It’s not easy living in a country where mental illness is often regarded as ‘something we make up in our heads’. I’ve been dealing with a burdensome amount of anxiety for as long as I can remember and only in my adulthood did I realize that that’s what it is. It has gotten so bad that, at one point, I avoided going to school because of this big overwhelming fear of something. I started failing classes, disappointing teachers, disappointing my parents, and eventually started spending little too much time in the academe. This went on throughout my whole college life until my very last semester when I started forcing myself to put myself in situations I would normally be afraid of.
Why did I do this? Well, I realized that I was missing out on good opportunities because I would always find some reason to back out of things because I was too afraid of them. Well, mostly, I was afraid of failure. I remember one specific instance when a friend of mine who knew I loved talking about movies told me that there was an application for film writers for a good website and instead of applying, I got intimidated and put off sending in my application. I never got to send it in. It was just one of the many moments where I asked myself ‘why the hell didn’t I?’
Flash forward to late last year in 2018: I was trying to come up with New Year’s resolutions like everyone else. Aside from the usual—lose weight, study more, get my life together—I subconsciously told myself to stop saying ‘no’ to…well, everything. I turned myself into a yes-person.
When I got into an internship program that required me to not only mingle with strangers but also constantly go to places where I needed to meet even more strangers, it pushed me out of my shell. When they needed volunteers, I’d volunteer. When they needed me to go to a place, I’d go. Anything they needed, I’d said yes, no matter what it was.
Eventually, I brought this attitude into my school life, too. It was my last semester of college and people needed a bunch of things from me. The usual requirements. I used to walk the halls of my university shaking with anxiety; even talking to our college secretary was a laborious task even though she was actually nice. But during that last semester, I just stopped caring a little bit too much. It was like I was training myself to calm down, to set aside my fears, and to trust that everything was going to be fine and it was, 99% of the time.
This doesn’t mean that I got rid of my anxiety. To be honest, I don’t think my anxiety is ever going away. With every ‘yes’ I give people comes a sense of dread which stems from the fear of not delivering what’s expected of me. But saying ‘yes’ makes me accountable, it commits me to whatever it is I agreed to. It pushes me. My fear of disappointing people far overshadows my fear of failure. Of course, this need to please people still resides under the Great Umbrella of Anxiety, but if I continued saying no to the things the universe was throwing at me, I wouldn’t have grown into the (slightly more) confident person that I am today. Hell, I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece right now.
At the moment, after months of doing this, I’m pretty sure my brain has been trained to say yes to (mostly) everything. If I think it could benefit me, despite how scary it may seem, I’d say yes to it. I’ve proven time and time again that anything I’m afraid of isn’t as bad as I think it is. Yes, we all have different demons to deal with; it’s just that instead of letting this one lord over me, I managed to make it work for me and I’m reaping the benefits.
What are the ways that you have dealt with your anxiety?