There’s that familiar feeling again. The sweaty palms. The butterflies in my stomach. The constant overthinking in my mind.
I was always taught to be self-sufficient and have my own. As a result, I consider myself to be a strong and independent woman.
So it came as a surprise when asked one day, “why are you troubled waters in the ocean of life?”
In the back of my mind, I knew it was in reference to my lack of verbally expressing my needs and realized I could not conceal it anymore. I did not like to be vulnerable and would do any and everything to avoid it. This was in part due to my anxiety.
Going along with the theme of the question, I replied “because I don’t know how to swim.” Up until that pivotal moment, I held my emotions inside and never asked for help. I would write down my thoughts as a release, but they were still there mentally. Subconsciously, I knew there was an issue, but was too young to know it was called vulnerability. Or, that anxiety was affecting my life. In a way, I was glad this creative question opened my eyes to accepting the many sides of me.
I’ve always had a little anxiety whenever it came to trying something new. I noticed it became more apparent during college. First, there was a sense of thrill and excitement then, like clockwork, anxiety would set it. This is how I felt during my college public speaking class.
As a Communications major, this public speaking class was a core requirement to graduate, so I was initially excited. I love everything related to media and journalism. But on the first day, my nerves set in. The familiar butterflies started flying around in my stomach, my mouth got dry as sandpaper and my mind went wild overthinking how I was going to perform in the class.
It never occurred to me that I was neglecting my vulnerable side by ALWAYS placing myself in the “protector/helper” role. I was known as the strong one, the advice giver and protector but oftentimes kept my problems and issues to myself. I always thought that having anxiety was ok. And it was, as long as I found an outlet to release it.
What ultimately helped me was having conversations with family and friends about my nerves. But first, I had to get over my aversion to asking for help. For the longest time, I would always solve my own problems, unsuccessfully. I had to learn to get out of that mindset and get the help I needed and stop being stubborn.
I believe it is because I blurred the lines of ‘complaining’ versus ‘venting’ and learned to solve my own problems. My thought process was that if I can fix a situation on my own, I will, and if I got myself into something, I will get myself out. I never wanted to burden others with my issues, however minor or major they seemed to me.
Overtime I began to relax in the class, and even grew to enjoy it. The instructor made a point to ensure everyone that they were available to speak with after class, or at their office hours. I developed friendships in the class as well, and even grew comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
In order to find balance between my strength and my vulnerable side, I had to get rid of my pride and ALLOW others to help me, instead of being stubborn.
This process of opening myself up has taken years to achieve, but it is a daily process and I am still learning ways to find balance.
I have also learned that there are multiple ways to get access to help. The first step is realizing that you are not alone in your feelings and thoughts. There are many others in the world who relate to you and it is ok. The next step I believe should be to talk to those close to you about your feelings. Whether that is friends, family members, school counselors, or professionals, make sure that you get the help you deserve. Never be afraid to ask for help for fear of judgement. Those who have your best interest at heart are there to help you and would never judge you.
I realize there is strength in my vulnerability, as well as recognizing my experience anxiety. It is OK to open yourself up to the universe and ask for help.
By: Alysia Lester, AiT Contributor