A Strategy for War with Anxiety

This morning, I paced back and forth in my living room and imagined my upcoming vacation to a beautiful town nearby a lake. I liked the image of the calm, blue lake I brought up so I told myself to be more comfortable.

I lay on the couch, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. I re-imagined the blue lake. The ripples were as if someone gently blew from above. I imagined a soft breeze on my face. I had placed myself on the shore, close enough to the water to see my reflection. And I imagined myself looking at my reflection. And that’s where everything went wrong.

My face looked pale. I looked tense. In a flash, I went from imagining myself staring at my appearance to feeling how I would feel and what I would think at that spot during the vacation. I found myself troubled by anxiety. I found myself unable to enjoy the lake, the sun, and the breeze. Just like I was a few minutes before I imagined what the vacation would be like.

Our general understanding of anxiety is that it is fear of something that is not present. It is anticipatory fear. It is something we would feel if we were inside a forest, and we heard a tiger. If we saw a tiger, we would be afraid.

I have anxiety, which means I go through phases of intense emotional anguish where it feels as if I am locked inside a cold, dark cave where the only way to escape is by taking my own life.

I have my reasons to be anxious (who doesn’t?) I fear career and relationship failures. I fear something bad will happen to my loved ones. But the causes of my anxiety have increased and intensified with time. In the beginning, it was only social failure that caused anxiety, but now almost everything does. The new problem is that the anxiety itself causes anxiety. Anxiety that I won’t be able to enjoy life again. Anxiety that I will never be free from anxiety again.

I have fought my war and won a few battles. Anxiety is a war. A war with the self. A mental and emotional war. A war we have to participate in. A war we have to win. A war where our weapons are self-knowledge and imagination.