Fighting Anxiety: The Invisible Battle

One aspect of my life which feels never-ending is the conflict between my heart and my mind. Daily, I find myself in situations where I have a desire to say or do something, but my brain says, “No.” But, it’s more than just a quick rejection of my own wishes. It comes along with fear, stress, feeling stuck, and wanting to escape. However, these things are invisible to the naked eye and only I can feel them, though I wish I didn’t.

From elementary school to the beginning of my first year in college, I had the assumption that I was “strange” and not in the hipster sense of being different and cool, but because I could not handle social situations as well as the people around me. Was it normal that I would occasionally cry before I had to go somewhere and then continue to cry because my anxiety stopped me from going to places I had wanted to go? The fear of leaving my house would sometimes be strong enough to hold me back and I would stay in – does that happen to any regular person? My anxiety symptoms include: rapid heart beats, sweaty palms, trembling hands, my throat closing up, not being able to talk, and my face heating up. When I was younger, this felt like impending doom, now, I know it’s just my anxiety acting up.

I recall a specific memory from middle school, I was not yet 14, perhaps 12 or 13, and I was walking home one afternoon. I lived in this complex that was near the school and there would sometimes be people from my school who’d play in the playground, which was right in front of my apartment. When I approached the gate, I saw at least ten people I had recognized from my middle school and this wave of fear took over. I couldn’t go home. I didn’t want to see them and I definitely did not want them to see me. What I did was walk around my complex, spent time in another area far away from my home, and waited it out until everyone was gone. That was just in middle school. In high school, I remember I had so much anxiety about a competition that I flaked out on it, disappointing my coach and former teammates. Now, it’s not as easy to just wait it out or to run away.

Whenever I’m entering a new environment, or a place I’ve deemed uncomfortable, my anxiety goes through the roof. New work places and social situations I did not intend to attend are a couple of examples. I remember at one of my internships, at the beginning, I found myself with my words stuck in my throat, struggling to say the simplest greetings, and couldn’t even ask for the smallest favors. I felt as if my words were always on the tip of my tongue yet there’s a blockage so I never spoke when I so desired to. It took me a few months to get comfortable at my internship and before I knew it, it was time to leave. I wish I wasn’t so rigid and could have let down my walls faster, but it’s complicated when my anxiety doesn’t allow me to make the first move.

I’ve been tied to these chains of worry that never go away. My constant paranoia is a sidekick I’ve never wanted. But, I am stuck with my anxiety for what feels like the rest of my life. My anxiety masks who I am and because of this, I can be seen as standoffish, anti-social, or rude (all of which I completely accept). When you’re me and you’re mentally fighting against yourself, it’s not surprising when my face is full of frowns and there are no smiles to be found. Strangely, I must admit I find comfort in not having to be forced to smile and look delighted at all times.

However, one lesson I’ve learned is being comfortable means being stagnant. If I stay in the same place for the rest of my life, socially, career-wise, or academically, would I ever rise to be the woman I wish to be? The answer is no. Stepping out of my comfort zone is what spikes up my anxiety: meeting new people, going to somewhere unknown, having to bond with strangers, and so on. But nothing great comes from standing still in calm water. Overcoming the angst means traveling into treacherous tides. Is anything safe ever worth the drive? As someone who loves the rush of adrenaline, I have to stop taking flight and fight.

Fight against the anxiety, fight against the worries, and fight against the desire to give up.

Drive Safely

A haunting view I regularly see (but wish I did not) is the remainder of what’s left of a car tire each time I enter the freeway. During my trek to Northern California this past July, I consistently saw a torn apart tire that once was positioned perfectly on a car. What happened? What are the stories from these leftover pieces of rubber? Were they all deadly car accidents or were some parties saved by a miracle? These are questions where perhaps the answers can never be obtained.

On my way back from San Francisco, I saw a bumper of a car near the wall of the carpool lane. It makes me think – how often do we pass by visible damage and not do anything about it? Sometimes, there’s not much that can be done. On the freeway, I can’t just get out of my car and try to assess the debris. I’m not part of CSI. But in reference to our own lives – how often do we avoid obvious destructions, both literally and figuratively? There are moments of chaos where I know I will probably cry or fume about it but I push those thoughts, emotions, and energy aside, to an extreme distance, to focus on another item on my checklist. But, like the broken car parts on the freeway, the not so pretty moments of my life existed and sometimes still remain. No matter how far away I assume I am from my problems, it does not guarantee that my issues will dissolve on their own.

The rubber on the road does not disappear into the atmosphere within days or weeks. There could be a chance that someone will come to pick it up but there’s also the strong possibility that it will remain on the side for an undetermined period of time, perhaps months or years, perhaps forever. As we disregard the messiness of our lives, are we moving on, avoiding the wreckage, or accepting the mayhem? Like an unkempt room, items left behind in a certain position will remain there until we put it back where it belongs. Our clothes cannot wash themselves. Books cannot travel to their proper location on the bookshelf automatically.

As I pass by the remnants of what once used to be part of a car, I pray that I will never be part of the road in that same manner. But now, with this gained perspective, as I drive past rummage, I’ll think about the clutter in my life. As much as I wish I could just ‘drive past’ my personal issues, some problems are inescapable and some fears must be faced. As someone who is hooked on running away from her problems, I’ve found myself not ever being able to mend the wounds and repair the difficulties.

Sometimes, time does not heal everything. Sometimes, healing is working on the dilemma and conquering the obstacle.

This post was inspired by seeing some ripped up tires on the road. It made me think about how interesting it is to see that what we see in life can be a parallelism to our individual lives.