Coping with Anxiety Instead of Escaping It

Photo from Unsplash by Priscilla Du Preez

When I had a problem or wanted to escape, that’s always exactly what I did. In high school, my first friend that had a car would always allow me to escape with him to Los Angeles whenever I didn’t want to be home. We would go up to Griffith Observatory after getting cheap drive-thru food. We were only 16, no money, no responsibilities outside of waking up at 7am, being lectured in the cemented halls with hundreds of peers, and walking out of the black, tall gates at 2:55pm. I enjoyed the freedom of the dark, paved freeway and the shimmers of the city lights.

So I carried on these habits until today. Even if it’s locally escaping to a nearby coffee shop, to a friends’ house, back to LA or even up the hill to Big Bear to breathe in the refreshing oxygen provided by the pine trees on the mountain.

It has been my easiest and most relaxing outlet for years, until the pandemic.

I have to assume that any populated area, outside of my house, is infected- for the safety of my family and myself. I’ve gotten the virus once and I don’t want it again. I have to constantly tell myself this in order to not leave. And many times, I find that there isn’t a way to escape my problems since I am here in a house with only my thoughts and social media to channel it. And when the door is closed, I think of all the things that I never considered were my anxieties before, like coping with my feelings being at home. With being bored for once. With having the time to look in the mirror and think, “What are you doing with yourself right now?”

Not that I wasn’t looking in the mirror before, but they were more like quick glimpses. Today, they are long and detailed stares.

The pandemic allowed me, at the beginning, to do something that I haven’t done in a very long time: stop and observe. Maybe it’s because I never realized there was enough time to. Time is man-kind’s largest defeat, and since I couldn’t go out and explore all the possibilities with the limited time I always had, ironically, there was an underlying layer of anxiety in everything I did.

It was as if beforehand, for years, I had been running away from something, and I couldn’t stop because the world never did. But for once, the world did stop.

In the beginning of quarantine when I would sit in my room, it was as if I momentarily died, and I was looking back at everything I was doing beforehand. In the working, schooling, hobbies, interests, I was running towards the future and away from the past completely out of fear. This idea choked me with the hard truth, but was a breath of fresh air to accept it.

Life moved much slower, at least temporarily when I realized this. And I smile, picking the pieces back up to live more authentically than before.

And today looking back, I have much to remind myself, again, becoming submerged in a busy schedule- but instead of putting makeup on and leaving in my car until the evening, I am in lounge pants stuck to a computer screen. Time once again becomes the root of all fears.

Anxiety could be a reoccurring thing throughout life, camouflaged in different ways. As it circles back around I sing, “Hello darkness my old friend.”

But after experiencing anxiety again and again, it oftentimes gets tiring. It’s like allowing the same ghost to haunt you for years, and one day, it’s just not scary anymore. I tell myself that I’ll have to overcome this feeling eventually, but eventually feels so long. So how about today? Right now? Sure, that sounds good- screw you anxiety.

Time is something that is attached to our humanity, so might as well embrace it instead of constantly getting in a car and venturing to Los Angeles or Big Bear, or anywhere but here with a bag or curly fries and dollar tacos from Jack in the Box. These times are still dear to my heart, but not my security blanket anymore. Overall, realizing the most important thing to me is living authentically. What will help me with that? Chilling the heck out and taking a nice, hard stare in the mirror on how I’m going about achieving this; momentarily taking the self out of this pattern, recognizing it, and moving forward.-

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