Living With Anxiety: The Monster I Cannot See

By Kimberly Zapata

Lately I have been anxious: unbearably anxious.

Maybe it is all of the impending changes in my life. Maybe it is the current state of our nation, the insecurity I now feel in the country I call home. Or maybe it is just my damn anxiety disorder, but whatever it is I find myself on edge. My heart has been racing and my mind has been chasing after random thoughts and barely formulated ideas.

I am afraid of a monster I cannot see, of a future I cannot predict, and of matters in which I have no control. And earlier today, my anxiety came to a head. I found myself shaking on the toilet, and in tears. I found myself unable to articulate anything. My thoughts, my feelings, everything was just too big.

Life suddenly became too overwhelming.

I have anti-anxiety medication to take when I feel this way. A little pill which should put everything into perspective. Which should calm my mind and slow my heart. But it is a little pill I often refuse to take.

Out of embarrassment.

Out of fear.

And out of shame.

(Ridiculous, I know, but it is how felt. It is often how I feel.)

So instead of taking my prescription, I sat with my anxiety. I tried to meditate and breathe through it. I tried to write and work through it, but nothing helped.

Nothing was working.

So I headed to the pool and swam. I swam until my breathing was labored and erratic. Until my heart beat so fast and hard I didn’t think it could beat anymore. And then I stopped

I sat on the concrete steps and focused on one thing, well two: inhaling and exhaling.

In and out.

In and out.

It took a few attempts and 26 laps — and, yes, that damn little pill — but I finally feel settled. I am calm(ish).

Make no mistake: anxiety stinks. Depression stinks, and the associated fear, uncertainty, despair, dread, sadness, self-loathing and doubt? It all stinks. (Sorry. I told you finding words was hard today.) But everything passes. With medication. With meditation. With exercise. With counseling or cognitive therapy, group therapy or art therapy, or any other thing which gets you through.

So find what centers. What grounds you. And what pulls you through. And when you need it, go to it. Don’t put it off. Don’t put yourself down, and don’t feel like a pill is giving up. Don’t feel like taking “me time” is giving in. And breathe.

Try to remember to breathe.

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