Before this year, I was never an anxious person. I used to listen to my friends describe the anxiety they were coping with and struggle to understand. I was always empathetic, but it seemed like a foreign concept. This year changed everything. You may have heard that it wasn’t a “normal year”. It wasn’t going to be one for me, pandemic or not. I’m in my early twenties and everything feels turbulent all of the time. I don’t know how to describe early twenties, other than to say that you feel like a huge kid that is supposed to be accomplished and have their stuff together already.
I have friends that are married with children; I have friends that are still in school or going back to school; I have friends that are spending their time hiking and wandering; I have friends with their dream job and friends still living in their parents’ home trying to figure it all out. That’s the early twenties: there’s no normal and I haven’t found what my normal is supposed to be yet. What I did for my 23rd year was take a new job, move across the country, apply to graduate schools, and try to make the most of a pandemic year in a new place.
And I think I learned a little bit about what anxiety is too. We got into December and it was a little cold and dark for my liking. I started to realize that I wasn’t sleeping because I was lying awake thinking of tiny little, inconsequential things that had happened during the day that I couldn’t let go. My heart would pound and I couldn’t clear my head like I used to. It’s harder to cope as well, in the winter here. Everyone tells you to get vitamin D and get exercise. My form of relaxation is going out in nature and that gets a lot harder in the winter. Everything starts to close in and feel smaller. The world becomes home, car, work, repeat.
My anxiety was funny (or normal?) because I would panic about having anxiety and make the anxiety worse. It’s self perpetuating and feels overwhelming. I don’t know how universal my newly found anxiety was this year. I hear that rates have been rising everywhere. It’s been a hard year for everyone - especially because we never get away from it. We oversaturate ourselves with news and social media and we are all hurting. I don’t think I’m alone, and I don’t think you are.
But things are looking up! The pandemic is fading, the sun is shining. I took up monthly therapy, yoga, and writing. I switched from passively liking myself to intentionally taking care of myself and it helped. I always find comfort in the fact that no matter how specific to you things feel, the range of human emotion is not that diverse. Someone else has felt anxiety before. Someone else has felt alone and without hope. Someone else has felt depressed or directionless. And someone else figured out how to be resilient and care for themselves. We have to be okay with each others’ journeys and be sympathetic to our own to get through.