Anxiety is a bitch.
As an adult, the anxiety I always struggled with took a new face. This face was much more deceptive, coming when I was at my happiest point—over and over again.
When I finally left my childhood home, I believed my anxiety would take a back seat. I was no longer surrounded by chaos. I was in charge of my life and in charge of my own happiness.
But as my adult life began to take form, I noticed an annoying voice in my head. She only visited when I was at my happiest points.
At first, she visited when I would look into my new husband’s eyes. He has a way of looking at me that lets me know I am accepted, exactly the way I am—pure happiness.
That’s when she would speak, “Don’t fuck this up Kerry. You know you tend to sabotage things.” Or, “Don’t be stupid Kerry, this might not last.”
Sitting and watching my kids play, I would feel an overwhelming warmth in my heart—a full, almost dizzy feeling in my head. Yes, this is happiness.
Almost directly after, a voice would threaten to take it all away, “I hope they stay healthy,” or “I hope we stay safe.”
I learned at an early age to not trust happiness, as it can and will be taken away.
Anxiety knew this. Anxiety reminded me of this on a daily basis. Anxiety put the weight of happiness on my shoulders and threatened that if I didn’t keep control, it would be taken from me.
At any moment, it can be taken from me. Terrifying.
Two years ago, I began to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is such a trendy word right now, and I hate that, as it has given me so many gifts. Mindfulness has literally set me free. It has kicked anxiety’s ass.
Mindfulness taught me to take my happiness in small bites—a much easier way to digest it.
When I began to feel happiness in the moment, I would just be aware of the feeling.
How did my body feel? It felt heavy with worry. My stomach felt tight and sick. How did my head feel? It felt dizzy and full. What was the present thought in my head? Fear was the present thought. Fear was always the thought. Catastrophizing the “what if,” as if to punish myself simply for being happy.
If I could change my thinking only by being self-aware, I could change my life. By making happiness a moment, I didn’t pin any hopes and dreams to it. I didn’t have to worry about what came next, because this was it.
Anxiety relented. Deep breath in. Happiness wasn’t about control, it was about a feeling—a moment.
I began to be present each time I felt happiness—to lean in, not expecting anything and not planning for anything. I allowed my head to just be there.
I told anxiety I would see her after my moment. I was sure she would be there—she always was.
Then an interesting thing happened. As I began to feel each moment, I began to string those moments together. They resembled a happy life—a happy person. Full of the ability to take a deep, full breath of happiness, I began to crave more moments free of anxiety. I began to seek those moments out, as I had become addicted to the full breath in.
Now, when I look beside me, anxiety is no longer there. She is no longer threatening me if I don’t have control.
My strung together moments have become a life without anxiety.
For me, this began with just a bite.
Author: Kerry Foreman
Editors: Toby Israel & Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Fabien G.