The Empowering Side Effects of Living With Anxiety

My Lifelong Companion, Anxiety, and How It’s Made

Me Stronger

I’ve lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember — before I even had a name for it. As a child, I was always scared of the dark. But unlike my friends, I didn’t grow out of it.
I had my first anxiety attack during a sleepover at a friend’s house. I didn’t know what was happening. I only knew that I couldn’t stop crying, and I wanted more than anything to go home. I started therapy while I was still in elementary school, and started learning what anxiety was, and how it affected me.There’s a lot I don’t love about my anxiety, and for many years I was focused on the negative aspects of it. I concentrated on warding off panic attacks, grounding myself in reality, and supporting my own mental health.But in my journey to accept myself as a person with anxiety, I’ve come to see some of the positive ways that my struggles have shaped me into the woman I am today.

I notice details

My anxiety can make me hyper aware of my surroundings, especially if there’s some real (or perceived) significance to a change in my environment. Left unchecked, this can lead to paranoia.

But if I can hold the line on out-of-control thinking, I’m left with a very heightened sense of what’s going on around me. I’m aware when my neighbors come and go, I’ll notice that weird humming sound that means the light bulb is about to burn out, and I’ll be the first to mention it when the secretary in my doctor’s office has a new haircut.

I have a vivid imagination

For as long as I can remember, my imagination’s been running away with me. When I was young, this had definite downsides. The most innocuous mention of a monster, ghost, or goblin was enough to send my imagination racing down a dark, shadowy path filled with enough horrors to keep me terrified and awake for hours past my bedtime.

On the other hand, I spent many long summer days swinging on my tire swing, making up stories about how I was secretly a princess who had magically been switched with an ordinary girl and now had to figure out everything about her new life, just by observing the world around her.

As an adult, I’ve conquered my fears of “things that go bump in the night,” and I still get to enjoy the rewards of seemingly boundless creativity. This means, among other things, that I’m rarely — if ever — bored. And I’m never going to run out of bedtime stories to tell my daughter. And that I can really lose myself in books, TV shows, and movies — which can be a great release.

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