The Transience of Anxiety
As I woke up this morning, I had a familiar feeling of dread washing over me, after which I spent the next ten or so seconds trying to calm down from an escalating anxiety attack.
It’s a familiar feeling for me, I’ve had occasional anxiety attacks much like this since I was ten years old and came to understand the inevitability of death. The topic of my anxiety hasn’t changed over the years, but the way that I handle it has. When I was younger, I’d usually start yelling incoherently, running around looking for people, generally just pleading for help. I’d never been someone with a lack of self-control, so it was fairly unnerving to do these things seemingly automatically, beyond the scope of my control.
As I grew older though, I came to realize something. Anxiety is transient. At least for me. I can’t (and won’t) speak for other people on this, but for my specific anxiety, I don’t feel a sense of mounting stress or dread. Most of the time I just wake up one morning and there is Death, the concept of mortality itself, staring me in the face. Much like ripping off a band-aid, I let it all out over a short time-span, and then it’s done, and I can move on with my life.
These days, I no longer panic when I have an anxiety attack. Usually I just sit up and let the anxiety wash over me. When I panic, it’s me (often literally) running away from my anxiety, trying to find anything to think about besides the topic pressing against the forefront of my mind. But something interesting happens when you hold your ground and you don’t panic. You can look at your anxieties as they pass by, analyze them, and realize them for what they are. In a sense, I feel that the only way to overcome my anxiety is to face it directly, and in these moments where I have anxiety attacks, where my subconscious can no longer passively repress my thoughts on the matter, is the perfect time to do so.
I took so long to reach this point because I don’t like thinking about the topic of my anxiety, and so by extension, I don’t like thinking about my anxiety attacks. As a person who over-analyzes most things, it was one of very few topics that I was hesitant to breach. One day, a thought suddenly burst into my head, a spontaneous realization borne from my subconscious mind, that nothing would actually happen if I did not panic during an anxiety attack. This realization, as simple as it was, helped me out so much with my anxiety. If I chose not to panic, not to give in to the anxiety, nothing bad was going to happen. Just because my mind was afraid of the concept of death did not mean that I would actually die if I could not find something else to think about.
Am I still afraid of death? Certainly. I’m unsure if I’ll ever truly come to terms with the concept of death, but I’m actually okay with how I am now. The simple realization for me that anxiety was not something beyond my control, but a feeling, an emotion — fear borne from stress relating to a specific topic.
Anxiety for me now is somewhat like an extended jump scare. It’s there, it has a purpose, and it’s very unpleasant, but it’s fleeting, transient, and it holds no sway over me.