I was never a good lover. Or at least not a successful one, one that everyone would think as "nice, sweet and suitable".
At 14, I told him that "this was just a game".
At 17, I decided that "he's my life, I will fight the world to be with him". He said that "I am too stubborn". At 18, I aborted our child in one humid afternoon. At 20, he left me one note in my mailbox: "I am sorry" and disappeared for good.
At 22, I decided that "this boy is not worthy of my time". Later on I heard that he cried outside of my apartment.
At 23, I told him that "I don't know what's going to happen but let's try it out". At 27, I told him that "we don't share the same life goals. Let's split". I didn't tell him that I sat on the floor and cried my heart out.
At 28, I decided that life was too short to be with only one person. So I played hard in the field.
Today, at 30, I finally am hearing a lot about "how smart she is" and "how strong she is". I know my value now.
By 30, I have been trying treatments for my anxiety for over a year. "You are developing", "You are learning", "You are progressing", "You are so brave"...
At 30, I am in love again, since 7 years ago. But the love of my life has decided to be alone. "I don't want it".
What have I done wrong this time? Nothing. I did nothing wrong.
I am a humble but strong person now. I speak my mind. I care about people. I listen. I work hard. I love my friends and family. I talk to them. I practice mindfulness. I love unconditionally.
I have done nothing wrong. Yet, I have lost again. Big time.
Am I to give in yet? Do I ought to be angry now? Should I stop trying?
I want to say yes, for I have been so tired and sad.
But I don't have the leisure to. When my father decided to name me Zhou 30 years ago, my fate was written. This little boat (Zhou/舟) will have to keep sailing, until she reaches the other side.
I will be fighting anxiety for the rest of my life. I will get older and wiser. I will be sad again. I will also feel joy again. Most importantly, I will not let go. I will love this very person unconditionally, till the boat stops working. For love is the only thing that keeps me sane and alive.
So thank you darling. Consciously or unconsciously, you have saved my life and I shall be grateful forever.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older; that's 18.1% of the population every year.
That means, almost 1 in 5 people has some type of anxiety disorder. That also means, it is highly likely that someone you know has anxiety disorders.
However, only 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety disorders receive treatments.
I was one of the 63.1%, until about 18 months ago, when things turned really "panicky" and I scared myself to death. "I need help, now."
Since then I've been trying to help myself get better. There are many panic moments and set-backs. But overall I am making progress and I want to share my personal experience in hope of helping someone who is also sitting in the dark.
It is important to talk about it. Please remember that. It was extremely hard for me to open up because a). I am an introvert; b). I was ashamed of being mentally unwell.
It was uncomfortable and awkward to open up to my counselor for the first time. You are practically telling a stranger about your childhood, your adult life, and your struggles, hoping that they'll understand and offer help.
However, the more you talk about it to a professional, to a trusted friend or to a close family member, the better you understand yourself and the causes of your anxiety. At the very least, it is a way to let out your frustration, fear, and doubts, which takes some of your burden off.
At first, I would visit my counselor once a week. Now I see her every three or four weeks. I also talk to a couple close friends on a regular basis. Talking to people makes me feel supported and less alone.
Reading and Writing
Everyone has their own ways to calm their mind down. To me, reading and writing has helped me tremendously. Writing helps me visualize my thoughts and (hopefully) understand them. Reading helps me broaden my mind and stays grounded. I don't necessarily read one book a week or write every day; but I try to read and write as much as I can. Even if I just read two pages or write five lines a day, I am keeping the rhythm going.
This is my weak spot, compared to talking, reading and writing. I really have to make myself exercise: yoga, barre, rock climbing, hiking, or just walk in the park. Movements make you feel better. Feeling your heart beats makes you feel alive. Hydrating after all the sweats makes you feel refreshed.
The body carries the mind and the mind guides the body. The health of the mind is highly associated to the health of the body, and vice versa. Until a couple of infections and injuries happened in the last 12 months, I had been neglecting my physical health for a long time. Now that I am 30 and have an anxious mind, I am finally paying attention to my body and trying to make it healthier.
My newest experiment to regulate my anxiety. First of all, if anyone tells you that meditation is just sitting there and relaxing, don't believe it. Meditation is hard, even harder for people who have a busy mind.
The meditation I am learning to practice is called mindfulness meditation. Be aware of your current status, try not to review the past and worry about the future, pay attention to your breath, feel where your heart is, and stay present (right where you are) for even just 5 seconds...
Recently I had a full-day silent retreat (aka guided meditation) that included sit meditation, yoga meditation, body scan, breathing, walk meditation, eating meditation (slow and mindful eating), and visualizing meditation (picture the mountain and person you are fond of). By experimenting different types of meditations, I was able to tell that yoga and visualizing meditations work better for me. By staying silent for a day, I was able to focus on the sensations and thoughts that came up to me. At the end of the retreat, we were invited to share what we learnt. And what I learned is: all is not lost.
All is not lost
Anxiety has changed my perspectives of life. When I didn't know exactly what my problems were, I tended to "wait it out", thinking my "bad feelings" would just go away. When those "bad feelings" kept coming back and eventually gave me panic attacks, I finally realized my "bad feelings" were not just bad feelings. They are my anxieties. My mind is unwell. It cannot recover itself like it used to anymore.
When my mind is in very bad shape, it would try to persuade me that "it will not get better anymore", "this is all your fault", "you'll just be sad for the rest of your life"... As stupid and irrational as it sounds, it's what my mind does when it senses fear, insecurity and uncertainty. I would watch myself going into a dark room, trapped and terrified, wanted to call for help but not able to. It is the worst feeling to me.
However, I am proud of myself for trying everything I can to get better. During the visualization meditation, when I was looking at this unmovable mountain in my head, I remembered that I once was a person who understood her fear but was not afraid of it, a person who fought for everything that was important to her, a person who was strong and resilient, and a person who knew the power of love very well.
Mental health is vital. Mental diseases are monstrous and destructive. They silently consume our minds and laugh at us when we feel defeated and helpless. Yet, we are still here. Because deep down, we know that there are reasons for us to fight back. There are adventures for us to take. There are duties for us to fulfill. And there are people, including ourselves, to love.
Remember, all is Not Lost.
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.
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