Thank you, anxiety.

“Thank you, anxiety.”  Not a phrase you hear too often.

Just like anxiety’s relatives, depression, addiction, mental health etc. anxiety is a word that most people are afraid or sometimes even embarrassed to talk about.   We often discuss these things under an umbrella of shame and or with a fear of judgement surrounding them.  We tend to scold these types of words that interfere or interrupt our day to day lives.  We hide them under this thick dark cloud of ‘taboo’ topics to only be discussed in the most safe places or with a licensed professional in the room.   These words are quite often deemed dangerous, vulnerable or scary.  Words to only be uttered very lightly, or more likely not openly talked about at all.
These are also the words that are thankfully becoming more common conversational items and more commonly accepted as normal discussions, whatever the hell ‘normal’ means.  There is a lot of stigmas surrounding things like anxiety.  I have heard claims that its generational, people saying ‘we never had these issues back in my day’, or ‘everything today is solved with a pill’.  Neither statement true, but I could see how someone with a narrower understanding of these things in general may think this is the case.  Are there more reported cases of mental health issues this day and age?  Absolutely.  Is mental health an epidemic?  For sure.  Are anxiety and depression completely real and very serious topics? One hundred percent.  Does this mean that these issues did not exist ‘back in the day’?  Absolutely not.  The truth of the matter is, that these days there are more open discussions surrounding mental health, there is less stigma in general (although still very much exists), and many more resources are available to help with, recognize and diagnose all aspects of mental health in general. 

Most people have experienced some form of ‘anxiety’ in their lifetime.

I am not here to diagnose, or suggest that anyone has had the same or even similar experience as I have, although I would bet there are a few of you out there 😉

This is something that has fluctuated my entire life.  The more I learn about anxiety and my personal experience with it, the more I recognize that it was always there, and furthermore, will always be there.  

I know, that sounds so final, and maybe even like a ‘give-up statement’, but what I have grown to learn about these types of things, is that they are part of you and although the magnitude of these experiences can ebb and flow, the ultimate goal is to accept and to manage them as they come.  

Anxiety and panic attacks can present in many different ways, and no two experiences are exactly alike.

Some people will experience panic attacks and or anxiety from stress.  Maybe an upcoming test or health appointment, or even a pending difficult conversation that you don’t wan to have with a co-worker or friend. 

Some will experience only physical anxiety, triggered by sensations in the body that signal to the mind that they are in danger.  Something as simple as a tingle in the throat or pain in the chest. 

Some people might hyperventilate, they may even rock aggressively back and forth. Some become quiet and retreat from others, needing solitude to process. Some pace back and forth, or talk quickly and panickily through their symptoms.  You might sweat or feel short of breath.  You could have an increased heart rate.  You might experience gut issues (GAH!), either holding onto or letting go of your bowls. You may even think you are truly and most certainly going to die… dead… see ya later… gone…the end.

But here’s the thing, no matter what ‘type’ of anxiety you experience, there are, believe it or not, beautiful amazing life lessons and teaching moments spattered in between these events, assuming you chose to look for them.

So, to that I say…

Thank you, anxiety, for warning me of perceived threat. I know you are doing your job, the job you were bread to do centuries ago in the ‘cave days’. To warm me of perceived threats.  Threats of death that could be lurking around the corner, but I assure you, as I write this, and any other time you may think that I am in danger, I am most certainly not at risk of being eaten by a sabertoothed tiger, so chill.

Thank you, anxiety, for reminding me that I am safe.  When those feelings subside and that real or perceived threat is gone, I know I am safe. And that calmness (sprinkled with exhaustion) that follows can be so relieving… I’m safe, I’m ok, I’m alive!

Thank you, anxiety, for keeping me in touch with my physical and emotional feelings.  Forcing me to become present in my mind and body, while I bring my breath back to the safety of my being.

Thank you, anxiety, for teaching me to investigate.   To listen to the triggers and work to find out what they are actually trying to tell me. There is always a bigger picture, but figuring out what it is, is the first and best step to navigating your way through these events in the future.  

Thank you, anxiety for teaching me new tools.  Without you I may not have stumbled upon such amazing tools as meditation, mindfulness and breath work.  These tools that, while helpful in those ‘panicky’ moments, have grown to serve me in my daily life, without needing to rely on you to call on them.

Thank you, anxiety, for helping me be more in touch with the thoughts and emotions that flow through me minute by minute.

Thank you, anxiety, for Letting me gauge the importance of life and what that means to me.  Being met with the perceived notion of certain untimely death (dramatic I know), you have helped me realize how much I enjoy to live, and how much I plan on doing that for a very long time to come.

Thank you, anxiety, for books, books and more books.  Growing up reading was not my forte.  I did not enjoy reading.  Because of you, I found myself diving deep into the non fiction, personal development and that forbidden ‘self help’ section of the book store, and I love it.

Thank you, anxiety, for encouraging me to share my passion for writing and having open discussions about you and your ‘friends’.

Thank you, anxiety, for opening up this discussion and expanding the bond I have with others that can and do relate to knowing you.  For allowing these conversations to become normalized and help those people that have struggled silently, open up about their stories and about their personal journey with you.

These are the insights I have from my own experiences over the years, as well as the experiences I have witnessed in others.  This is not the definition of anxiety, this is not the rule book for anxiety, and this is certainly not to tell you how you should or should not deal with your own or someone you love’s anxiety journey.  My best advise I can give to you , is that if you or someone you know experiences this or another form of ‘mental illness’ (God I hate that term), then the best thing you can do for yourself and for them, is to research and make yourself knowledgeable to the difference aspects of anxiety and how it can and does vary from person to person.  How you can support them in the way that they need, and how you can participate in making this a ‘normal’ conversation in yours and their world.

So, thank you, anxiety, for doing your job.  Some would even argue that you are doing it well, but please know that when I tell you I am safe to trust me.  Know that I appreciate your active engagement and participation in my life up to this point, and know that you have served a purpose, and at times served it well.  You don’t have to leave all together, no, that’s not the goal here.  I am simply asking that you step back, take a seat, and allow me to call upon you when needed.  You know, if and when that sabertoothed tiger shows up around the corner 😉