Living with anxiety is hard and people who don’t experience chronic anxiety have a hard time understanding what you are actually going through. Anxiety is something that I have dealt with on and off for years. Some days it is better than others. And while I’ve never been formally diagnosed, it is definitely something that I have sought help for in the past.
The way people experience anxiety can be very different. My anxiety comes in the form of worrying about little things. It comes in the form of obsession about things that might cause harm to my body such as germs or chemicals or diseases and what not. It sometimes expresses itself in anger towards people who don’t deserve it, but if I am worrying anxiously about something, and then discussing something completely un related with someone it can cause me to take my anxiety frustrations out on them.
With my various anxieties, I sometimes have to do things a few times to make sure in my own head that the are actually done, or that my health will not be harmed, even by something as simple as using a public washroom (this is where the OCD component comes in). Most of my anxieties are completely irrational and I have taught myself to acknowledge my feelings but to move past them through the power of my mind and exercises in mindfulness.These exercises where given to me by a therapist and have helped me combat my daily anxieties.
So what is anxiety? People, namely people who don’t understand anxiety, have told me that worry is a wasted emotion. But anxiety is so much more than just a simple worry. It is a general sense of uneasiness in everyday life. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “We all feel nervous or worried at times. This anxiety can be a helpful feeling when it motivates us or warns us of danger. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, causes unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that seriously impacts our lives, including how we think, feel, and act.”
One of my favourite philosophers explains anxiety in such an eloquent way and it is a notion that has stayed with me. According to Kierkegaard in The Concept of Anxiety,
Anxiety is a qualification of dreaming spirit, and as such it has its place in psychology. Awake, the difference between myself and my other is posited; sleeping, it is suspended; dreaming, it is an intimated nothing. The actuality of the spirit constantly shows itself as a form that tempts its possibility but disappears as soon as it seeks to grasp for it, and it is a nothing that can only bring anxiety. More it cannot do as long as it merely shows itself. [Anxiety] is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite, whereas anxiety is freedom’s actuality as the possibility of possibility.
Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eye as in the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down. Hence, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs to dizziness. Further than this, psychology cannot and will not go. In that very moment everything is changed, and freedom, when it again rises, sees that it is guilty. Between these two moments lies the leap, which no science has explained and which no science can explain. He who becomes guilty in anxiety becomes as ambiguously guilty as it is possible to become.
What I understand from Kierkegaards notions of anxiety is that many things can bring on anxiety and when there are seemingly so many possibilities, it brings on the dizziness of anxiety. We are faced with constant decisions, especially in this busy modern world that it can prove overwhelming for some. I am however, not as depressing as Kierkegaard however, the good news is there are lots of ways to combat anxiety. Some ways that I try to deal with my anxiety on a daily basis: