“Balance begins by knowing how you feel but not being so swayed that you are ruled by every passing incident of anger, worry or resentment.” –Deepak Chopra
Since childhood, I’ve struggled with frequent bouts of anxiety and panic. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if my predisposition to worry began in utero. (As a fetus, I probably worried incessantly about whether or not I was developing properly.) My anxiety has played such a dominant role in my life that, at times, it’s become all-consuming.
But I work at it—each and every day. Having spent the better part of my life navigating the rocky waters of my anxiety, I’ve learned a thing or two. And although I know that there are some parts of my emotional makeup that I may not be able to change, I can—and do—view it in a more productive light.
Fact: I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
Fact: I am not my anxiety and panic attacks.
Though I spent many years believing my anxious thoughts made up the whole of me, I have come to realize the faulty logic behind that notion: Emotions, by nature, move with fluidity—dancing in and out of the mind, carefully orchestrated by the tide that is an ever-evolving state of consciousness. So how can any single emotion define a person?
I now know and expect that throughout my life I will experience emotional ebbs and flows; some emotions will feel good, some will feel crappy and some will just flat out trounce me. But they are fleeting; they are not here to stay. Emotions stop in for a visit, hang around for a bit then move on their merry way, making room for the new ones to take their place. Just because I feel anxious or scared or depressed in any given moment doesn’t mean I’ll feel that way forever. It doesn’t make me who I am.
While I do still grapple with my emotional health, I know that I am making strides towards finding a greater inner peace. I used to define myself by my anxiety. Not anymore. Today I see my anxious ways as part of what makes me who I am today, but not who I am as a whole. There are many characteristics that, today, I use to define myself—and anxious is not one of them: I am kind; I am loving; I am extroverted; I am sentimental; I am blond-haired and brown-eyed; I am (sometimes) funny; I am cautious.
I am not anxious. I am simply someone who experiences anxious thoughts on occasion.
I am many things, but I am not my emotions.