Faces of Hope- A Truer Version of Myself

Jessica Buchanan, Anxiety Disorders Association of America, March 2005, www.adaa.org.
Reprinted with permission (December 2005 Newsletter). 
 

My anxiety still occasionally rears its ugly head. It'll sneak up behind me and announce its arrival by making my heart race a mile a minute or by turning me into a bobble head, with my eyes rolling around in my head and dizziness threatening to overtake me.
But there's a difference between the old me who would go screaming into the hills when anxiety loomed and the new me that knows exactly what to do and say to make the anxiety run away, tail tucked between its legs.

I've suffered anxiety for most of my life. I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when I was 16, but the symptoms had been around for much longer. It started when my grandpa died of lung cancer. I was young and very close to him. I saw the toll his disease took on him and my entire family. It was soon after his funeral that the anxiety began, especially my hand-washing.

It was an ebb and flow thing, coming and going as it pleased. I disliked staying over at friends' houses, the unfamiliarity and distance from my parents making me fearful that something horrible was going to happen.

In high school, it got worse. I carried around antibacterial solution everywhere I went. Every time someone sneezed or coughed near me, I knew I was going to contract the Ebola virus. I was also in high school when the shootings at Columbine High School happened, which threw me into a tailspin. I would mentally map out my escape routes and even faked sick a few times, too afraid to go to school should that be the day someone would go on a shooting spree at my school.

I started going to a therapist in my senior year of high school and still go regularly today. I'll be graduating from college soon and know eventually I'll have a family of my own, with kids that will expect me to be strong and take care of them. I don't want to spend my days cowering in a corner, afraid of what might happen next.

Therapy has helped me lessen the fears I have about something, anything happening to me at any given time. I do deep-breathing exercises regularly, meditate, and do yoga as much as my busy schedule will allow. I realised recently that anxiety is not a disease you can half-heartedly attempt to get rid of. It's something you must actively seek out and challenge. Sure, I still have anxiety - what college student doesn't - but I feel like a truer version of myself. I know now that with the tools I've learned in therapy and from my personal experiences, if I want to be less anxious, I can. And that's been the greatest lesson of all.