Living Boldly With Anxiety
A significant part of daily life is built upon routine, with many of us needing predictability amidst the uncertain world around us. When anxiety is thrown into the mix, some of us depend on living in a manner that minimizes our fears and crippling worries. If not, we simply wouldn't function and our anxiety might consume us whole. The nature of the beast of anxiety is that it restricts our sense of freedom and curtails our ability to live how we might truly want to live—but it doesn't have to be that way.
Two years ago I lay in pain after another episode of stomach ache; I had been having problems which embarrassed and confused me for weeks. I was certain that I was gravely ill and that my upcoming two-year travelling adventure around Australia was surely a crazy idea.
How could I possibly leave my comfort zone behind, wave goodbye to free healthcare and embrace the complete unknown in such a difficult position?
One year ago, I sat in the driving seat of a tractor, in the middle of a rolling green field dotted with Macadamia trees, as I took in the tranquil views surrounding me. I was several weeks into working on a farm to gain a second-year visa allowing me to stay a while longer in my new (temporary) home, Australia.
One year later and I have traversed rainforests, lived on a remote island (and camped on another beautiful one) jumped out of a plane, met people from all over the world, and basked in the glory of truly not knowing where my travels might take me next. I have submitted myself to being utterly present, counting my numerous blessings and fun opportunities each and every day, instead of lingering on every negative thought that comes my way.
Evidently, that fraught and anxious girl who was so sure that the unknown was actually some knowable hell, somehow overcame a period of intense trepidation, and wholeheartedly embraced the challenges in front of her.
How did this transition occur? With my health issues thoroughly investigated and in the end concluded as anxiety-related, I finally decided that enough was enough. For many months I had been thinking over every aspect of my big trip abroad with my lovely boyfriend, to the extent that I had made myself physically sick. But there I was, two short weeks before leaving home, and I no longer had a logical reason to stop me leaving. I resolved to pack my bags, and say goodbye to my family. I wasn't going to do it kicking and screaming, because I knew that I wanted exploration and excitement. I wanted to unsettle myself, before one day, I decided to settle down.
I knew it would be a challenge, and it has been. I recently had a recurrence of my physical anxiety symptoms yet this time, I accepted the pains, and kept doing what I was doing anyway. I had began a new job, working in an alien environment, having to quickly learn new skills. But from those hot days on the tractor the previous year, I knew I could do something scary and bold, and I would be just fine. I had evidence that I could succeed in even the most broad and weird of circumstances, as well as the more mundane ones. I had learnt that if something made me anxious, it would likely end up expanding my mind and open me up to a broader spectrum of life experiences.
Much of the last three years have been a constant rally against anxious thoughts, bouts of depression and overpowering emotion, and there have been moments where I have wanted to buckle under the weight. And yet today, I find myself wiser, stronger, more clear-minded and comfortable in my own skin than I could have ever hoped to become, had I never gotten on that plane.
My anxiety never left (it hitched a ride in my backpack) but whilst it accompanies me at every turn, it doesn't decide which road I take anymore.
There is no cliché so apt here as that of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, but how can such a simplistic statement apply to those of us that are innately terrified by even the basic aspects of every-day life?
Anxiety has the power to render sufferers incapable of even basic positive thinking, and for many, the idea of making the life change I have made seems impossible. But whatever goal you have, whichever desire it is that you don't want your anxiety to quash, I am proof that when you put one foot in front of the other, and simply, move, good things can happen.
I know that I might suffer anxiety for the rest of my life. I don't focus on curing this part of me over learning to live with it because I know that I will lead a full life regardless.
I only reached this place of clarity after many a time of breathing in deeply, standing up straight and moving forward, my anxious undercurrent quieting in the wake of me living my life the way I truly want to.