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5 Ways Embracing My Anxiety Changed The Way I Saw The World

Growing up, I viewed my OCD and anxiety as these oppressive, monstrous, encumbering facets that governed every aspect of my life.

As an adolescent, I was basically on autopilot.

I didn’t decide what to do: My anxiety told me what to do.

I was so easily swayed by my anxieties.

I was constantly bombarded with a barrage of fears. As soon as I conquered one, my mind would conjure up another fear to stagnate me.

It was petrifying for me to think about joining a club at school. The idea of driving basically disabled me, and I couldn’t even fathom what it would be like to have a job.

I was not living, but merely blithely gliding through my life like a ghost. I was waiting for it to be over, and fast-forwarding through life itself.

I have not conquered every aspect of my OCD and anxiety, but I have shifted the degree of power in my favor.

I stopped fighting against my anxiety, and have embraced what it has to give me.

I have realized five truths from my anxiety and OCD that have given me the ability to take control of my life:

1. I’m not “normal,” but that’s okay.

There is this crazy word called “normal” that we’re all so obsessed with. We pretend we are all normal, donning our best poker faces.

I am not normal.

That was made abundantly clear while I was growing up as a gay youth with OCD and anxiety. I never fit into this contrived word we all put so much meaning in.

Do you know what I realized?

I definitely do not want to be normal because all my idiosyncrasies make me who I am today.

After years of forcing myself to fit “the norm,” I realized the norm was utterly unattainable. There was no closet I could get far enough into to hide from my true self.

To be “normal” is to strip an individual of his or her true self.

So, no.

I will never fit the contrived, artificial context of the word “normal,” and that is truly a wonderful thing.


2. I can’t control every aspect of my life.

My OCD manifested in a desperate attempt to cling to autonomy in every aspect of my life because I was so fearful of the world.

Looking back at my childhood, I realized I essentially feared the butterfly effect. I thought about how many different paths my life could take if I left a room with my left foot versus my right foot.

I thought I could protect the ones I love through my rituals. But as I have matured, I’ve realized my attempts were all in vain because I can’t control the greater aspects of this world.

No matter what I did or thought, I could not change parts of my life. I truly am not in control of what happens in my life with regard to my health.

When I realized that, I was able to release myself from the burden of thinking I had to control the destiny of all those I know and love.

Maybe it’s just as terrifying realizing I have no control over what happens, but it has granted me the ability to live life in the moment and not squander it on the “what-ifs.”


3. There will always be something to fear.

With my anxiety, I would conquer one aspect of life I feared, only to look up and see four more things that terrified me.

I realized there will always be something to fear in my life.

I will fear my next job interview and my graduation in the spring. I even fear the possibility that this article will get rejected.

There will never be some panacea to solve all my fears. But that is something I have embraced.


4. If I am not anxious, I am not trying.

Ah, the paradox of my life.

On one hand, I can be comfortable and content, but not push myself to grow.

On the other hand, I can push myself into situations that place me outside my comfort zone and enable me to grow.

But the latter situation makes me anxious.

This past year, I have chosen the latter.

I have come out to my family, begun a relationship, gotten a job and pursued my writing.

I realized if I’m not anxious or feeling an aspect of my anxiety, I am complacent and not pushing myself to grow further.

Currently, I am fearful of what lies after graduation — in terms of taking on more responsibility — but it means I am pushing myself in a progressive direction.

I was terrified of being interviewed, but I got the job.

I was fearful of coming out, but I have been lovingly accepted by my family.

I did not believe in my writing, but I have grown to share it.

I was afraid of living, but I am living now.


5. I’ve got a war in my mind I can win.

In the end, I have the lyrics from Lana Del Rey’s song, “Ride,” in my head: “I’ve got a war in my mind.”

That is the one quote I can truly relate to because I really feel like I have a war in my mind. I am constantly waging a battle in my head against myself and my anxiety.

Every day, I fight with myself and my anxieties in order to live my life the best I can.

Some days, my anxiety wins the battle.

But I realize I can win the war.

I am not the child I once was. I do not let my OCD and anxiety dictate every aspect of my life.

I am now a young adult who has taken the reins of his life back into his own hands, and I tip my hat to each and every one of you who is attempting to do the same.

We all can win the war.

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Brian Litterer

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