How I became friends with my anxiety

Karina Sgarbi

I used to wake up and open the window to look at the sea, it was right in front of me. At this time, I was living in Portugal, close to the beach. Sun rising, slow waves, calm wind, like an exclusive good side of the world, all the time, just for me. I had a job in a place I always wanted, working with books, one of my passions. I had some friends, some money. I wasn’t in a bad life condition at all. At least that was the appearance. And yes, it was a lie.

Inside, I was broke. I didn’t even recognize myself during these dark weeks. It was a conflict: you have a good life, but you are not able to feel joy, gratitude. Nothing. Like if you are just a bunch of bones and flesh, with the capability of feeling like water: no colour, no flavour, no smell. What was wrong? You know, I’m usually the happiest person at any place. I can talk to everyone, tell jokes, stories, I have so much energy. But that time, I was like a ghost. I was alone, in a country that wasn’t mine, away from all the comfort I’ve ever had.

But it took me almost a month to realize that I wasn’t there just by myself. She was with me all the time, keeping me away from who I always have been. It started with insomnia, anguish, lack of appetite, and this awful feeling in my heart that all of my life was wrong. But, come on, 29 years are not that much of life to be so sad about what didn’t go well. And so many obsessive thoughts! I used to think that I was unhappy because that was what I deserved, like a message from the universe. My plans didn’t go as I expected, I was frustrated. Failure could be my middle name at this point.

One day I tried to be normal. I took a train to Lisbon, to be young, you know, dance, drink, see people. I barely could finish the trip. My heart started beating super fast, all body sweating, it was impossible to breathe. So many people, so many thoughts! I felt I was passing out, but with some luck, I could arrive. Shaking hands, I saw her, finally. And then I hated her.

I didn’t choose to have anxiety. She chose me. And the more I hated her, the stronger she became. I had skin allergies and used to over think negatively everything. Even what wasn’t a problem, I just had this terrible power to transform it into a dramatic situation, putting myself as an unjustified victim of the universe. Why the sea water is so cold today? Don’t I deserve a proper summer beach day? Crazy, huh? I must say: insane.

One day, after two terrible months living like this, I decided to accept that I had a problem. I used an app to monitoring my moods and feelings, so I could see what was going on with me, day by day, and that all this preoccupations and dissatisfactions weren’t real. Then I stopped to complain and hate, like if I had said to her: “Hey, if I can’t kill you, if you will always be with me, let’s be friends”. And then everything started to change.

I took small steps: began to exercise my body, avoided social media, started eating healthy. I began to talk with my work colleagues and we became friends, so I wasn’t alone anymore. I took back the control of my life. It’s like if I had told her: “I put rules, limits. I’m the boss here”. And it is working. I moved to London, for example, with no house and no job, this should have definately woken her up. And she was with me, but under control. Because now, when she tries to come back, instead of shout and  hate, I take a deep breathe and just tell her: “Ok, let’s go, but on my way”. Because I could never lose my life  again to something that was  inside of me.

About the author:

Karina Sgarbi is a Brazilian journalist based in London.

+44 073 8478 7443
London, UK