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  • Rishi Gaurav Bhatnagar

Anxiety and my relationship with it.

If you are reading this that’s because I have sent you a link, so you probably already know about my mental health situation. If you don’t, I have been suffering from a high functioning form of anxiety since about 2006, that’s my first memory of it. I didn’t think it was serious, I was just told that I think a lot and maybe I should try not to think as much. So I kept it that. I understand only now, what I was going through then.

For as long as I can remember, I drank a cocktail of low self-esteem, zero self-respect and terrible anxiety(or anxitea) every morning, two-quarters full of it, like a drunk who has forgotten what the taste of water(or life) must feel like. There were good days and bad, and I knew I must do something about the bad days. But I told myself, “it’s not really that bad is it? It could be worse. I’ll get help if it becomes worse.”

How much worse do bad days have to be for you to seek help? Turns out, they need to be really terrible, and they were. I would constantly try to fill my self up with food or content or things I could (or couldn’t) afford because I was so exhausted all the time and my brain felt distraction is the only escape from reality. I couldn’t sleep, I would see someone I care about die a miserable death every single night, for months together and this just didn’t seem to change. This pattern started repeating first every few years, then every few months and then every day. There are only so many times you can see a life vanish in front of your eyes – even if it is a dream.

And then there was a morning when I woke up shaking, sweating and not being able to breathe and that was it. I realized I really needed help.

Note: Don’t let it get to a point of breaking, I was lucky I could survive, but sometimes, there is a point of no return.

I finally took to therapy on the advice of people who care about me more than I care about myself. It took everything I had to reach out for help and book the first appointment. Slowly but surely things started to get better (maybe I will write about life after therapy and how I have changed). In one of my sessions, my therapist asked me to describe my relationship with anxiety. And so here I am describing it to you(but really myself).

About a year ago, my relationship with anxiety was unhealthy. We wouldn’t see each other in the eye. I would know from far away, almost like the smell of monsoon, that anxiety was coming, she wasn’t far out. When it would stay with me, I would be miserable. I would try to run, build up walls, do everything I could to escape her, but I couldn’t. I was unable to function in any environment, all fingers(even the ones I couldn’t see), pointing straight at me and demanding answers I didn’t have or couldn’t find out. With time and therapy, that relationship has become better. Meditation and mindfulness have been a powerful tool in this.

The more time I spent with myself, trying to understand my insides, the more I started valuing silence. I was 26, becoming 27 when I started this and this was the first time I was really able to listen to myself, truly listen. Fast forward 2019, after speaking to a friend earlier in March, I have now started writing these things down. The tweets of all the imaginary birds, the words of a silent statue, the hopping of birds in a sandpit -doing a love dance, the smell of rains, all things that bring me joy, happiness, or sadness and anger, I write them down. And I can’t tell you how much this has helped me heal. I have found a voice that I kept avoiding for 26 years. I listened to everything but my intuition, my own emotions but that has now changed and slowly the healing has begun.

The more time I spent in my travels or at home with my thoughts, the more I acknowledged them, my relationship with anxiety started getting better.

We are not a happily ever after case yet, but we are getting there. Once in a while, when she comes to me I tell her, now is not the time. She must come another day. And funnily enough, she listens to me now. But sometimes it doesn’t and that’s okay. We are both working on it. We must acknowledge our space, and anxiety really needs to learn when it can come by. Has evolution taught her nothing? I am not in a fight or flight mode always(anymore). I guess we are both learning and will continue to.

I look forward to a day when I am on street side breakfast place in Tel Aviv or sipping some Turkish tea in the lap of Hagia Sofia or at Mathilda’s fountain in New York city, anxiety comes to me and says Hi. I look her in the eye and welcome her for good conversation, and then, we both part ways with a smile, telling each other that we are in a better place now but no words are spoken.

Until then, therapy and meditation will help me be (and become) me.

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