I have anxiety. Or I should say I had it. Or, I have it but I’ve overcome a lot of it, and what I haven’t overcome, I’ve learned to deal with. Did that make any sense?
I’ve had it since I was little. I have distinct memories going back to the age of seven…but I never told a soul. I didn’t know what I had, didn’t even know it was something to tell someone. So I went through life and figured out my own little strategies to get through it (or avoid situations that triggered it altogether).
In my late twenties, I finally got a clue what I had been suffering with. It had a name. It was a thing. I couldn’t believe it. As I learned about anxiety, it explained so much about why I was the way I was. Puzzle pieces began to click. And I began to kick its ass. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a swift ass-beating. It took y-e-a-r-s.
Lots of people have anxiety of all varieties. Some a lot worse than me, and I’m so thankful that I have come so far and conquered so much. I feel triumphant that I don’t have to medicate to fly anymore, or that I can slow a runaway heartbeat when my anxiety is triggered – and it does still get triggered. But, I’m in control and that’s an incredible feeling.
(case & point: It took me 3 days to publish this post. Turns out it’s quite a naked – not in a good way – feeling to reveal a vulnerability. But I’ve learned that the scariest things I face are almost always the most rewarding, so I grew a pair and did it.)
However, my struggles with anxiety are not entirely what this post is about. It’s about how it has helped me be a more effective writer. Yes, that’s right. My anxiety helps my writing.
How, you ask? It’s called imagination. Basically, part of anxiety is the “what ifs.” If you have anxiety you know exactly what I’m referring to. You worry about every bad thing that could happen in any given situation. But you don’t just worry about it; you picture it so vividly that your body reacts as if it’s actually happening. The bitch with anxiety is that you’re reacting to panic, fear…terror. Not pleasant feelings to be coursing through you with the intent and ferocity of a runaway train.
It’s a genuine physiological response to imagined stimuli. One that comes so naturally to me after all these years, I can do it at will. But not just with fear.
As a writer, if I want to convey the passion of a kiss; the terror of being chased by a killer; the thrill of being that killer on the chase; the fury of betrayal, or the heartbreak of loss…I put myself there. Really there. Enough to have the goosebumps. The tears. The pounding heart.
You might argue most good storytellers can do this. I would agree with you. So following that line of logic, maybe this is a gift inherent to writers, and perhaps my ability to make my mind think I’m in a situation – enough to feel it; taste it; smell it – is the reason for the anxiety. I don’t know. It’s the ole chicken and egg scenario. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I found a silver lining in an otherwise shitty thing, and that’s awesome.
Did you find a silver lining in anxiety, or something else shitty?