Author: Arshina Remtulla
The scariest thing about anxiety is not being able to explain what’s going on in your head because you don’t understand it yourself. The best way I can describe it is like living with an overprotective best friend who knows all your doubts, insecurities, and worries and uses them to control you. You trust them because you believe they have your best interests at heart, but after a while, you realize just how much they hold you back, yet you can’t bring yourself to let them go.
I’m 19 years old. I’ve been living with anxiety for most of my teenage life. I can’t pinpoint when it started because I feel like deep down I always knew it was there. I obsess over little things, worst-case scenarios feel like real possibilities and my mind is constantly racing. I never stop thinking about the future, and then I get mad at myself for overthinking because I’m young and should live in the moment as everyone else does.
I’m in a constant battle with my thoughts and emotions.
I used to think my anxiety was my protector. It protected me from making the wrong decisions. It protected me from disappointing the people I care about. It protected me from myself. All of this eventually led to self-doubt and my constant need for validation from others.
To most people, the obvious solution would be to ignore that little irrational voice in my head. I should do what makes me happy because the future hasn’t happened yet. But anxiety isn’t just thoughts; it’s the intense feeling of guilt that I’m disappointing people. It’s the never-ending pit in my stomach that forms when I’m unsure of a choice, it’s the exhaustion I feel in the morning because my thoughts follow me into my dreams. No matter how much I try to tell myself that I’m overthinking, my brain convinces me it’s better to think irrationally and make an informed decision rather than act impulsively and live with regrets.
The root of my anxiety is that I hate being out of control. I have a fear of uncertainty, and I like things to be clear. The reality is that nothing is a given. The future will always be a mystery, and I’ll make mistakes whether they’re intentional or not.
I’ve always felt that my anxiety would one day lead to my downfall. It would be why I’d never make any long-lasting relationships because I am my own worst enemy. Slowly I’ve come to accept that my brain is just wired differently than most people, and that doesn’t make me any less worthy of a meaningful life.
The biggest thing I’ve learned while living with anxiety is that I cannot get rid of these feelings. I can learn everything there is to know about my anxiety and what triggers it, but that can’t prevent feeling anxious. By telling myself I shouldn’t be worried about the future, I’m doing more harm than good because I’m invalidating my feelings. Instead of getting mad at myself when I’m feeling anxious, I’m actively working towards understanding my anxious thoughts and developing ways to cope with them.
I don’t see my anxiety as my protector anymore. The world is scary, and so is the future, but living life in fear and doubt is scarier. I have dreams, and most of them require me to get out of my comfort zone. To live the beautiful, happy life I know I’m capable of living I need to let go of things outside my control.
Anxiety and I coexist. I know she’s there, and she’ll probably never leave. There’s a small comfort in knowing I’m never really alone, but I’m slowly starting to realize I’m not truly living life if I’m always stuck in my head.
I don’t want to look back and realize I was merely existing. As John Green once wrote, “Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.” (Green, Turtles All The Way Down).