A Real Human Being

How I Overcame Anxiety and Learned to Engage in Life

Recently I watched an interesting interview. The topic was about Gen Z and how they struggle to try things for fear of failure. About how they have an enormous amount of anxiety and mental health issues.

I guess I already knew that mental health was a huge problem for young people these days. It’s an epidemic. Anxiety. Depression. We’ve never seen anything like this before in the history of the world.

Many experts say that it’s just because we are diagnosing things better.

I disagree.

And so do plenty of other experts.

The rate at which things have increased implies something more than just better diagnostics. But that’s not really the point of this post.

I wanted to talk a little bit about resilience.

One of the things that was brought up in the interview was that many in Gen Z just really struggle to overcome challenges. When something is hard for them or they feel bad in any way they prioritize their feelings and just don’t even try to find a way to still engage in life productively.

This is a problem, of course.


Because life can be really hard.

If we can’t learn how to push through some pain and some challenges, we will get stuck.

Now, before you think that I have no idea what I’m talking about and I should be a little more sensitive to the struggles of others, let me tell you a little bit about myself and my journey.

I have struggled under the weight of depression and anxiety for most of my life. I am not a Gen Z’er (Millennial, here) but I know a lot about mental health issues from my own personal experience.

I know how brutal it can be. I know of the panic. I know of the dread. I know of the cloud of darkness that can completely engulf your mind and your life, stealing away any hope and any energy that you could draw on to carry you through.

I know what it’s like to feel completely and utterly hopeless. To feel unworthy of love and acceptance. And to feel those so strongly that no amount of reason will bring even the slightest spark of light back into your life.

I know what it’s like to not be able to get out of bed. To not be able to motivate yourself to do anything.

I know what it’s like to have tremendous social anxiety. To be so undone by the presence of another person as to be rendered entirely incapable of vocal expression. To be so overwhelmed that I can do nothing but escape.

I know the darkness and the dread.

It can be completely overpowering.

It can destroy any quality of life one might have enjoyed.

But it got better.

My life has improved a lot.

There were times in the past when I could hardly function. When I could barely get through the day. I was barely surviving.

But things are a lot better now.

So I want to say a little bit about resilience. About overcoming. About not letting your emotions completely ruin your life. About not viewing yourself as a forever victim, completely powerless to make any changes to your life.

So how did things get better for me?

Well, let me take you on a little journey.

Maybe ten years ago I decided that I was going to do some soul-searching and some research and really figure out anxiety and depression and just learn how to fix it. I am someone who believes that if there is a problem that you want to correct you have to start by understanding why it exists in the first place. I think that many problems in our world today exist because we don’t truly understand where they came from. We tend to attribute them to all sorts of supposed causes, many of which are sold to us by people with ulterior motives, and they distract us from the true root causes and thereby from finding the real solutions.

So in this endeavor I basically put my life on hold and focused on nothing but finding an answer to the question: Where do anxiety and depression really come from?

I thought, pondered, meditated, prayed, scoured the internet, read books, listened to podcasts. You name it.

I tried so hard to find the answer. And I found so many thoughts and potential causes and solutions.


Trauma is the Root Cause

Probably my favorite explanation for where anxiety comes from is the explanation given by Mastin Kipp. He suggests that anxiety’s root cause is unhealed trauma.

This is probably true.

We experience some kind of emotional trauma, usually as children, and then carry that forward throughout our lives. And any time anything remotely reminds us of that trauma, our defense mechanism is triggered and we go into fight or flight.

Our body is trying to keep us safe. Trying to protect us from experiencing that same pain again.

It makes sense to me.

Taking it a step further, I learned that you can actually inherit trauma from your parents. And it could have been passed down to them from their parents, and so on.

This really complicates matters because you could just have all of this trauma that you didn’t even experience and you don’t really know what to do with.

So the idea is to heal the trauma.

This is where my story gets more complicated than I expected.

I felt like I had found the answer. The root cause of my suffering. So I should have then been able to fix it.

I set out to heal that trauma. I found so many experts, or “experts”, in the field of trauma healing. I learned so many techniques that were supposed to heal it.

“You have to feel it”, one would say. You know, you have to give it a voice and let it be heard and not shove it down and repress it.

That makes sense.

I tried to do that. Feel all of the pain and sadness and anger and resentment and rejection. And all it did was to make me miserable and exhausted.


Trauma Releasing Exercises

I found some interesting techniques to process and heal trauma. One was called TRE (Trauma Releasing Exercises) where you lay on the floor and exhaust the psoas muscle, which is the muscle that connects your legs to your core and which is where, apparently, you store a lot of trauma and emotional pain.

That muscle starts to tremor and shake and this is supposed to help release the trauma.

I tried it many times. It was an interesting experience. But I wouldn’t say that it made me feel any better emotionally.



Another technique was called TIPI. It’s a technique introduced to the US by an Italian man named Cedric Bertelli. The technique consists basically of closing your eyes and just focusing on feeling the sensations that come to your body with the anxiety. Just allowing yourself to feel them so that they can release.

I also tried this many times and had a similar experience. Interesting but not a lot of emotional improvement.

I tried meditating. I tried breathing exercises.


Wim Hof Breathing and Cold Exposure

I found the Wim Hof breathing and cold exposure technique, which I think is really fascinating and can be so powerful! I have used this technique many times, including the cold exposure.

The breathwork has at times been incredibly effective at making me feel better.

For a few seconds.

And then it starts to lose its effectiveness and starts to introduce more stress into my life than stress relief.

The cold exposure technique is really interesting too! It also has had a profound effect on me at times. It can be very energizing.

But it’s also brutal. I hate the cold. And I didn’t really find that the results were worth the struggle of it.


But These Things Didn’t Really Help Me, So What Did?

Perhaps I gave up too early on all of these things. But I really gave them a solid chance. I tried them very many times. It wasn’t just like a one-time attempt.

But after years of focusing on healing anxiety and depression and trying to really make myself feel happy, I was exhausted and burned out. And I felt like I was worse than when I started.

But that’s not how I feel now.

So what changed? What finally helped me break through?

I guess you could say that it was resilience.

And God.

I’ll have to rewind a bit here in the story. Before I really committed to this journey of healing, I had had a really powerful spiritual experience wherein I felt that God was making a promise to me. A covenant really. He was asking for something from me, and in return, He promised to heal me of anxiety.

I committed to my part. It wasn’t anything too difficult. A simple practice of daily scripture study.

And then I waited for Him to heal me.

And waited.

And waited.

And it just seemed like it wasn’t happening.

I was doing my part. I hadn’t missed a day. I was faithful to my part of the deal.

So why wasn’t God doing His part?

After a while I thought maybe I need to do some things in order to help it happen. Maybe God will lead me to the answers that will bring healing into my life.

And thus began that journey of seeking answers.

And truly I do feel like I found many. I do feel like trauma is a big part of anxiety.

But after those years of striving to heal and being left exhausted and overwhelmed and disappointed, I sort of gave up.

And that was when something interesting started happening.

That was when I started improving.


See the Good

See, I had formed this expectation in my mind of what healing would look like. What it would feel like. I thought that when I was healed I would just feel amazing all the time. I thought I would be walking on cloud 9 every second of every day. That I would be filled with peace and joy and just have no anxiety or doubt or depression ever again.

And that didn’t happen. At all.

And because I was so focused on this particular outcome, I couldn’t see the improvement that had taken place pretty much immediately.

In fact, it wasn’t until probably last year that I realized something. While I had not experienced joyful bliss like I thought I should, I also had stopped experiencing panic attacks almost completely.

Before I made my covenant with God, I was experiencing panic attacks pretty much every day. And often multiple times per day. I would just get completely overwhelmed with fear. For those who haven’t experienced a panic attack or anxiety, the way I describe it is like if you’ve ever walked around a corner and someone jumps out and scares you. It’s a little misleading because usually that’s a joke and you quickly realize it and the fear subsides and everything goes back to normal.

But imagine that feeling of terror, but instead of a friendly face playing a joke on you it’s a robber with a gun and he’s threatening your life. It’s not a joke. It’s very real and you are in absolute danger.

That’s how a panic attack feels, except it’s not tied to anything that makes sense really. It feels as life-threatening as that robber, but you can’t reason your way out of it or make it go away. I mean, it’s often attached to things, but you can’t fix them, so it never seems to go away.

It’s crushingly brutal.

And I was experiencing them on a daily basis.

I felt like I was going crazy. Literally. I was afraid I was going to go crazy.

But then, at some point that I failed to notice, they stopped.

I rarely get panic attacks anymore.

I won’t say never.

But they are rare. And even when they do happen, I have the tools to endure them and let them go.


Resilience is Key

And that is why I want to make the case for resilience. When I kind of gave up on trying to fix the anxiety and make myself feel amazing all of the time, I shortly thereafter decided that I didn’t want to wait until I felt amazing all the time before I did something with my life. Before I made some things happen for myself. Before I engaged in life in the ways that I wanted to.

So I just shifted my focus to some of the things I wanted to do.

To be honest, I can’t really remember what specifically, at that time, I started doing. I tried many things. And they weren’t even like those soul-expanding things like traveling to a far off land or going to an open-mic night and stretching myself singing in front of strangers.

It wasn’t anything quite so deep or movie-worthy.

It was just like let’s try to improve my life a little bit. Let’s maybe try to find a career I like. I think it was around this time that I wrote my book You Are Enough. I made some custom cards that had questions designed to create connection and I had some conversations with people. I made some videos about that on my youtube channel.

You can get a free pdf of 50+ questions to connect with anyone here.

It was around this time that I was able to get a job as a video editor, which has really evolved into something that has been able to support me financially.

All of this stuff happened, not after I healed all of my trauma and removed anxiety and depression from my life. Not after I stopped having struggles and emotional challenges. I still do face a lot of emotional challenges.

But it happened after I stopped letting that stuff stop me. After I took my focus away from how I was feeling every second of every day.

After I developed a little bit of resilience.


Give Yourself Grace and Patience

Now, I am not someone who just tells people to suck it up and that your feelings don’t matter. I’m not telling you to not pay attention to your feelings, or even to not try to heal your trauma. I don’t think that repressing emotions is a healthy thing.

But nor do I think letting them control you is.

You may not feel happy or good every second of every day. And that’s okay. If you refuse to ever enter into a situation because it doesn’t feel good, you will get stuck and life will pass you by.

But that doesn’t mean you have to push yourself beyond what is healthy either.

Push yourself, but do it gently.

When you get tired or overwhelmed, learn to rest, not quit.

Give yourself as much time as you need to recover and repair and gain strength to push a little more.

There were times where all I would do is lay in bed and watch Netflix for months. Because I just didn’t have the strength or energy to try to move forward.

But I didn’t stay there forever. I never intended to. I was just resting, until I could get back up and push a little more.

So to Gen Z, or anyone who could benefit from this message, myself included, don’t let your emotions keep you from trying in life. Don’t let them keep you from taking a leap. Don’t let them keep you from engaging in positive ways.

You won’t always be able to avoid discomfort. And it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Learn to endure some pain while you push toward a better life. Better relationships. More fulfillment.

You can do it.

You really can.

Go at your own pace. But try.

할수 있다!


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