I first realized I was experiencing anxiety when I was working as a Visitor Services Assistant at a museum right out of college. Part of the role was to greet guests and answer questions about the artwork. This was a really fun position, but occassionally came with a lot of quiet time on slow days. I remember being able to feel my pulse in my whole body and I would start to go into a panic. I started worrying about a lot of small things and it quickly turned into a constant fear of my own thoughts. I didn’t trust myself. I thought “I’m absolutely losing my mind how could I think something like this about the people I love and care about?”
Its hard to even write about it and remember back to when it was all so confusing and I didn’t have any answers yet. I wasn’t sleeping, I cried every single day for years, I was self sabotaging, I was worrying myself into nausea, and I had so much brain fog I couldn’t answer simple questions. I was pushing my partner away because I thought it would protect him from me. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning because I would think “what’s the point?” If I’m awake I’ll just have more terrible thoughts and do something horrible. I was late to work because I couldn’t get in my car to leave the house. Once I finally got to work, I would have to step away from my desk frequently to calm myself down from panic attacks while I was in public.
The only way I can explain it is that it felt like I was underwater. Hours would pass by and I would have been thinking the same thought for an entire day and spiraling and spiraling. Unaware of my surroundings.
I would drive home and pinch my arms and pull the hair out on my head because I was so anxious. I went through a really scary period where I didn’t want to necessarily hurt myself but I was hoping for my suffering to end somehow – whatever that looked like. I didn’t want to keep living another day over and over again. I wanted to quit. I stopped creating, I stayed shut in my room, I didn’t answer texts for days.
I tried acupuncture, therapy, essential oils, supplements, reiki, reflexology, tapping, quitting caffeine, quitting alcohol, yoga, different diets, going on an antidepressant, going off birth control, journaling, getting my hormones checked, etc. After struggling with anxiety and bouts of depression for years, I had finally found a few tools that ended up being life savers for me in my worst moments. Although I don’t experience those low lows as much, it’s helpful to have some of these tools in my back pocket when anxiety does resurface occasionally.
The biggest game changer for me was meditation.
At first I was hesitant to try meditation and sit with my thoughts – and myself – for an extended period of time. Wasn’t that what I was trying to avoid after all? I couldn’t even drive home from work without having a panic attack because I was alone with my thoughts for too long. BUT, everything kept pointing towards trying meditation. So I gave it a try and BOOM.
First few times I fought with myself and just kept thinking “I’m not doing it right.” With practice and patience I let myself continue to try without expectations. Guided meditation is where it’s at for beginners and really helped me focus on my breath and the present moment. Now, I understand the process and know that I’m not going to meditate “perfectly.”
I still try to incorporate meditation into my daily routine as much as possible and take a few moments just to ground myself in the present moment. I count my breath and label thoughts and feelings as they arise without judgement. Then go back to counting my breath. A mantra that I repeat to myself often is “don’t stir muddy water. Let it settle and it clears.”
“Be.” became my simple reminder to come back to the present moment and take a break from whatever thought spiral I was in. Then Project Be. was born – mostly as a reminder to myself, but I hope you can find comfort in it also. If it resonates with you, awesome – share with someone who might need it. If not that’s cool too! Project Be. is about having vulnerable conversations and embracing life’s messiness. It’s about being kind to yourself and remembering that everyone is connected.