Not every battle is comprised of just one thing; sometimes it a compression of everything. I spent the majority of my 22 years thinking that I was shy or at times, even lazy. I didn’t realize that I was fighting a battle inside. The last year has been one of relief, to stop living in denial or hiding from others.

I was attending hair school. Each day was filled with excitement, knowledge and opening passage ways to my love for creativity. But as time passed, I couldn’t figure out why I was so afraid to learn new things. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I fail? What if I can’t…

All of these things logically, my brain could tell me weren’t worth me wasting my time worrying about. Yet those little thoughts broke me down day by day until they consumed every inch of my body. I was unable to breathe without worrying that it sounded too loud, that I might be inconveniencing someone else.

I would lay in bed paralyzed in fear of things I had done in the past or making up worst case scenarios in my head. “7 years ago, I think this person misunderstood me and I feel so horrible that they might…” These small, immaculately inferior memories and thoughts were keeping me from being able to fall asleep peacefully.

I couldn’t understand why I was loosing the ability to even get myself out of bed in the morning. Every person I walked by, I felt was judging me. I was a confident young woman, but now I was afraid to even make eye contact. I was trying to fade into the background, yet I felt like every time I entered a room everyone was scrutinizing me.

Over time, you begin to have more mini episodes of unprecedented fear. You drive all the way to the train station parking lot, and you suddenly cannot even get out of your car. Your mind is in overdrive, your hands are shaky and cold, your heart is pounding.

Are you nervous? No, you have been making this exact same trip four days a week for the last six months. Why are you feeling this way? In reality, this is only history repeating itself. It prevented you as a child from attending family functions, you missed a weeks worth of high school classes at a time, you called your friends to tell them you were sick because you couldn’t meet them for drinks like you had planned days prior.

Slowly, you were pulling away from all of the things that made you alive because you were afraid of them. I came close to losing all the opportunities I had worked so hard for in hair school. I applied myself, put 110% into everything I did, even if it meant nothing.

I stopped attending, I stopped achieving, I stopped fighting. I stayed home from classes on a Monday morning, and the small relief that I felt from not having to face the world that day shattered into pieces as I realized that I was about to ruin my career in an industry that I loved so much. I went to see a doctor. He told me, I was dealing with anxiety.

I received mixed reactions. Some people told me I would be okay, while others told me to never admit to anyone else about it. At times I did feel ashamed, but knowing why I felt the way I did was refreshing. It didn’t feel like I was fighting a battle that I didn’t understand anymore. I knew the goal, I knew the enemy I just needed to find a way to win now.

I came home for Christmas, and spent almost two weeks outside in the snow with my dogs. They love you regardless of your wounds, mental or physical. Slowly I was starting to feel things in my life again. The snow wasn’t cold, it was beautiful and full of life. The air was fresh and it filled my lungs with so much more than just oxygen.

I was breathing without question, without fear; I was breathing because I was grateful to be alive. I focused on being present in my conversations with my family and feeling joy instead of anguish. I needed to let all of my emotions back in, so that I could re-humanize my life.

Over the holidays, I met someone. Jordan was outgoing, spontaneous, and pushed my boundaries of comfort. He never allowed me to build walls between myself and the rest of the world. We came from different places, with different stories but he never judged me for what I was going through.

It was as if he could understand and always knew just exactly how much he could push me forward without causing me to break. We have spent the last year on a journey together, fighting battles each day. He has always been there to offer comfort and never fails to pick me up and put me back on my feet when I feel myself losing the battle.

I felt excited talking to him about my dreams that had not so long ago become fears. I fell in love with someone and at the same time learned how to love myself again.

The more I chose to live my life, the more reasons life gave me to continue on. Had I not chose to address my anxiety, I would not have graduated from hair school or met Jordan. I wouldn’t have been able to welcome another rescue dog into my life and spend each day on some type of adventure.

I wouldn’t be here, living. I would be at home confined to my bed, suffocating. Instead, I make one conscious choice every single morning. I breathe without question; I breathe without fear.