Dear Anxiety: Instead Of Being Toxic, You Turned Me Into A Stronger Person

by Gigi Engle

Dear Anxiety,

I remember the first time we met. It feels like such a long time ago now. It was after a night of too many drugs, a club with a disco ball and what could really have been a near-death experience.

It was like something inside of me had awoken you, and after that night, you quickly became my constant companion, following me down the road of the rest of my life.

At first, I hated you — truly, completely — with every fiber of my being. It felt like you had ruined my innocence; my carefree youth was now tainted with your blackened oil, your acidic breath on the back of my neck.

There were times when life didn’t seem worth living if you were going to always be there, wrapping your cold, sticky hands around my insides, squeezing my heart like a fresh orange.

Who would want to live like that, constantly feeling anxious, always teetering on the edge of control and a panic attack?

Trying to explain you to the people who cared about me was often complicated and frustrating. It felt like no one truly understood you.

I’d say you felt like all of the color was at once exaggerated and drained from the world around me. I don’t know if it was the writer in me that made me explain you like that, but it’s the most tangible description I could think of to describe how you feel when you’re on top of me.

While all of this bravado may sound like I’m tearing you down, Anxiety, what I’m actually trying to do is say thank you. You taught me more than you know.

It wasn’t until you came into my life that I really began to understand who I am and actually wanted to get to know and nurture that person.

You pushed me to look outside of myself and to want to build a future in this big, bad city I call home. You made me constantly worry that if I didn’t push myself, I would never make it.

As you sat hovering over me, I panicked over deadlines and résumés, internships and writing samples — finishing projects I knew would bring me to the next level if I just forced myself to complete them.

So thank you for motivating me. Even when I thought I could never be good enough, I challenged myself to prove I could be.

Thank you for the cold sweats that overcame me in the dark of night, torturing my dreams and keeping me awake. With every sleepless evening came renewed understanding of my humanity.

As I sought help from those around me, I came to realize I wasn’t alone; there were others who felt the same as I did and who were there to offer support.

You opened my eyes to the possibility of relinquishing my voluntary solitude. So thank you for making me aware I am a mere mortal with real flaws I don’t need to be ashamed of.

Before you, I wasn’t as strong as I am now. I was caught up in a life of partying, fake friends and self-doubt. I was blissfully unaware of how hard life could be.

While there were times when I would have given anything to be rid of you, it was only because of you that I mustered my resilience. Thank you for this sturdiness of character I am so very proud of.

On the most overwhelming of days, you stood by my side — giving me negative reinforcement that made me want to reinforce myself. I came to understand the only person I needed to make happy was myself. You wouldn’t offer me any form of relief without first rejecting the fear of judgment from others.

I can honestly say that without you, I wouldn’t have ever stopped f*cking with people who made me feel less than I was. Thank you for making me revaluate those I chose to invite into my life.

The friendships and relationships I have forged since becoming acquainted with you are ones I cherish greatly and protect fiercely.

I may have never had the courage to chase my dreams without you. I don’t believe I would be where I am today, a writer in New York City working at a company I love with people I believe in and trust.

I wouldn’t have had the confidence to throw myself out there and put faith in my talent. I may have ended up at some horrible desk job, doing PR like I had originally thought I might.

Anxiety, you were a misery and a torment for many years. I still spend countless hours managing you, dealing with you and trying to understand you.

For all of the fight, you’ve been worth the battle. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without you.

I wouldn’t be this proud or this successful.

Thank you. Thank you for everything.