It took me quite a few months of thinking I was losing my mind before I became able to name what I was struggling with as anxiety. I was a happy kid, and I led what I thought was a happy life. Then one day it was like a switch went off, and things did not make sense anymore.

Three years ago my anxiety led to panic attacks and depression. Anxiety caused me to feel like I could never relax, it felt like an unbearable, continuous pain in my chest. I could feel my heartbeat in my ears 24/7. Anxiety was the unwelcome enemy that was ruining my life. It was taking away all the dreams that I once I had for myself. It often left me crying on the bathroom floor praying for a break from perpetual fear that I was feeling. Anxiety had me waking up at 4:30 in the morning to do my laundry because I knew I wouldn’t have to run into anyone then. Three years ago anxiety made me feel weak and embarrassed.

Two years ago anxiety was a huge weight that I hated with all my might. I never asked for it, I never wanted it. I fought hard, with all my might, to control everything yet life kept getting in the way. I wasn’t willing to let go of the reigns. Two years ago anxiety left me angry, upset, defeated, and feeling like a failure.

A year ago the anxiety still lingered. I didn’t ignore it, I couldn’t. It was there and it still hurt. Social situations still caused my heart to speed up. Sometimes the simple act of walking to throw my garbage down the chute at the end of the corridor made me feel like the world was closing in on me. The anxiety also required I have a schedule I always follow. Anxiety had me stay home a lot because in my head I felt like there was too much to do and not enough time. Anxiety ruled my fear of the future. I listened to my anxiety as it told me I would never be anything. Sometimes I let it start a downward spiral. These didn’t last as long as they once used to. I was beginning to talk back. This made me feel better, yet sad too. A year ago I was happy but so scared the pain would never stop, I was scared one small thing would set me right back to where I was when it all started.

Today the anxiety is still there. Sometimes it requires that I take extra care to breathe deeply. Sometimes the anxiety makes me reach back for the control I’ve learned to give up. Sometimes it makes me want to curl in on myself and stay where I am. But, the anxiety has also become a friend. It’s the reason I take deep breaths. It's the reason I remember to be kind to myself.  When I feel it coming on and threatening to take over, I remind myself that everything is just an experience. I am not in danger, I’m just living a life fully and wholly. The anxiety reminds me that things get better. It reminds me of how far I’ve come and that makes me so excited for the possibilities of all the places there are to go, too. Today the anxiety is not the enemy, it’s simple anxiety. It’s a part of life. It’s not a weakness. It's just as real as it was three years ago but it doesn't rule me anymore.

This is my anxiety. I’m no longer asking it to go away so I can begin my life. I might struggle with anxiety forever or I might wake up tomorrow and not even remember what anxiety ever was, but either way I’m living with it and using it to live fully. So ask yourself, what is anxiety to you? It might be similar, it might not. Acknowledge that it's real, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, especially yourself. Then, let it be. It’s not the bad guy. I honestly believe anxiety comes to remind us of something. So listen, feel it, and then keep living.