“I used to have anxiety and now I don’t,” she told me. She also told me that I could be like her and that there was nothing wrong with me.
I didn’t believe her.
Everything in Tucson is located in a strip mall. I pulled up outside a nondescript white building with several offices. There were some fake trees and outdated magazines in the lobby, just like all the other waiting rooms. I decided to venture off campus for support but I’m not sure how I found her. All I knew was that I needed help and past experience told me that campus health was not up for the task.
My first summer in Tucson was pretty awesome despite the heat. I had a job coordinating a summer program for underprivileged teens to take college classes during the summer. I worked four hours per day. I was getting plenty of sleep. But for some reason, when I returned home in the afternoons, I would sit down to pet my cat and wake up face down on floor two hours later. Campus health offered me antidepressants on my first visit because they couldn’t find anything else. It turns out that this strawberry blonde white girl from Montana couldn’t take the heat in the desert. I just needed to take it easy and drink (a lot) more water. Turns out, there was nothing wrong with me.
But something wasn’t totally right, either. I had lived with anxiety for as long as I could remember — a deep unsettled feeling that would rise and fall but never rest completely. Law school, for some crazy reason, seemed to make it worse. In my second year, I was still also working on a master’s degree in Women’s Studies (which, by the way, was harder than law school) and working 20 hours per week teaching undergraduates. The law school frowned on outside work, but I had to pay my own bills. By this time I had quit volunteering at the local sexual assault crisis line. I did recognize that maybe I was overdoing it by responding at all hours of the day and night to people in crisis. That was a difficult decision because my advocacy work was the reason I decided to go to grad school in the first place. I cut back, but the anxiety did not go away. It seemed worse than ever.
How could it be true that there was nothing wrong with me when I felt this unrelenting ebb of panic?
My therapist could have told me I had lost my mind. I was piling on all these stressful ventures and eventually there would be a breaking point. She could have sent me back to campus health for a prescription. Instead she showed me what was possible. She planted a seed that would not grow roots for several years after our time together. She taught me about meditation. She encouraged me to explore what would happen if I let someone help me financially. She told me the truth (that there was nothing wrong with me) instead of offering me a pill. I didn’t leave her office with any immediately profound epiphanies. I truly didn’t believe I could ever be free from anxiety. The anxiety was worse because of all of the things on my plate, but it wasn’t new. I went to therapy, I wrote in my journal, and I went through the motions of the meditation. Nothing really helped. I had some other things to discover on my own before I would know what she was talking about. (See my first blog post.)
I discovered that my anxiety was giving me important information about my life choices. My brain was making choices that my soul didn’t agree with and my body was trying to tell me. I discovered that if I open myself up to #AllowAllPossibilities, I just might find that I am wrong about something. Even something that has been following me around and showing me "proof" for decades - that anxiety always was and always will be. I just needed to allow a tiny glimmer of possibility that the opposite could be true. I let cracked the door open just enough to let in some light and now I’m the one that gets to say, “I used to have anxiety and now I don’t.”
Please share, ask questions, leave comments, suggest topics, and tell stories! I want to hear about your moments of magic, miracles, and synchronicity.
Dare to be immortal.
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