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Back in middle school, I had a best friend that I truly cared about in the best way that my adolescent self knew how – by keeping her secrets, sitting next to her at lunch, and by attending all sleep overs at her house. She cared for me in the same way, or so I thought, until I walked into the restroom one day to hear her saying unpleasant things about me.
Our friendship for the most part was symbiotic. But there was always talk behind each other’s backs, and backstabbing in a malicious, pre-teen girl way.
I compare this experience to my experience with anxiety, my other best friend.
How could anxiety be my best friend?
Because, it’s always with me, helping me to make decisions, and giving me a reality check when I need it. But my anxiety also causes me irrational fear, stabbing me in the back, and making it difficult to function at times.
Anxiety causes fear, and that fear can be maintained at a healthy level. Anxiety about doing something potentially dangerous is healthy. Anxiety about an impending test grade is healthy. But then the tables turn. Anxiety caused by speaking to the cashier at the grocery checkout is not healthy. Having an irrational fear that makes daily living difficult is not healthy. This is why anxiety is like a two-faced, backstabbing best friend. Anxiety is there for me one minute, and lashing out at me the next.
Anxiety, like a bad friend, can be managed and controlled. Even though I can’t end my relationship with my anxiety like I did with my friend in middle school, I can limit the effect that my anxiety has on my daily life.
I can manage my two-faced, double-crossing anxiety by taking my medication, and by coping with my anxiety through journaling, deep breathing, and practicing mindfulness. My anxiety can stay at a healthy level, it doesn’t have to have a negative effect on my life.
In middle school, I ended that poorly managed friendship. As we grew up, I distanced myself from that friend and limited our contact. I’m doing the same with my anxiety now, distancing myself from my irrational fears and limiting the control they have over me.
No one should have to tolerate a bad, backstabbing friend, just as no one should have to endure the malicious side of anxiety. Thankfully, with proper management, I can take control of my anxiety and put an end to its ability to double cross me anymore.
Madelyn Heslet is a 24-year-old single mother who writes about mental illness to advocate for mental health and do her part to end the stigma that surrounds it. She not only lives as a writer, but as a loving mother and dedicated full-time student. She contributes a weekly column to Painted Brain News