by Mary Rose Smith
Anxiety with a capital ‘A’ entered my life when I was 16 years old. I had to read an essay to the class and I got a panic attack. Everyone noticed. Everyone stared. Then no-one said anything to me about it at all. Not the teacher. Not the other students. Inside I felt like I was losing my mind and the humiliation stung. Since that time it has been a constant guest in my life. Sometimes making a strong entrance, at other times retreating into the shadows. But the message it’s been sending? ‘There is something wrong with you.’
Not long after that first incident, I entered into therapy. On and off I engaged with this process for a long time and met with different therapists. I tried the usual approaches including CBT.
I gained something from most of them but it was my personal (often heroic) efforts to ‘overcome’ anxiety that pushed me to keep trying. But I didn’t succeed. I still have anxiety. But I have learned to meditate and to seek calm when I can. I have a new therapist with a more gentle and mindful approach. In this context, without directly suggesting it to me, I began to relate to my anxiety in a different way.
I still struggle a lot when I feel it but I also take the time to soothe it and to try to understand it. I can also see the unexpected gifts of growth it has given me in the areas that are personally meaningful to me: creativity and spirituality.
It has pushed me to seek my truth, my identity, and to grow. Maybe it is doing the same for you in your life? Maybe when we come to appreciate anxiety’s presence, it will in time reveal its purpose in our lives.
If it is holding us back it is painful. I wish I could take a magic wand sometimes and wave it ‘away.’ But if we can be more gentle and patient with our anxiety it might yet just prove to be a friend that is guiding us to discover our destiny. I am trusting that somehow, somewhere in this long and often frustrating process we are becoming more whole, more human and more compassionate individuals. With ourselves and with other people. What do you think?