects of this world.
I truly believe that people with anxiety see the world from an enhanced perspective. In turn, this allows them the ability to see the beauty in things, deeply feel the love that life has to offer, and to find the growth in every experience. This makes for excellent teachers, writers, advice givers, artists, creators and even leaders. Unfortunately, as a result of this intensity and sensitivity, we tend to dwell and flounder in the negative aspects of this world and life. This is due to our “knowing” of all that can be lost or taken from us. Anxiety truly is a double-edged sword. However, I also look at anxiety as almost like a sixth sense that we just don't know what to do with. But, once this is realized and respected, anxiety can be used to our advantage. Once those of us with anxiety understand it as being a direct result of our very nature and a key component in who we are as a being in this life, we can stop fearing it and start embracing and accepting it for all that it is, both positive and negative. Now, this is easier said than done, but it can be done. It takes work and it takes daily reminders and practice when you are in the thick of it, but you will slowly start to realize why your anxiety is manifesting and how to take that intense energy and put it towards something positive. Does this mean that I have it all figured out and will never experience anxiety again? Certainly not! It actually means that I am learning to accept it as an inevitable part of my existence, but at the same time I strive to find the positive in it as often as I can. In others words, I strive to let it lift me up instead of beat me down.
For example, for me this requires writing. I realized that all of the thoughts inside my head need an outlet. It is important to me to find a way to inspire and help others with my words. It is a yearning in my soul. This inspires me to find the growth in every experience life throws at me so I can share my learning with others. It keeps me from feeling sorry for myself and gives me a reason to push forward. I also love to draw because it allows me to not think about anything for a change. I also know that being alone is nice sometimes, but too much of that is never a good thing for me. And I know I sometimes have to force myself to join in on certain activities or groups because in the end I know it will benefit me. I know I need to vent sometimes and have found a great therapist who understands me. I also have a great husband who has had to take on the brunt of a lot of my anxiety, and I am starting to learn that it is not fair and not best for me to expect him to know how to help me all the time. This is why I have my therapist, this community, groups, family, and close friends as well. I am also following my curiosity and yearning for understanding my spirituality and what I truly believe is beyond this life. This is a long road too, but I know it is crucial to my existence. Bottom line, I am learning to understand myself and am starting to explore my potential through all of it, the good and the bad. You just have to find what works for you. This journey will be different for everybody, but the goal should generally be the same. To learn to understand yourself, your potential, and to love all that you are and have to offer, because we are all perfectly imperfect and are designed to be just so.