Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I live with anxiety on a regular basis.  It's not something I've bothered to get diagnosed, because I've been coping with it for as long as I can remember.  However that doesn't mean it doesn't affect my daily life.  I've passed up on many opportunities due to anxiety, especially in social situations.  I've lost a lot of hair, weight, and sleep due to anxiety, and have currently anxiety-eaten my way to the heaviest weight I have ever been.  I am also a tad bit obsessive-compulsive, and tend to do certain things repeatedly to distract myself or ease feelings of anxiety, such as scratching around my nail-beds (it's difficult to explain, you'd have to see it); touching corners of things like books, keyboards (I'm doing this as I type), or desks (also doing this); and my personal favourite - plucking my eyebrows, picking at my cuticles  or picking at my skin.

Every time I talk about my anxiety, I consider getting diagnosed.  But the reality is, I'm managing, and the only thing a diagnosis could do for me at this point is get me medicated, which I'd like to avoid.  So this post isn't about getting diagnosed or medicated for anxiety, although I am NOT encouraging ANYONE to follow in my footsteps**.  What this post IS about, is the biggest way in which my anxiety has been helpful.

As you may know, I'm a Masters of Social Work (MSW) Candidate.  As a scholar, writing papers is pretty much second nature, after breathing and right before sleeping.  Now, I enjoy writing, and I think I write fairly well, but my anxiety has driven me to become a better writer.  How, you ask?

It's simple.  Because of my anxiety, editing my paper once or twice doesn't cut it.  I edit my papers at least three times, sometimes more depending on how anxious I'm feeling.  Though this is a pain in my rear end, the reality is that this has allowed me to produce the A- to A+ quality papers that I've been submitting throughout my education.  I do not say this to be cocky, don't be mislead.  Rather, I'm saying that instead of ruining my life, my anxiety has helped me to succeed.

Anxiety is a reality for many people.  I don't even remember a reality without anxiety - I've had it since I was a child.  You'd be surprised how many people live with anxiety around you.  And I'm not denying that it really sucks sometimes, especially on the mornings when you wake up having a panic attack for no apparent reason.  But I challenge you to think of the ways in which your anxiety motivates you, and helps you succeed.  This may not work for everyone, but I can guarantee that I'm not the only one who benefits from her anxiety.  If you're stuck with this thing for the rest of your life, you might as well learn to use it to your advantage!

Andrea Gibson, one of my favourite poets, has a poem entitled "Panic Button Collector".  I encourage you to read their words here, or check out their performance of the piece by clicking here.  If there is one thing you should take away from this post and from their poems, it is this: Everything you feel is okay.

The Anxiously Defiant Dougla

**Do what is best for YOU.  Make INFORMED decisions, meaning speak to people who are capable of giving you the best advice.  Go to your family doctor, or speak to someone who has life experience with anxiety before deciding to or not to get diagnosed.  As a social work professional, I have decided this is my best course of action, but I am in no way responsible for your choices.

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