anxiety

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A few months ago, I had the opportunity to spend 3 days and 2 nights swimming into some of the world’s largest caves in Phong Nha, Vietnam. Many of the caves were recent discoveries and the expedition was a privately guided one run by the only company allowed to bring visitors through. This allows the caves to be properly preserved and protected environmentally—but moreover, it’s because many of it was unmarked or dangerous territory (usually both, to be honest).

Our gear was simple: headlamp, canvas shoes with holes (so the water didn’t stay in), a lifevest and helmet. Into the water we would go, fully clothed, and into what honestly didn’t look like much at times. The entrances were varied, counterintuitively into the tops of beautiful waterfalls, through small cracks behind large boulders, or hidden in a forest with only a light wind tunnel guiding your way. After a few minutes of cautious wading, the light would quickly fade and the shadows on the stalactite above would flee.

Then black.

This is how my anxiety feels sometimes.

Soon enough we were bouldering along the walls covered with stalagmite and other calcium deposit formations with no obvious path besides the human trail we created following our local guide single-file. You couldn’t give up. Where would you go? A million things could go wrong but that couldn’t stop you.

THIS IS HOW MY ANXIETY FEELS SOMETIMES.

With your headlamp, you could only see where your head was pointed at but it didn’t matter as you had to deal with what was in front of you anyways. The conditions were unpredictable and dangerous, it made you proceed with caution - almost paralyzing at times where you had to be patient in making sure your next move was not just good, but the right one.

This is how my anxiety feels sometimes.

Inability to focus. Tightness in my chest. Trouble breathing. Heart racing.

This is how my anxiety feels right now.

I’ve never been a voice within the public discourse around mental health as I truly felt it was not my place. I’ve always enjoyed #BellLetsTalk day in Canada as it has given many the prompt or platform to speak on a topic that needs to continue being explored, researched and de-stigmatized. Truly understanding now that mental health is a spectrum and though I may not fall on the extremes, I have been inspired by the strength others have shown during their battles at these ends.

I want to listen. To support. To be sensitive. To be honest with myself. To be honest with others. To not come from a place of thinking I know what’s best for someone. But in all that, is to understand my own truth.  As I get older, I feel as though I now regularly battle some dauntingly large questions about life, my place within it, and my ambitions—all through which has caused managing my mental health, social anxieties, and self-induced feelings of vulnerability post “shoot your shot 2018’s” to be a daily challenge.

Sitting on our roof. Volleyball. Going for a run. Spending quality time with friends. Taking weekends for me. Listening to music. Making playlists. Traveling. Reading from minds greater than my own. Working on my personal projects. Writing uninhibitedly.

Thus this entry. This and the others on the list are just some of the things that I have began to recognize as the spaces that allow me to breathe, reflect and decompress after emotionally and mentally exhausting days.

This is how I deal with my anxiety sometimes.

But then you would get to a clearing after scaling 20 feet up crevasses and slippery make-shift footbeds. Bat wing flutters cease and you stand in silence, underground, amidst darkness.

Peace.