What My Anxiety Taught Me
by Thao Nguyen
Alright, full disclosure everyone. I was not always the shining beacon of light and positivity I am today.
HA. I’m still not a shining beacon of light and positivity. In fact, most of my friends hang out with me when they need some cynicism and belligerence in their lives.
But in all seriousness, I feel I’m a lot better now than a few years ago. I was a total b*tch. I lived my life without really caring about anyone but myself. Sure, when the people I cared about were hurting - emotionally - I would be upset, but I couldn’t understand what they were going through. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t WILL themselves to be better, or force themselves out of bed, or find joy in the things they used to.
But then I went through it myself. I was hit hard with anxiety a few years back, and I got a firsthand look at what a terrible person I had been and what kind of person I should have been. When I felt like the world was working against me, when I felt that there was no escape from my own brain, when I felt like I would never be myself again, my family and friends were there for me. They made me feel like I wasn’t being crazy or dramatic. They understood what I was going through, and made sure I knew that they were going to help me through it.
At first, this just made me feel worse. I felt like I didn’t deserve that kind of love and support - especially since I had never offered anyone that kind of support myself. I realized that the kind of concern I had given, the “can’t relate, but I’m here for you, but only when it’s convenient for me” kind of concern, was the worst. It was disingenuous and totally selfish.
The whole experience made me into a better person. I am so much more self-aware now. Gone is the girl who used to be blasé about people’s emotions. Gone is the girl who put herself before everyone else. Anxiety, ironically, taught me that the world doesn’t revolve around me. Everyone is going through their personal battles, and I remind myself of that everyday and in every interaction. I’m by no means perfect (the amount of times I’ve used “I” in this article shows I’ve got a long way to go), but I do make more of an effort to try to really understand and be there for people. When my friends and family come to me with their troubles, I actually listen and think before I give a response (if they want it). I even try my best, emphasis on try, to give strangers the benefit of the doubt. I have no idea what they’re going through and how that affects their attitude. So if they’re rude, standoffish, or mean, I don’t take it personally, I just add them to my prayer list.
The world is already negative enough. I used to blame society, without realizing that, in my own way, I was contributing to that attitude. It’s definitely a lot harder this way, but I’m more proud to be myself than I’ve been in ages. So yes, my nervous breakdown two years ago was terrible. But I’m grateful it happened. It has touched everyday of my life since, and it has made me a better person. And hopefully my anxiety will continue to make me a better person. Because anxiety isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime experience; for most it’s an ongoing struggle. But I am determined to not let it control my life and I look forward to sharing more about my efforts.