Learning to Tame My Anxiety
I recently walked by a clothing store in the mall. I love to wear the clothes they sold, but I hesitated before going inside.
“Go in,” urged the person I was with.
“I can’t,” I said. “If I do, a salesperson will stop to talk to me, and ask what I want, and…”
“Okay. You don’t have to go in.”
I sat down for a minute, gathered my composure, and finally went in, talked to the salesperson, and made a purchase.
Going shopping is normal for most people, but it’s a breakthrough for me. I have anxiety that was diagnosed in my teens, but I only recently got effective treatment for it.
Talk therapy works for a lot of people, but it didn’t entirely work for me. I’d describe my paralyzing fears — being unable to leave my car to walk into a grocery store, for example — and the therapists faltered. It didn’t help that simply going to the appointments made me shake with nervousness. I wasn’t in any condition to reshape my life when I felt terrified.
What finally worked for me was a low dose of an antidepressant that also treats anxiety. I took the plunge and asked my doctor about going on medication after watching a comedy bit Aparna Nancherla did about her depression.
She gave a recent interview in which she talked more about how antidepressants changed her life, and I felt the same way. When the medicine started to work, I thought, Wow, so this is how everyone else feels? You’re not supposed to feel panicked all the time? This explains so much.
I’ve also decided to embrace some of the good qualities of my anxiety. It might sound strange, but anxiety has given me a unique lens through which I view the world. I’m more prepared and conscientious. People come to me for advice (which I’m still surprised by) because I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, and get through it.
I also write about psychology, something made easier by my personal experience.
For a long time, I tried to keep any information about my anxiety in the shadows. I didn’t want people to know I had it. It made me feel inferior, broken. It didn’t help that I really didn’t know much about anxiety. I thought mental illness was something completely debilitating. I was able to work and go to school, so how could I have it?
I would have panic attacks, but didn’t even know what they were. It made it hard to go to social events when I’d get overwhelmed by a big crowd of people, and leave abruptly.
Anxiety Can Make You Feel Inadequate. You’re Not.
Getting past our fears, to our full potential
But over time, I learned more about anxiety, and about myself. I read up on antidepressants, and even took classes about them. I realized that a lot of people have anxiety and depression, and it’s okay to talk about our experiences with it.
Self-help guides told me to meditate, take deep breaths, and take walks. That didn’t work until I started antidepressants. They saved me from drowning in my anxiety. Adding exercise has been helpful, as running relieves stress.
Anxiety is always going to be with me, for better or for worse, but I’ve learned how to manage it. Now, a worry-free future now seems possible.