Last year for my birthday, I won a solo round trip to Yellowknife. I was pretty scared to go alone, but I knew that this was something that I had to do: to experience something new and scary for the first time by myself. I’m so glad that I did push myself because I ended up falling in love with the city, not to mention that travelling alone now seemed less scary to me.

With this in the back of my mind, I decided to make a pact with myself, for each birthday leading up until my 40th I plan on doing something that scares me. This year I decided to be literal – a month before my birthday I sent my husband tickets to Legends of Horror without mentioning my experience to him until after he secured the plans for the night.

The last haunted house I went to was in Niagara Falls; I must have been about ten at the time. My cousin, who was 8, was insisting that we go through it together. I don’t recall why I agreed, but my adoptive father already paid for the ticket, so I HAD to go. I started okay, strolling – letting my cousin walk ahead for anything to jump out at us. Then, one of the actors brushed up against my leg – I didn’t even recognize someone was standing there, so he got me pretty good. I froze on the spot and cried my eyes out. My cousin was trying to tell me to continue, but I told him to find someone to let me out. He saw the manager and I was escorted out of [probably] the smallest haunted house that ever existed. I was embarrassed and ashamed – both my cousin and adoptive father didn’t let it go for the remainder of the day. It was that day that I decided “I can’t do this.”

Fast forward to October 7th at 7 pm, and we’re waiting outside of Casa Loma about to go into an hour excursion. My heart was racing, I knew I would undoubtedly encounter some other fears inside, but I took joy in the fact that no actors would be touching me (It’s labelled on the events page). A family was walking in front of us, and they brought their daughter, who I swear was the same age as me when I went through the Niagara haunted house. She held both of her parent’s hands and was walking at a glacier pace while saying “I can’t do this – I can’t do this.” At one point I got down to her level and explained that I use to do this sort of makeup for people all the time and there’s no need to worry. It’s just people like you and me. Proud of myself and that moment I continued. However, I had no idea what was waiting for me in the next room: clowns.

I dropped to the floor so fast and started to bawl my eyes out like a ten-year-old girl. Yes, after giving fantastic advice on how not to be scared… I was scared shitless. I closed my eyes as my husband brought me back up to move on. He said “Yeah, you have every reason to be scared here. Let’s go on”. Having my husband there with me made the event more manageable. I even broke one actress’s wall by asking how she was doing and she responded. At the end of it all, I had such an adrenaline rush that I almost wanted to do it again. ALMOST. Instead, I curled up at the side of the wall telling myself “You did it. Never again”IMG_5061

Whenever someone asks how I am my usual response is “I’m tired.”

This tiredness isn’t because of a long day at work, or not getting enough sleep at night (although sometimes it does add to it). It’s usually from the constant battle of anxiety that pulsates through my head telling me not to speak up because I will annoy those surrounding me.

Some days I can fight that voice, but often than not it’s hard to find the strength to ignore it. I want to word vomit how I am feeling

I’m burnt out; life is overwhelming right now, I’m mentally exhausted.

But my anxiety will send my mind spinning telling me that no one will understand, so I resort to the short version of “I’m tired.” I can be in the same room as people that I’ve known for years, whom I trust dearly, but I won’t over divulge.

It’s exhausting having that voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m weak, that I shouldn’t expect much and nitpick away at everything that I do. It makes me feel less of a person, and I think everyone can see it. It makes it easy for me to cancel my plans because the thought of being around people would be too much to handle on top of this.

I refuse to let my anxiety control my life any more than it has. Even though my mind rushes at a mile a minute the moment I wake up: I still get out of bed, I still prepare for my day, and I still go to work. All I want to do is go back under my warm blanket with my husband. (I can make a living like this, right??)

I push through the discomfort of my day so that I can turn my dark thoughts into positive ones. I ignore my thought of “everyone is judging you” and force myself to be productive. Always trying to be one step ahead is tiresome. I feel like I’m constantly trying to get out of my comfort zone and never feel truly relaxed. Yet, I try. I try so hard and put in so much effort.

The days when I do find the courage and strength to speak my mind amaze me – how can I be so brave when other days I let it consume me? These are the days that I realize people with anxiety are the strongest because we never have a minute of peace. I’ve been called “Strong” before, but I don’t feel it, I have a tattoo as a reminder.

Ani Hazika
Hebrew for “I’m Strong”

The next time someone says “I’m tired” try to understand that they might be struggling with something deeper. Maybe they need words of encouragement, a shovel to dig them out of a situation or just a simple hug saying “It’s OK to be tired.”

Over the break, I went out for lunch with one of my best friends, and we started talking about Anxiety. She mentioned that she loved reading my experiences but couldn’t relate to most of it since she doesn’t experience it as often as me. My immediate thought was LUCKY but, it’s unfair of me to think so. Anxiety can creep on us at any moment, can be big/small and have a significant impact on us and others.

When she asked what alleviates my anxiety, I immediately thought of my side passions: Writing, Reading & Music. Determining what you love and taking action is a big part of reducing stress and anxiety.
I like getting lost in music and stories, keeping my mind occupied undoubtedly keeps me away from my worries. Writing in itself is cathartic, and sometimes when my mind is jumbled, it’s great to get these thoughts out.

Do you need help or lack motivation? One of my enormous hurdles over the past couple of years was acceptance. Anxiety doesn’t go away – it will never disappear. Once I accepted this, it oddly reduced my anxiety.

Here are five ways to help reduce Anxiety:

  • Meditation: This will take a little bit of practice, but once you get the hang of meditating you’ll start to notice the calming effect it has on you. I use the app CALM for this purpose but start gradually. Don’t beat yourself up if you cannot do a full session right away.
  • Get Healthy: Physical health is so incredibly vital to anyone’s mental health. Once I started to eat healthier, I noticed a huge difference in my energy and sleep patterns. Working out a few days a week is also very useful at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and at enhancing your cognitive function
  • Follow a Routine: Creating a daily ritual for yourself can reduce your anxiety by its predictability. Bring your passions into play! I like to write out my ideas for this blog or my novel, read a book by one of my favorite authors Linwood Barclay or just getting lost for the 1092846th time in Pink Floyds Dark Side of the Moon
  • Stretch your comfort zone: One of my prominent accomplishments was doing something once a week that took me out of my comfort zone. Don’t forget to take SMALL STEPS though – beating your anxiety takes time so don’t jump into something too drastic right away
  • Laughing: Remember to smile and laugh at yourself. Laughter is one of the best medicines, and the positivity is always best