For those that struggle with anxiety and depression, it may seem at times like there is no hope in escaping the trenches of the mind. Some people may use drugs or alcohol to manage anxiety, which can end up exacerbating the problem. Sometimes, when you think you’ve learned how to manage it, anxiety can come creeping back, morphing itself into another form. That’s how it is for me at least.
While I may be fine for months at a time, there have been days when I lost hope. There were long stretched when anxiety would be in the background, but it was tolerable. Other times I would be so miserable that it would be nearly impossible to work, do school work, or even complete basic household tasks, triggering depression and feelings of hopelessness.
It came to the point where I was afraid of being afraid. Afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of what people may or may not be thinking of me. Afraid of not knowing what the future holds. I am now at the point where I have finally built up the courage to face my fears and anxiety. Letting anxiety control me is no longer an option. Plain and simple.
While anxiety is unique for everyone, these four techniques have helped me in my journey toward facing anxiety and conquering my fears:
1) Facing My Fear of Heights
This one is a little strange. I absolutely love roller coasters, but I am still somehow afraid of heights. For much of my life, I had the illogical fear of going down elevators, avoiding them by taking the stairs.
To face that fear, I decided to try zip lining. It was harder for me to go through with it than most. Imagine yourself standing on the edge of a cliff, preparing to jump off — that was the worst moment for me. It took a long time (at least it felt like a long time) standing on the edge trying to build up the courage to jump off.
I almost backed out several times. But I promised myself I would go through with it no matter how long it took me, or how silly I looked.
I ended up facing backward and having the instructor push me off. After that, it was thrilling. I loved the feeling of gliding through the air, and everyone was cheering me on. This was the first step in facing my fears and overcoming my anxiety to find happiness within myself.
2) Not Caring What People Think
A big anxiety trigger for many people is thinking about the “what-ifs.” What if this person doesn’t like me? What are they thinking of me now? Being obsessed with what others may or may not think of myself can be very overwhelming. It’s impossible to please everyone.
For me, I had to realize that my own happiness is more significant than what someone else may or may not think about me for five seconds. It’s important to care about other people, without obsessing over what they think of you.
3) Being Confident and Comfortable With Myself
I have never really been that confident of a person. In the past, I usually tended to be shy and self-conscious. I was never really comfortable with myself. I was not comfortable with many of my physical attributes, and personality-wise I have tended to be somewhat awkward in social situations.
For instance, I have always been on the tall side. I am 5’9, so I am taller than many of my friends. I would be so self-conscious about this that I would slump in school. This led to me developing scoliosis, which I still have to this day.
I have discovered that even though some people may be intimidated by my height, it is not necessarily a bad thing. I no longer try to hide my height. On the contrary: I embrace it. I even accentuate my height sometimes by wearing heels. This has led to confidence that I could never have imagined. Embracing something you may initially consider a flaw is a beautiful and powerful thing. So yes — I wear heels and pull my shoulders back and stand tall to face the world because that’s who I am. Doing everything in my power to change the things I am not comfortable with, and embracing the things I could not change, was surprisingly empowering.
4) Letting Go
This one is easier said than done, but the end result is rewarding and liberating. For some that experience anxiety and depressive disorders, they may turn to substances as a way of coping and forgetting what they have been through.
Personally, it was difficult to let go of past traumatic experiences and realize that lingering on the past will not help anything. Drinking too much to forget, or taking pills to put you to sleep may temporarily numb the pain, but it doesn’t solve anything. This may be a longer process to accomplish. I did not just snap my fingers and automatically heal. It has been a journey to accept that it is OK that my life is not going exactly as planned. Sure, I have had many setbacks. Some I never thought I would escape.
Sometimes life just happens and is nowhere near how you expected it to turn out. It’s important to realize that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Simply let go of your ideas of what life should be and work with what life has given you. It has taken an incredible weight off my shoulders and eased up much built-up anxiety.
Facing my fears is the most liberating thing I have ever done. Sure, I thought it was impossible. But with enough determination, it can be done. Anxiety will always be there, but letting it control my life is no longer an option. Turning to substances is no longer an option. Letting past trauma rule my life is no longer an option. The only option I have given myself is to embrace life — every bit of it. This is the first time that I can say I love myself and my life.
Are you or someone you love struggling with substance use disorder to cope with anxiety? The Recovery Village can help. With facilities throughout the country and specialized co-occurring disorder treatment, The Recovery Village can identify the roots of addiction for lasting healing. Call today to learn more.