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I am not anxious about turning 30. But I am anxious about everything else.
6 years ago, I was living in Bend, Oregon, doing some part-time job, maintaining a long distance relationship (that ended eventually), while trying to find a full-time job in Portland, Oregon.
6 years later, turning 30 in March, I now live with a couple close friends who also moved from Bend, in Portland, Oregon, having a full-time job, dating a man I love, while waiting for my Green Card to get approved (probably a few years away but at least we were able to set up expectations).
Life seems pretty good, except for the unseen and unspeakable fear that I have.
I have anxiety disorder and I have been seeking help for over a year. Most of the time my anxiety level is moderate, with occasions when it would flare up to extremely anxious/scared. Not bad, considering how hard it is to manage your anxiety. At least it didn't get too much worse. I can, though, certainly do better.
What do you mean? That you have anxiety?
It means that I get anxious easily, over reasons that seem ridiculous. Or no reasons at all.
(I see anxiety as something different than stress)
What if I died today? What if I screwed my job up? What if I got into a car accident? What if I got kicked out of the country? What if I annoyed someone? What if I never heard from some certain people again? What if there was an emergency in my family in China? ...
You see, a lot of those awful incidents are unlikely to happen. Is it possible for them to happen? Absolutely. Is it likely that they will ever happen? Absolutely not. Those are, however, the thoughts I have every single day.
I once bursted into tears at home, not knowing what I was afraid of, only knowing that I was scared to death.
I once witnessed a minor car accident on my way to work and almost had to pull over because tears were streaming down my face.
I have voices in my head, talking to me whenever they get a chance. I can't get rid of them.
I have crazy thoughts while trying to fall asleep and have nightmares all the time. I don't have good dreams, only strange and scary ones.
Do people around me know about my condition? No. A few close friends are aware of my condition. But that's about it. I don't trust people enough to talk about my mental struggles.
I am a highly functional anxiety disorder patient who is very capable and could be social although I'd rather be spending time with people who are really close to me, or alone.
I don't know. I can't know. Not exactly at least. I've been walking on this planet for 30 years. Although I've experienced less than many I also went through more than many.
According to my counselor, who's an amazing person with great empathy and sympathy towards her patients, and many studies and publications, the causes of one's anxiety could trace back to their genes and childhoods.
So basically, the causes of my, or anyone's anxiety, are complex and can't be known with 100% clarity. I might selectively write about the significant events that changed me and my life in a later time. For now let's just say, the cause of one's anxiety is usually the combination of nature and nurture.
Insecurity plays a big part into my anxiety, based on many signs shown and observed by myself and others. Insecurity also associates with self-esteem and confidence. As much as I know that I am a competent and responsible person and I can handle jobs and most social occasions with intelligence, grace and good spirit, I often question my own ability of "making people happy". "Are they content with what I do?" "Should I do more?" "Would they get annoyed if I say this?" "Should I share my opinions?" "Am I bothering my friends/lover because I talk too much?" "Am I wasting their time?" ...
All these questions in my head are essentially the same: Am I good enough?
Of course I know I am good enough. But that's when the rational me does the thinking. I can't remember how many times I had to remind myself: You are fine. You are OK. You did a good job. You are liked. You are smart. You are beautiful. You shouldn't worry.
Yet, I still worry, a lot.
In addition to seeing and talking to my counselor once a month (because I can't afford more frequent out-of-pocket visits), I try to pay attention to my breathing, document my thoughts more, digitally or on paper, read more frequently, and exercise more regularly. I have also started searching for the right meditation practice for me, which seems very difficult as my mind wanders off constantly. All of these help. They reduce my anxiety to a degree. But they don't solve my problem.
What else can I do?
I have been advised more than once that I should open up and reach out more often. I tend to keep things to myself and I talk to myself more than other people. Perhaps it is because I am an only child and I had a relatively lonely childhood, compared to kids who have siblings and cousins (I never spent too much time with my cousins as they lived in different cities and parts of the town). Also maybe it is because I am an introvert and never feel too comfortable about sharing something personal.
I am trying though. It's not easy to let off your guard. But I've been talking to my friends more.
Recently I discovered that attending larger events is becoming challenging to me. It was not a problem before. But now I would get distracted by everyone, everything and every sound in the room. I find it hard to stay focused, especially when the conversation is not that interesting to me (or my brain tells me it's not interesting). But I don't want people to notice my uneasiness, right? So I would try to engage and fail and try again. I would zone out and attempt to come back. I would be anxious about being seen as someone who's so out of it and not fun to talk to. I would worry about acting weird and distant.
As a result, the entire evening would become a task instead of a party to me.
I've always found small talks less appealing than real conversations. That's why I've always preferred smaller social settings (2-5 people including myself) where I can actually engage, discuss and share. I never had big issues with larger events until in recent months, which is not a good sign. But now I know I have one more obstacle to overcome.
At this point I've learnt that there is always something to work on when it comes to anxiety, or mental issues in general. This week you seem doing better because you did well at work, you ate properly, you stuck to your plans, you exercised, etc. Next week you set a couple steps back because you had some conflicts at work, your plans didn't quite work out as expected, or you simply just felt stressed and unmotivated...
I can't change the fact that those voices and thoughts will always be in my head, trying to make me believe them. But I can acknowledge them and not let them get me by those scary imaginations and worries.
I can't reverse my condition back to when I was happy and healthy. But I can do everything I can to act against my fear and improve my mental health.
Turning 30 is not scary. Anxiety is scary. I haven't figured out how to contain it successfully every time. But if it was too easy, it wouldn't be much fun when you beat it would it.