An anxious anecdote of mine.
We all have big dreams and big thrills.
Get all As
Get into a good university
Graduate with all HDs
Get a good job, 5 figure salary and above only
Marry before they call you an old maid
Have a family
I’m now 20 and I’ve just barely ticked off the first two but it feels like I’m doing well, right? I’m in my 3rd year, maintaining my grades, planning an exchange semester, one internship already under my belt, already looking for my second one and currently the editor for this year’s magazine.
I’m on the right track and my future is as secure as I can get it to be
Or is it?
It’s amazing how three small words that collectively make up one single intrusive thought suddenly brings it all crashing down. Like Icarus who flew too high and too close to the Sun as well as his hubris blinding him to reality, I suddenly feel the metaphorical wax melt off of my wings and I’m plummeting, plummeting, plummeting into a sea of anxiety.
The air turns to lead in my lungs, my hands turn clammy, my clammy palms sliding against each other as I attempt to mash down the panic into a little ball, forcing it to disappear.
It doesn’t work.
Spots fill my vision and the panic constricts my lungs, like a python asphyxiating its prey and suddenly I’m drowning on land. Cynical thoughts fill my head, images of failing, every single thing that I think can go wrong as I play out every scenario in my head, an endless, infinite loop that I cannot break.
Everyone is doing better than you
Life is a race and you’re falling behind
A visit to the emergency room and as I lay on the bed, watching numbly as the nurse takes a vial of blood for me, the exhaustion continues weighing me down as I contemplate the other four tasks on society’s checklist that I have to face, whether I’m ready or not. I feel like Sisyphus, staring down the spherical face of that goddamned boulder that he’s forced to push every single time, only for it to come crashing down, waiting for him at the bottom of that hill, tauntingly waving its defiance in his face.
That was the first time I ever had a panic attack.
And I would continue having them intermittently, but everytime I do, I get better, I learn to cope, I learn what coping mechanisms I need to help me get through a bout of anxiety. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m pouring out this tiny part of me into words, but if it helps someone… anyone who reads this feel better about themselves, then my job here, as a writer, will have been fulfilled.
And I guess that’s the moral of my story, if I even have one: it’s that the future can wait, the future will not suddenly disappear if you take time for the present. Because if you spend too much time living and planning for the person you want to become, you’ll never be able to recognise the one you still are.
Written by Ashley Lim