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The Other Side of Anxiety

Many people have been anxious their entire lives and have no idea what recovery looks like; this article tries to paint that picture.

        Many of us have struggled with severe anxiety for years, perhaps decades and generations.  Some of us have been anxious for many years and have just recently identified anxiety as a struggle in our lives.  Then, some others are struggling their way through the recovery process, which seems daunting, if not impossible, at times.

    What is the other side of anxiety like?  First, we must understand what is meant by the “other side” of anxiety.  Anxiety, viewed from a life-long perspective, seems to me to occur in three stages.  In the first stage, a person is highly anxious, stressed out, and realizes that life is stressful, but has no understanding of what is going on.  Life is chaotic, difficult to manage, and sometimes is just downright horrible.  Tasks that seem mundane to others are seen as highly difficult to those afflicted with certain anxiety conditions.  There is no end, it seems, and people in this category may feel that they are deeply flawed.  Many give up hope and concede that they are “losers.”  In the second stage, a person realizes that something is wrong and starts to do something about it in order to understand and address the problem.  Some tasks that were previously challenging become easier.  A person's confidence grows, and often times that person feels quite confident and optimistic about life.  But then, on occasion, that person can spiral off into anxious tailspins.  Tasks that this person feels that most people can perform with ease once again become daunting.  Again, it seems that there is no different way of life; a person feels as though he or she will be anxious in all situations and simply will be unable to do some of the things he or she dreams about doing.  In the third stage, a person often tells the anxiety what to do.  This person can handle most, if not all, situations that were previously anxiety-provoking.  If a person meets a challenge that is too difficult to handle, the person is able to fall back on his or her own intelligence, regroup, and come back at the challenge again another day.  Anxiety can be bothersome in some situations, but it does not prevent a person from doing the things that he or she believes he or she can do.  This final stage is what I term to be the “other side.” 

    I believe that I have made it to this third, and possibly final (although that remains open) stage, and am writing this article to let everyone else out there know that there is hope for a better way of life.  I used to struggle with severe social anxiety, to the point where I froze in front of others and could say little, if anything.  However, after struggling and keeping at it, I eventually came to the final stage.  I think that a multidisciplinary approach to treating anxiety had much to do with my success.  

    So, what is this “other side” like?  Well, it's very nice and relaxing, simply put.  Many days I have no struggle with any anxiety at all.  I feel completely at ease when performing in front of groups or interacting with other random people.  I enjoy my job and experience, little, if any stress there.  I can do everything I thought that I would be able to do if I never was affected by anxiety in the first place.  I have a high level of self-esteem and self-confidence and rarely, if ever, feel like an “idiot” or “failure,” something that my anxiety would have me believe.  I am able to be who it is that I want to be in front of other people, and that is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. 

    Am I still affected by anxiety?  At times, I certainly still am.  I am not sure if it is possible to be completely at ease all the time.  But, I am able to work a job I enjoy, go to school and have fun and make friends, play sports with other people, have a good group of friends, and I just met an excellent girlfriend.  Everything it is that I wanted to have, but that anxiety seemed to keep far out of my reach, eventually came my way.  It did not come overnight, but only after several years of consistent and determined hard work.
    The lesson to take from this is not to get down on yourself for not making the progress you believe you “should” have made, but rather it is to know that anxiety's negative effects on your life can be minimized to the point where you can do all the things that you dreamed of doing.  No matter how severe your condition seems to be, and no matter how improbable recovery seems to be, you can and will recover if you keep working at it.  The road is not easy, but is laden with many dips and curves.  If you have not succeeded to the level that you have desired up to this point in your life, do not be discouraged.  You simply have not found the right combination of supports to help you make a recovery from anxiety.  With the help of other supports and the Anxiety Support Network, you can, and will, have a successful recovery!

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