SnapDragon Speaks: On Anxiety

Written by SnapDragon X. All rights reserved. Copyright 2019.

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Original Painting by SnapDragon X.

My name is SnapDragon, and I have anxiety.

(Hi, SnapDragon.)

It sucks. But it’s true.

The first time I realized the out-of-body, paranoid nervousness I felt was anxiety, was roughly seven years ago. It happened while I was teaching my high school English classes.

It was awful.

For no particular reason—in fact, it had been a successful and happy day—I felt trapped. I felt like everyone was watching me, judging me. Every time my classroom phone rang, I just knew it was the principal delivering the message that I was fired.

For. no. reason.

 It was, in a word, insane. I had precisely zero reasons to feel this way.

But after much reflection (and professional help) I realized that I had been living in fight-or-flight mode, everyday, for years. Inner city teaching + inner city living + commuting an hour each way twice a week for graduate classes = complete havoc on the nervous system.

I hadn’t realized that I was more or less holding my breath through every moment of my day, waiting for relief. Waiting for a bowl of pasta, a shower, and sleep.

But, dear friends, I got through it.

And so will you.

While I no longer live and teach in the city, I still have bouts of anxiety. They often hit when things are seemingly at their best, and then I remind myself that the other shoe could drop at anytime. Surely, things could not be this easy.

You spoke too much at the meeting.

You sounded self-righteous.

You’re a disappointment.

You’ll never get everything done.

No matter where we go, anxiety lurks like a thief in the night.

But we cannot let it win.

So I focus on my breathing. I sit outside in the morning sun. I stroll the isles of the grocery store, enjoying the scents of artisanal breads.

I remind myself, as cliché as it sounds, that this too shall pass.

The bluebird of happiness will return, love.

. . .

What strategies help you when anxiety hits, Dear Reader?


SnapDragon is an educator, artist, and lover of life.

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36 thoughts on “SnapDragon Speaks: On Anxiety

    1. 𝙸𝚝 𝚜𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚜. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝: 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎𝚜 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚒𝚜 𝚔𝚎𝚢. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐! 🕊

  1. I used to think I was just a worry wart but I also think I’m getting a phone call from someone that’s going to tell me I’m in a lot of trouble (for what? I never know). Positive thinking (so hard to start), reading, and being outside around the trees have helped me. Having kids made my anxiety go crazy I think so I have really had to change my thinking about all kinds of stuff and fight it head on. I have a great support system so I have had a lot of help. Good luck to all who worry.

    1. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎. 𝙸 𝚊𝚖 𝚙𝚛𝚎𝚐𝚗𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚍, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸’𝚖 𝚊𝚕𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚢 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚛𝚢𝚒𝚗𝚐 (𝚞𝚐𝚑) 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚖𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚡𝚒𝚎𝚝𝚢 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚋𝚎 𝚊𝚖𝚙𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚒𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚎𝚗 𝚏𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚘𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚋𝚢 𝚊𝚛𝚛𝚒𝚟𝚎𝚜. 𝙱𝚞𝚝, 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎’𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚏𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝! 🕊

  2. Anxieties, worries, concerns, it affects us more now than ever because the world is moving at such a faster pace; be more productive and less efficient, be more aggressive and less effective. But we have to take time out for ourselves. I had to learn a while ago if my job literally is the cause of my bad health, let it go. Cuz they damn sure wont be there when I explode or implode; they’ll just fill that seat and keep going.

    1. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚎! 𝙸𝚝 𝚜𝚎𝚎𝚖𝚜 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚠𝚎 𝚘𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚗 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚒𝚖𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚊𝚕 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚝𝚑 𝚒𝚜, 𝚋𝚞𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊 𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚊𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚘 𝚝𝚘 𝚊𝚌𝚝𝚞𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚜𝚞𝚙𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚜𝚎𝚝 (𝚎𝚜𝚙𝚎𝚌𝚒𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚔𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚌𝚎). 𝙸𝚏 𝚠𝚎 𝚊𝚛𝚎𝚗’𝚝 𝚐𝚒𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚙𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚞𝚗𝚒𝚝𝚢 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚟𝚎𝚜, 𝚠𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚖𝚘𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚐𝚐𝚕𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚜. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝, 𝚏𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚍. 🕊

  3. I try to figure out which specific thought / idea triggered the anxiety. Often I discover that I assume or predict something that doesn`t need to become true or is even not probable at all. In many cases, there is no reason for anxiety. It is just an emotion and a temporary bio-chemical reaction. It is not more than important itching skin.

    It also helps to remind oneself that anxiety doesn`t last long time – 10 min and the wave is usually gone. Who cares? Anxiety comes and goes…radical acceptance.

    Sport, sleep, chatting or any other distraction helps. I don`t like to recommend eating but yes, admittedly I`m an emotional eater.

    Anxiety is no huge problem to me. There are bigger ones. This knowledge helps too.

    1. 𝙸 𝚕𝚘𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚊 𝚘𝚏 𝚊𝚗𝚡𝚒𝚎𝚝𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 “𝚒𝚖𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚒𝚝𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚜𝚔𝚒𝚗”. 𝙱𝚎𝚌𝚊𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞’𝚛𝚎 𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝: 𝚒𝚝’𝚜 𝚝𝚎𝚖𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚊𝚛𝚢. 𝙲𝚑𝚘𝚘𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚝𝚑𝚢/𝚗𝚘𝚗𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚖𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚌𝚘𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚌𝚛𝚞𝚌𝚒𝚊𝚕. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝! 🕊

      1. Thank you.
        Of course, it would be desirable to eliminate triggers like toxic thoughts and believes but that`s quite difficult.
        In general, I am convinced that we shouldn`t take ourselves and our sensitivities too serious.
        We and our mental state are not the center of the universe.
        Somebody who frequently circles around his own belly button, won`t perceive anything of our surroundings – and is finally not able to see the horizon, chose a destination and to go ahead.
        Actually, many people with anxieties are afraid to let their fears go because they are afraid of taking responsibility for their lifes and of change. Diseases can be a comfort zone despite of the suffering that is at least well-known.

  4. I, too, have anxiety, but I mostly have learned to manage it. I think it might begin with some who have traumatic or unstable childhoods, as mine was. Exercise, I have found, works wonders. Thank you very much Snapdragon for sharing the story of your personal battle with his all-to-prevalent struggle.

    1. 𝙼𝚢 𝚙𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚞𝚛𝚎! 𝚆𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚛𝚎𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚟𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚠𝚎 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚊𝚕𝚘𝚗𝚎. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚊𝚛𝚎 𝚍𝚎𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚛𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚎𝚡𝚎𝚛𝚌𝚒𝚜𝚎; 𝚒𝚝’𝚜 𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚢𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝’𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚍 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝! 🙈
      𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜 𝚜𝚘 𝚖𝚞𝚌𝚑 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝. 🕊

  5. I feel your pain. I used to teach high school (I quit in June 2018) and it caused me near daily anxiety. Even though I’m no longer threatened with classrooms, I still get chest pains when I see the Back to School inventory roll out in the grocery stores.

    1. Just thinking about teaching high schoolers makes me anxious. I don’t know how anyone does it. Thank you for your service (and all current and former teachers reading this!)

      1. 𝙷𝚊𝚑𝚊. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜! 𝙸𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚌𝚎𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚒𝚗𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚝. 🕊

  6. 𝚈𝚎𝚜! 𝙸 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗. 𝚆𝚑𝚒𝚕𝚎 𝚝𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚑𝚊𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚢 𝚕𝚒𝚏𝚎 𝚜𝚘 𝚏𝚊𝚛, 𝙸 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚒𝚝’𝚜 𝚒𝚖𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚎 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚊𝚕𝚕-𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚙𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚜. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝚏𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚍. 🕊

  7. I have turned to spirituality and it helps me a lot to know that I do not control most things. Once I am done with what is in my control, there is an acceptance cup into which goes everything else that is outside of my control. I use this phrase often “Beat Fear with Faith”. When all else fails, I just talk to my DH and ask him to listen and not give me coping mechanisms. Sometimes having someone just hear you out is helpful. When people start offering advice, the problem does not seem real enough so I ask my hubby to not offer ant suggestions but just to hear me out. I also meditate every day and things that used to bother me earlier do not anymore – I am less anxious. Thanks for sharing your journey with anxiety – it is real and kudos to you for being vulnerable.

    1. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚜𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚐𝚒𝚎𝚜! 𝙼𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚏𝚞𝚕𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚍𝚎𝚏𝚒𝚗𝚒𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚔𝚜 𝚠𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜. 🕊

  8. 𝙸 𝚏𝚎𝚎𝚕 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝙸 𝚠𝚒𝚗, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚍𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝙸 𝚕𝚘𝚜𝚎. 𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝙸 𝚟𝚘𝚠 𝚗𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚞𝚙! 🕊

  9. I try to focus on breathing at first. Is this something that is outdistancing “box ” breathing? Can I identify the source? One the source is identified, can I do anything about it? If there is something I can do, then I hop to it. Sometimes that takes brainstorming. TBH, when it’s something out of my hands, that is most often when that anxiety demon kicks into overdrive, and laughs hysterically at the sanity cops (copes?) it leaves shaking fists in it’s wake. It’s at this point, I have to reset. Watch the kittens practice pouncing in the bad yard. Watch something mindless. Listen to music that gives me joy. I have to carve out a space where anxiety isn’t going to fit. Then I can reclaim the good stuff.

  10. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔𝚜, 𝙻𝚒𝚣! 𝙸 𝚗𝚎𝚎𝚍𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚛𝚎𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛; 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚋𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚢 𝚍𝚘𝚎𝚜 𝚑𝚎𝚕𝚙. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚔𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚎𝚗𝚜, 𝚢𝚎𝚜! 𝙰𝚕𝚕 𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚕𝚜 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎 𝚖𝚎 𝚜𝚘, 𝚜𝚘 𝚑𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚢. 🕊

  11. Very succinct writing – this definitely captured my experience, thank you.

    I used to teach, I now work with small groups of teenagers to improve their reading age. I changed because the pressure of teaching really exacerbates anxiety because, with the pressures of the education system in the UK, you were usually being watched and judged constantly. Thoughts, as you’ve said are very common and difficult to disprove anyway with anxiety! It is a mammoth task to get the children to the level they were supposed to get to and required your whole life and energy and too often, your mental health as well.

    My most trusted strategy now is to ask, “Is that actually true? Come up with one piece of evidence to show that that thought is true”. Or I tell my wife the thought and her astonished face is usually enough to disprove anxious thoughts for me!! It’s taken many years to be able to take a step back and do that though.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, and for your comment. The pressure on educators you describe is very much alive and well in The US. Thank you for your continued effort to support students! 🕊

  12. Thank you for sharing your struggle! Fight or flight mode is no joke and wreaks havoc on your ability to cope with stress! Keep up the work-because you’re right, it will pass!

  13. great post. I’ve been there and can relate as I also work with children and at times have hectic schedules. Being present like you’re doing walking in the bread isle and being outside is a good coping mechanism. I use that a lot every day to keep my mind from wandering . I also try to do at least an hour or more of something outside or in the gym because that helps me tremendously. I think it’s because I have ADHD also so my brain can be either super tired or wired depending on anxiety and ADHD Brain that day. I get the racing thoughts too and they’re very hard to turn off. Writing has helped a lot in,coping with my anxiety and being active . Those two things I feel help the most.

  14. Thank you for your comment! Those sound like great strategies. I need to remind myself that exercise always helps. But I struggle with the act of getting started! 🕊

  15. That is a nice way of dealing with anxiety, my friend is bipolar and all she asks me is to listen to her. When I listen to her she says “I think now I can concentrate” and she can work continuously for more than 3 hrs after that. She such an intelligent lady and I always tell her she’s just a sharp thinker. Thanks anyway. Blessings!

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