There are 48 synonyms for "anxiety." They forgot one: "Me"

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I suffer from uninterrupted anxiety.

It’s not the kind that makes me chew my fingernails to nubs or worry about specific things all day and all night (though I do pick off nail polish).  No, my anxiety is more like radio static in my head all the time, sometimes turned down to a dull annoyance and sometimes amped up to a feverish pitch.

Like an unwelcome roommate, the anxiety is there in the morning when I wake up; it’s there when I’m playing with my kids or on the phone with a friend.  Regardless of whether I’m happy or sad or calm or angry, it’s always there.  And like radio static, sometimes I don’t even notice it.  Other times I can’t hear anything else.
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I’ve had the anxiety as long as I can remember and there have only been a few extended moments of reprieve, usually on very important days when I knew I was on the right path: My college graduation.  My wedding day.  The day Peanut was born.  The day Pumpkin’s adoption was finalized.
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Don’t I look relaxed?
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I’ve tried just about everything to cure myself of the anxiety.  I’ve been to therapists, tried medications, homeopathic remedies, nutritionists, and vigorous exercise.  All worked to some degree, none were permanent.  So I’ve learned coping mechanisms along the way.  As a kid, I sucked my thumb excessively.  I also used to pick fuzz out of stuffed animals and rub it between my fingers.  To this day, I love the feel of anything fuzzy in my hands.
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In high school I realized that singing temporarily quieted the anxiety.  And I still find that singing (loudly in my car alone or quietly to my kids before bedtime) quells the mental static for a few moments.
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In college I discovered two fantastic ways to calm the anxiety: binge drinking and smoking cigarettes.  Binge drinking, unfortunately, had sneaky side effects of horrific hangovers, embarrassing behavior, ridiculously pathetic late night phone calls, and missed classes.  Thankfully, this one didn’t survive as a long term coping strategy.
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Smoking, however, was one of the most effective anxiety fighting habits I ever tried.   To this day, I miss cigarettes and smoking is my first urge when a particularly anxious day hits.  There is something about taking a break from life, going outside (usually with a friend), and smoking a cigarette that leaves me feeling calm and refreshed.  After reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings, I now understand that smoking is essentially a deep breathing meditation.  The downside is that cigarettes are decidedly toxic.
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As an adult, I’ve learned that there are everyday tricks that work in-the-moment to quiet the static.  Deep, cleansing breaths (minus the cigarettes) create an anxiety-free space inside of me, even if just for a second.  This is probably my go-to strategy and has become involuntary.  I often find myself taking a deep breath before I even realize that the anxiety has revved inside.  I didn’t realize my cleansing breaths were noticeable until a co-worker recently told me she thought I was sighing in frustration or annoyance.  Thirty times a day.  (And trust me, the thought of people judging me for being annoyed all the time didn’t help the anxiety!)
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I spend a few moments in meditation each morning.  This gets me more centered in my body and mind and spirit.  In terms of my anxiety, however, it only really abates a few moments during my meditation.  I can measure the anxiety-free moments after mediation with a stop watch; the relief lasts exactly the amount of time it takes for me to come in contact with another human being.
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In addition to the little everyday tricks, there are larger scale strategies I’ve found that provide lasting more lasting relief.  There is something about downhill skiing, for example, that quiets everything inside of me.  I can breathe, I can think, I can BE without the constant noise cluttering my brain.  I get massages often, which does wonders.  I take walks.
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But the truth is, no matter what I do or what I try, this anxiety is here and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  It occurred to me that if this nagging anxiety is going to be a part of me, I’m going to have to find a way to make it productive. In other words, if I can’t cure it, I have to harness it.
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And looking back, my anxiety has been an incredibly productive force in my life.  It has produced a drive in me that constantly pushes me forward, looking for the next good thing.  The anxiety has made me seek out really healthy activities like meditation, better eating, deep breathing, and (only in the direst of situations) exercise.
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But best of all, I get real-time guidance on decisions, people, and situations based on how my anxiety reacts.  It’s like my own internal stressometer.  An uncomfortable conversation begins, my stressometer goes red, and I find a solution to the problem at lightning pace so that the uncomfortable conversation can end.  I’m pretty sure that’s a superpower, y’all.
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I guess in the final analysis, the anxiety has given me as much as it has taken away.
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Someday, someone will come up with a cure for my kind of anxiety and I’ll have to choose whether or not to take it.  Until then, I’ll be the lady with the teddy bear fuzz in her hands, alternating between deep breaths and loud, public singing while downhill skiing my way to a massage, secretly wishing someone had a cigarette.
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Don’t be jealous.
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