How I ended the misery of anxiety in my life.
I woke up in a fog that morning.
I woke up in somebody else’s apartment, in someone else’s life, as someone I barely knew. My skin felt heavy and dull. I was worn out and exhausted from constant worry and fear.
4 years earlier, I had experienced my first panic attack. An unreal feeling brought on by a little marijuana and the sadness of my family falling apart.
It seemed the anxiety had never stopped, but rather, dulled into a daily ritual of fear and avoidance. I was constantly afraid of the unimaginable. The dark, unpredictable visions of losing myself and those that I loved.
I was 21.
In college, a young man who lived life halfway.
I did class halfway. I did work halfway. I cherished my girlfriend, but her role in my life served as a point of focus so I wouldn’t have the chance to feel or see anything inside myself.
Was I a ghost of my former self?
I had a momentary disbelief that I was living this way. How had this anxiety become my life? Like a thick blanket holding me down, hiding me from the world. This blanket was heavy.
“What would it be like to not have anxiety?”
Sitting there on the edge of the bed, I sensed all of this was an illusion I was choosing into. And I didn’t know why.
When we make anxiety a thing to avoid, it pervades all of reality.
Everywhere you look is a representation of fear. Threatening people, threatening situations, threatening feelings.
It feels like a game. A sick joke. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you can’t seem to outpace the fear and anxiety filling up the spaces. Exhausting to no end.
The truth is, it is a game.
And it’s created by you. And it may not feel very fun, but it has a purpose.
I am someone who has been there, and gone beyond the walls. And this is the story of how you end the misery.
See anxiety for what it is.
Anxiety is a symptom of underlying trauma.
Imagine that you got a small cut on your arm from accidentally bumping into a counter edge.
You see the cut. It hurts a little bit. But you’re busy, so you go on with your day. It’s ok, it will heal up just fine.
On day 3 of healing, the cut seems to produce some kind of weird puss. It looks a little gross, but you don’t really have time to deal with it. So you just wipe the puss on a napkin, toss the napkin, and go on with your day.
By day 5, there seems to be some weird coloring around the cut. There is more puss. A lot more. And while you’re worried about the cut, you become obsessed with the puss. You begin wiping it off frequently. You don’t like the puss. You don’t want others to see the puss. You don’t like the sensation of the puss oozing out of the skin. Where is all this going from?
The puss is your anxiety. It’s the easy thing to focus on because of it’s loud, disgusting nature. But the cut is the problem. You need to heal the cut, and the puss will go away.
The cut is your trauma. Big or small, whether it makes sense or not. It’s an event you haven’t allowed yourself to feel and process, thus never healed.
The fear that fuels your anxiety is something that would never happen.
Secretly, subconsciously, you know this thing would never actually happen. You chose this fear because it is so utterly terrifying that it will distract you from the pain you hold.
Because maybe the pain hurts that bad.
So bad that the survival instinct within you has adopted an illusion of fear as a coping mechanism.
The child in you that hasn’t stopped weeping for decades.
And that’s ok. I say this with so much love for you. It’s ok. It’s ok. It is ok.
Recognizing the true pain behind the anxiety breaks the illusion in an instant.
For me, I was terrified of losing my mind. Because if I lost my mind, I would lose touch with reality, and lose everyone dear and close to me. The pain behind this fear was born the day my Father left, and how truly alone I felt for the first time in life.
Fear and anxiety are the realities we adopt to distract ourselves from pain. When you understand this, those realities dissolve, and you are left with the truth.
So I ask…
What pain in your life are you avoiding? What ‘cuts’ have you not had the chance to heal? What are you forcing or holding onto in your life?
This is your chance to begin again.
Find neutrality in the present moment.
Let go of the impulse to solve or change anything.
Anxiety makes you want to go. So stay 🙂
It’s in the “doing something” that we perpetuate anxiety. The leaving the house. The getting your mind off it. The cleaning and organizing. The having the drink. The needing to solve. The fixing, fixing, fixing. The grasping to get away.
This is how anxiety has you on the run and chained up at the same time. The idea that you need to do something, to do anything, to “solve” this impossible problem.
“We can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them.”
~ Albert Einstein
You cannot resolve anxiety by thinking about it. And you surely cannot solve it by pushing it away. Fight or flight is a relic passed down from our ancestors. There has to be another way.
How about… not doing anything at all?
What would it be like to simply allow what is being felt at this very moment? To trade fighting for feeling? To no longer attempt to solve the impossible, but to feel deeply into what ever is being felt.
You are welcome in this moment. All of you.
Breathe. Feel the sensations in your body. Notice the temperature of your hands. Notice the placement of your feet. Feel your belly expand with each subtle breath. Feel the weight of your body.
Look around. Listen. Allow. Be.
You just found neutrality.
You are here, now.
The uncomfortable sensations of anxiety have begun to dissolve. You are becoming clear and easy. Just by allowing what is… to be.
The mind cannot think away anxiety. It cannot think away fear. This has never happened in the history of mankind. It simply hasn’t, and it never will. This is the limitation of the thinking mind.
As you find yourself trying to rationalize with fear or anxiety, simply let it go. Over and over again, with the intention to surrender to what is.
Feel, see, listen, and allow.
You are unlocking the chains of fear. Little by little, with practice, the experience of anxiety dissolves. Over and over again. Until one day you notice you haven’t feel those feelings in months.
This is you, beginning again.
Write your truth.
Express your emotions through writing.
In my mid-twenties, at the height of my anxiety, I began to form obsessive compulsive behaviors. I became so good at suppressing my pain that the energy began to express itself in louder and more destructive ways.
Going to bed was always the hardest. As I’d try to fall asleep, I was shown my fears, over and over again, in the black of night. I’d loop, toss and turn, saturated in sweat and fear, praying for some reprieve, trying to find some sleep.
One night, I couldn’t take it any more.
I got up. I needed to do something. Anything to get out of my head. So I pulled out an old college-ruled notebook, and started writing what I was feeling.
I wrote about anything that came to mind. I wrote what I felt. I wrote random thoughts that didn’t make sense. I wrote about memories that came to mind. I’d follow the trails of those memories, and meet parts of my past I’d forgotten about.
My right hand didn’t stop moving across the paper. I poured my fear and pain into those pages through that pen. And it was so easy, so non-confrontational, so real and so authentic.
And as by my hand began to ache, my body began to lighten, and my thoughts slowed down.
I found myself writing about the anger of growing up. Of the sadness I felt about being let down by my parents. And realizing it wasn’t their fault, and nobody’s fault at all, but only a natural function of life and growing up and living. And I began to see things as they are. Beyond good or bad.
And I felt better.
I found new insights in my writing. I found a deep relief in the act of expressing the fear and pain I felt. I finally found something to help.
My body was flooded with light and joy and relief. And a sweetness pervaded the air.
I began again, through my words.
Free write to free yourself.
Whatever your relationship is to writing, forget it for a few moments. Discover a new relationship with it. One where you express yourself freely, unedited, and without strategy or format.
Pull out a page and pen, and start writing. Feel free to use a writing prompt:
- What am I feeling in my body right now?
- What about this situation is making me uncomfortable?
- What do I really want in my life?
- What am I grateful for?
Start writing. Allow the words to flow freely from you onto the page.
Allow what you write to evolve. Follow the feelings that feel significant, and write about them. Notice the memories that bubble up, and write about them. As new ideas and answers pour in, write about them. Stay curious, and seek what feels true. Write.
Free writing is the expression of energy stored in your body. This is not about solving problems. If you find yourself trying to figure something out, or change the way you feel, simply notice it, and move on.
Write for as long as it feels right to write.
Often times, you’ll develop a deep sense of relief from activity. The point is to express what needs expressing at this moment, in the most loving and compassionate ways possible.
When you feel done, put down your pen, and take a breath. Connect with yourself and where you are. Thank yourself for this act of courage and growth. “Thank you, wonderful self, for this act of love.”
You are amazing, my friend.
A few tips for free writing.
Free writing is a safe space. Write whatever your need to write, and nobody ever needs to see it. It’s your truth, and no one else’s. Afterwards, you can do what ever you want with the writing… throw it away, burn it, or save it.
Free writing is intuitive. It’s something you can’t do wrong. There’s no way to screw this up. Whatever words come to mind, write them. Your ability to surrender to your heart, and be honest in the light of truth, equals that of your resolution and relief.
Free writing is enhanced by meditation. While you can’t screw it up, you can make this exercise more effective. Meditate before writing and you’ll be more conscious and emotionally regulated as you write. You’ll discover deeper insights, and progress farther in this journey of self realization.
Some not-so-final thoughts on anxiety.
As you move through the expression of pain that needs to be processed and released, you will notice your relationship with anxiety changes.
Anxiety doesn’t magically disappear.
You are a human, and anxiety is a natural part of life. It can be an incredible tool for progress. Without it, much like pain, you wouldn’t have a signal to show where you need to understand, heal, and grow.
Anxiety also shows us when we need to change our inputs.
Are you spending too much time on social media? Are you eating foods that aren’t good for you? Are you hanging out with people that don’t make you feel good? Do you need to stop drinking, smoking, or using substances?
Putting ‘the wrong stuff’ in your body or mind will create anxiety. It’s another signal from your body saying “stop this!!!”
So listen to that signal.
Put down the cheeseburger, break up with that dysfunctional friend, drink some water and go for a hike. You’ll feel better immediately.
In this process, you’ll discover that it’s YOU who changes. Your relationship with anxiety matures. Instead of it controlling you, you learn that anxiety is simply a signal from your body, asking for attention.
As you give yourself more attention, you allow more of yourself to be here. You become more present and more embodied. And this is the whole point…
All of you is welcome here. All of you. All of your charms, all of your fears, all of your light, and all of your darkness. All of you is welcome, right here, right now. You are so loved, and so protected, and so supported in this grand adventure. Trust it, and it will be so. ❤️