On Coping with Anxiety

The first time I knew I had an anxiety problem was my Junior year of high school. I had just finished a volleyball game at Hyde Park, and I remember worrying throughout the whole game about all of the calculus homework I had to do before my class the next class (why I ever took calculus in the first place is beyond me…). After the game, which we lost, I couldn’t catch my breath. After lots of minutes of trying, of breathing into a sack, of everyone trying to get me to calm down, I couldn’t. My parents took me to the emergency room, and they told me I had an anxiety attack. After a few hours there, the doctor sent me home and told me to not even think about going to class for the next few days, that I needed lots of rest. Although I never had another anxiety attack, I do not remember that year of my life fondly. I was always worried about my school work.

Things calmed down for a couple of years, but my sophomore year at Biola, I started to feel like my anxiety was getting out of control. I went to counseling for 2 years and it helped me immeasurably. I kept the same counselor for most of that time, and I felt like she was one of the only people to really “get” me. She taught me lots of ways to manage my anxiety-breathing exercises, avoiding caffeine, journaling, spending time alone and many other things. I graduated from Biola in a much better place than when I had initially started seeing her.

The next few years, I did okay. I felt like my anxiety was under control while I was living in Ireland and then when I went back to Texas. The past few months, it’s been getting progressively worse, and the past few weeks it has been even harder.

After getting married, I told myself I needed to cook good meals, always keep the house clean, do this, do that. Yes, I have a responsibility to take care of Carlos, but he has already reminded me several times that he’s not expecting me to do everything perfect, or to even do everything. To be fair, Carlos even helps out around the house as much as I do.

Then there’s my job. Almost every day I’ve been in this position at Berlitz, I’ve loved it. I’m currently at the half-way point of a 2-week training in Mexico City for my job. When we started training here on Tuesday I was instantly bombarded with tons of information. Some of it I know, but a lot of it is completely new, and I know I have to implement a lot of things when I get back home. I’ve forgotten a little bit about why I love my job so much-I have a great boss and I’m able to (hopefully) help students every day that I have come to know and love. Not in Saltillo and not at the training has anyone micromanaged me or been a slave-driver.

One of the ways I coped with my anxiety in college was going places by myself. Sometimes I would pack up my Bible and journal and drive to the beach for the day. Looking at the waves always quieted my soul. Not only is Saltillo hours away from the ocean, but I wouldn’t dream of traveling too far by myself because of the safety. Sometimes I even feel uneasy sitting in coffee shops here because everyone can tell I’m not Mexican, and I get looked at a lot.

The thing about my anxiety is that it’s not necessarily visible from the outside. I tend to look calm and composed, even though inwardly I have so much stress and worry bottled up. It’s honestly pretty hard, if not impossible, to handle by myself, and yet I keep trying. My anxiety is coming from me. I know my recent life changes (marriage, still adjusting to life in a foreign country) can probably cause anxiety, but I’ve also been lazy. I’ve stopped journaling so much, stopped praying so much, stopped using the techniques my counselor taught me.

A couple of weeks ago, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. It was honestly a relief, because after you hit rock bottom, the only place you can go is up. I know I have a lot of work to do, and it’s not going to be easy. I know that I have to do my part to get better, but I also know God has a role in all of this. He created me, He knows every anxious thought I have and why I have it, and He wants to help me if I unclench my fists and let Him. I have a lot of things in Saltillo, but I don’t have my family and best friends around me, so lately I’ve been asking God to remind me that He is my friend and my support.

Currently, I have a to-do list for ways to help reduce my anxiety, and blogging is on the list. I hope you’ll keep reading about my journey to a less anxious, more joyful life. Also on the list? Keeping up my adventures. I had one last night with my fellow trainee in downtown Mexico City. I’ll end with this picture, because even in the midst of the anxiety, there’s a reason to smile.

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