When I Finally Accepted My Anxiety I Could Live Again, Fearless And Free

She didn't have to feel guilty about her feelings of defeat and lack of motivation. There was help available. She only had to seek it out.

The crowd stood up to give a standing ovation as Sanjana B finished her stand-up comedy show.

Mala was clapping, but her face had a set smile.

“Didn’t you like it?” Pranali asked.

“Yes, I did.” Mala nodded.

“Then why so glum?” Pranali asked.

“I was just distracted. The show was good.”

“You know Mala, you should try stand-up comedy too. With your wacky sense of humour, you will be a hit.” Pranali said.

“What rubbish. I’m not that funny. And writing a funny script is tough work”

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“You are nuts. Remember that one-man show you had done in college? It was hilarious. You won at all the college festivals!

“We were kids then. It’s all changed now. Things are far more complicated now”

“The ability to write well and be creative doesn’t change Mala.”

“ There are too many stand-up acts now. I missed the bus.” Mala sighed.

“In fact, it’s easier now with social media.” Pranali persisted

“Let it be Pranali. Let’s eat. I’m hungry.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Lately, I’ve noticed you are less enthusiastic about things. I miss your bubbly spirit. Something bothering you?”

“No, no. It’s called old age.” Mala laughed it off.

“You are just evading my questions Mala. Let me know if you want to talk it over.”

Back home, Mala mulled over Pranali’s words. What had changed in the last few years? She switched on her laptop and looked at the story she had been meaning to submit to a competition. It was almost complete but she had missed the submission date. Now there was no point finishing it. Besides, it was sure to get rejected. She turned to her cat. “Spark, add one more thing to the wasteland of untried and abandoned projects. I hate contests but I will finish my Inktober drawing and upload it on Insta. Today is the last day. I will not default on this. And please get off my sketchpad.”

She loved drawing and had been participating in Inktober for the last 5 years. It was an online challenge where you had to do 30 days of ink drawings in October. It was one of two challenges she did each year. The other one was NaPoWriMo where you wrote 30 poems in April. Both these had no prizes and you could post your drawings and poems on social media if you desired. There was no compulsion. Mala loved creating something new every day without pressure and these two challenges worked well for her.

She posted her work on Instagram and got around 30 Likes on her posts. She was happy that a small set of people enjoyed her creations. Her friends had been urging her to compile her drawings and poems into a book. But who bought poetry books? The unsold books would have to be converted into side tables. Better to enjoy the instant gratification Insta gave her. Besides, she didn’t want to submit her manuscript to various publishers and deal with the rejections.

She felt the stirring of another idea. Maybe she could combine her drawings and poems into a calendar as a new year gift for her friends and family. She uploaded her latest drawing and went to bed happy with her idea.


The next day Mala started choosing the poems and drawings she liked. She was interrupted by her cousin Latika who had come to invite her to her anniversary party.

“Congratulations!” Mala embraced her favourite cousin.

“Thanks, Didi. Atul’s friends still remember the wedding card you designed for us.”

Mala blushed at the praise.

“After that, you also designed Reema’s engagement card and the baby shower invite for Roma, didn’t you? Didi, you are so talented and a natural at design. Why didn’t you pursue it? You could have quit your job and started a design studio instead.”

“Stop it, Latika!” Mala said brusquely, and Latika, taken aback by the sudden outburst looked hurt.

After a minute she asked, “Is something the matter, Didi?”

“Nothing Latika. I’m sorry. I get bugged when told I am talented, gifted, creative, blah blah; repeatedly. What is the point of these gifts? I waste them anyway. Am I even talented? You know my neighbour Sona right? We started learning to paint together. I gave up but she went on and now look at her, having exhibitions while I muddle around happy with my 30 likes from you all.”

“Are you jealous, Didi?”

“Of course not! I am not jealous but I do envy people like her for their tenacity. All I have are regrets and vague ambitions.”

“What changed Didi? You were always full of ideas but now I see that hardly anything excites you.

Mala hesitated a bit but then spoke up. “I feel something stops me from doing anything. I feel I am looking out at the world through a glass cage. I pick up things and abandon them. I guess I am just bored.” Mala finished lamely.

“It’s probably a low phase Didi. We all go through that. Check your vitamin levels. I suggest you pick up a small project and do it. You will feel happy.”

“I guess you are right. I am planning a calendar with my drawings and poems. ”

“Wow how cool! That’s the spirit. One for me Didi, don’t forget. I got to rush. See you soon.”


After Latika left, Mala felt bad about her outburst. “What is wrong with me Spark? Why am I acting like a grumpy old woman? I better get down to this calendar.”

By November end Mala had whittled it down to 25 poems and drawings. She looked at the printouts sprawled over the dining table. Spark was sitting on half of them. “Hmm. all this is too much work. And seems a bit self-indulgent and show-offish. Plus, weekends are busy with all the NRIs visiting. And then the last week of December is the Goa trip. You know what Spark? I think I will do the calendar next year. Now I will only end up doing a shoddy job” Spark merely looked away.

She felt a stab of disappointment at her decision. Tears welled up but she couldn’t understand why. To get away from the feeling she started scrolling Insta, her go-to amusement.

The amazing thing about Insta was that she merely had to think of something, and it showed her related content and ads. Now she started seeing ads for calendars She could have made one as good as some of them but she had given up. Why was she such a loser?

One calendar caught her eye. It was titled ‘Emerging from the Shadows.’ The artist had made drawings that showed a woman slowly unfurling like a bud and reaching for the Sun. The description said, “I finally accepted my anxiety and now am prepared to live again, fearless and free.”

She was crying now, “Spark, look at this woman. She had anxiety and she overcame it. I don’t have any problems and yet I’m not able to finish anything. When did I become such a procrastinator?

She continued scrolling, wallowing in her misery.

An ad popped up.

“Are you guilty of procrastinating?” It read.

Yes, she nodded.

She swiped to the next slide. “Do you feel helpless about this?” “Yes!” she sobbed, startling Spark off the bed.

She swiped. “Then you need help.”

She stopped, stunned. Could it be that something was going on internally that she was not aware of? Was she going crazy or something? How could that be? She was Mala, the talented multi-faceted person. That could not happen to her.

Out of curiosity, she clicked on the ad. She learned procrastination was linked to anxiety. She searched anxiety and it led her to a whole spectrum of mental health issues that she had no clue about. All the articles she read made one thing clear. She did not have to feel guilty about her feelings of defeat and lack of motivation. Many people were suffering like her. But there was help available. She only had to seek it out.

She sent Pranali a text message, “Call me when you wake up. Have something exciting to talk to you about.”

She picked up Spark and looked her in the eye. “Yes, this is what I am going to do in the new year, Spark. Ask for help to figure out what I need to do to get to the real me that seems to have gone missing somewhere. Maybe I need to talk to a therapist, maybe I need medication. I don’t know. But you know what? I’m not ashamed to ask for help and I’m not afraid to take the steps that will help me to do all that I have stayed away from. You can come with me to give me company.

2024 is going to be my year. I will not be stopped.” Spark blinked and licked her nose.

Image source: by MStudioImages from Getty Images Signature Free for Canva Pro

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About the Author

Smita Vyas

Smita considers herself an octopus with tentacles in different delicious jam jars. An alumnus of IIM-Bangalore, she is the Founder and CEO of a new technology-based business. She reviews movies for www.desimartini. read more...

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