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anxiety at 3 & 23

When I was a little kid, I was terrified of blowing out birthday candles. Loved the idea of it. Petrified of the execution - the attention to be specific. This is something I never really thought much about until I was watching old home movies a few weeks ago and saw 3 year old me hiding behind her hands while everyone sang happy birthday. She was doing the same things I do now, 20 years later, whenever I'm anxious; it was like looking in a mirror. And watching that, a small piece of my heart broke.

Realizing that the little girl in those home movies felt the same anxiety that I still feel today is strange. Anxiety is such a big feeling. It consumes me now, at 23 years old, on a regular basis. How could me at 3 have managed such a monster of an emotion?

Getting to know yourself is always sold to us as this beautiful process of falling in love with ourselves through 'ah ha' moments when we realize how wonderful we are. And it can be that. But I have found more often it is having to accept the really unpleasant parts of our personalities. For me, one of those parts is my anxiety. Something that is incredibly exhausting, occasionally debilitating, and all-around shitty.

My anxiety is something I never took the time to truly understand until this past year. I've always known it was there. When I was about 9 years old I sat on top my best friend's water slide for fifteen minutes before going down. I had people standing all around me telling me to just go and that I would be fine, it's not a big deal. In reality, it wasn't a big deal. But that didn't change 9 year old me from feeling - knowing - with every bone in her body that it was. Little moments like that flood my memory whenever I think back to my childhood. At the time, I didn't have the knowledge to explain what or why or how I was feeling. Now, I know. I guess there’s some naive, small part of me that thought knowing would make it easier. That it wouldn't feel as bad if I could define it. Turns out it’s still just as shitty.

That’s not to say learning my anxiety has been all together useless. Understanding my anxiety has been one of the best things I've ever done for myself. Figuring out where it stems from. What triggers it. How I can talk myself off a ledge. That's what has helped me get to know myself better. To accept that there are parts of me that I am going to wish weren't there. And that's okay. I'm allowed to be frustrated and upset and tired. I can still love myself and accept that my anxiety isn't going anywhere. It's been here since my first birthday cake and it's not leaving any time soon. I am still a whole, valuable, worthy person.

One of my tried + true coping skills when I‘ve had an exhaustingly anxious day is chamomile tea. Which is cliche, obviously. But it works - just like fidgeting with my hands always has. Today has been a day filled with more anxiety than I had anticipated, unfortunately. Which, is why I’m writing this in the first place. And why I’m going to make myself a mug of tea as we speak. Remember to always be kind to yourself - and remember that that kindness should extend to the parts of yourself that you don’t sometimes wish weren’t there.

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