Anxiety and I are long-time friends. She has been present in my life since my earliest memories. However, we weren’t always friends and I didn’t know her name was anxiety until later in life. I gave anxiety a “her” pronoun because I have discovered that although anxiety is a temporary experience, she’s like a friend trying to alert me of things that I “should” “watch out” for. My earliest memories go back to being around 5 or 6 years old and having these feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease very often. My family would always say that I was a “nervous kid” because I would display feelings of nervousness all the time – and indeed, I was always frightened and worried about little and big things that were happening or could happen.
As I grew older, the anxiety never faded; on the contrary, it intensified even more. It became so chronic that I developed maladaptive behaviors to cope with triggers and life’s hardships. My father’s passing took it to another level – a level that was interfering with my activities of daily living. At some point, I thought I was going to die feeling this way, but at the same time, I deeply knew that this couldn’t be the only way of living – I didn’t want to feel this way for the rest of my life.
Amid all the suffering, I discovered mindfulness and the dharma, which have brought transformation to my life. I learned about self-compassion while practicing mindfulness and that has brought so much kindness and tenderness to my life; thus, why I now see anxiety as “a friend.” Mindfulness and self-compassion practices have allowed me to befriend and have a different relationship with the experience of anxiety, my past, and my entire being – including the parts of me that I consider undesirable.
I would’ve never imagined that anxiety and the suffering that comes with it were and are the doorways to my constant awakening and to the freedom that lies just beneath the surface of suffering. And yet, there it is, the freedom always patiently waiting for me to let it into my life.
Join Elizabeth Stomp and me in a 4-week course where we will explore Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Practices for Anxiety.