An Ode to Anxiety

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A Song in the Key of Anxious

 

Originally published on Medium, this is one of my favorite posts that I've written about anxiety. I'm sharing it here to show the kind of writing that I will feature on this site.

The purpose of Nerve 10 is to provide no-nonsense mental health information in a format that is easy to understand. I find that we too frequently talk about mental health issues--anxiety included--with scientific jargon, and simplifying how we talk about it can take the edge off the beast that is sometimes our minds.

What a plastic flute-like thing has to do with anxiety

 

When I was in elementary school, I learned a valuable skill that I am sure you all learned as well — a skill so invaluable that it still haunts me to this day. I learned how to play the recorder. More importantly, I learned how to play Ode to Joy on the recorder. As those whiny, piercing notes reverberate through my mind, I propose a new ode of a much more important nature: an ode to anxiety.

 

The Changing Tune of Anxiety

 

Anxiety is almost unmentionable these days, yet it affects so many of us, myself included. When I first got involved in the mental health world by taking the NAMI Family-to-Family course, I am sad to admit that I thought of anxiety as one of the lesser mental illnesses. Now that I have learned more about it, and have learned what it feels like to deal with crippling anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I can state with no uncertainty that anxiety can be a very serious affliction. Unfettered, debilitating anxiety wreaks havoc on the lives of millions of Americans in the United States. Anxiety might range from mild forms that slightly impinge upon forming new relationships, to all-consuming compulsions that overtake the mind and leave its victims carrying out tasks that they know to be illogical--but compelled to complete anyway.

However, I know that recovering from anxiety is possible. Even when the path to recovery contains crater-sized potholes and frightening precipices. My ode to anxiety is a song of hope, a song of redemption, and a song of myriad shrieking recorders. Because on the other side of the terror of anxiety comes perspective. As sense of humor returns, the levity of the situation becomes clear.

 

Parting thoughts on the benefits of having anxiety

 

Anxiety is actually quite helpful when kept in check. When balanced, I find that a certain amount of anxiety and obsessiveness is quite healthy. I leave you with three parting thoughts:

1. Continuous anxiety can lead to success.

The checking, double-checking, and triple-checking of the anxious mind often leads those who struggles with anxiety to become ultra-prepared. We handle logistics for events and meetings, we pack for international trips, and we scan resumes and reports ad nauseam for any sign of errors. When healthy, we, the folks with anxiety, can achieve great things.

2. Anxiety helps us survey the scene.

Dealing with anxiety makes us much more cautious than others. When approaching new situations and new faces, we take our time on passing judgment. This helps us take a mindful, strategic approach — and can give us advantages when plotting our next move.

3. Lastly, anxiety makes sense.

Our ancestors, our long-ago people, had to be anxious at times to survive. In order to escape that threatening animal with big teeth, in order to navigate the group dynamics within their tribes, and in order to find a safe place to rest their heads each night, our ancestors needed anxiety. Without it, we just wouldn’t have survived, and the people of today, anxious brains and all, would not be here today.

 

So embrace your anxiety, and the good and the bad that comes from it. Join me in this ode. Pick up your dusty recorder and play a few notes. Play it until all of the dogs in your neighborhood join in the hideous banshee-notes of your chorus. Anxiety is here to stay, so we might as well let others know about it. It’s once we can find the humor in it that we can make some changes for how individuals with anxiety are treated. If you can play the recorder, which I know you can, you can play an ode to anxiety.

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