I’ve got anxiety. You probably have it too. Clearly, these days, there’s a lot to be anxious about, and the constant influx of bad news and flaming status messages on social media certainly don’t help anything. But, even with that justification, I’m pretty sure I’ve been anxious since birth. I am the type of person who (pre-medication) would get wound up over the slightest things, and fly off the handle if life didn’t go exactly as I wanted it to. As a little girl, I even did this weird tick where I would “tighten up” when I was angry or anxious. It became sort of a joke in my family, wherein someone would tell me: “Lizzie, do the tighten up!” and I would. There’s a million reasons why I was so anxious as a child, as I’m sure there are a million reasons why you are as well, but that anxiety definitely carried over into adolescence and then into adulthood. Yay.
In my late teens and early 20’s, I had a very difficult time not being anxious. Everything sent me into a spiral. When I was 19, someone I had known in high school was killed in a car accident, and it left me reeling. I wasn’t particularly close to this person, but it was the idea that someone who I had personally known could be taken so quickly and with no reasoning to it. This sent me into a tailspin, and it lasted for years. I became paranoid about dying all the time, and was paranoid that someone I cared about would die. It got so bad my dad found a therapist for me and I began to attend therapy for the very first time. Even with therapy, and feeling better, it doesn’t last without working with the tools you’ve been given. I had and still have a tendency to harp on things that stress me out which has led to even more therapy, medication and extreme insomnia-filled nights. However, there is a place I can go where the stress goes away: the beach.
Clatsop County, Oregon
Now, as a little girl, I was not a fan of the beach. At all. Sand in my shoes was not a thing I loved, and neither was getting knocked over by waves. One of my earliest memories is of me screaming at the sand on my toe as my parents put me down barefoot on the beach. So, you can tell from an early age, I was no fan of the relaxed and cool vibe of what the beach could represent. As a teenager, I didn’t go to the beach since I lived in the desert, but there is a photo of me in a tank top (which is shocking in itself) and a pair of gym sweats because that felt “beachy” enough for me. I was not comfortable in a swimsuit. Hell, I wasn’t even comfortable letting anyone see how pale my legs were, let alone what I would look like in a bathing suit. And, on more than one occasion, I went to the beach in black jeans and a t-shirt and would begrudgingly take my shoes off, but that was it. I never allowed myself to relax at the beach because I could never allow myself to relax, period. At some point in my life, I decided to wear the anxiety as a coat of armor and made it “my thing”. I figured if I leaned into it, I could claim it and it wouldn’t overtake me. But, that wasn’t true. I was being eaten alive by anxiety, and had a hard time finding any sort of place to let it all go.
How did I end up with the beach being the place I go to for stress relief? I have no earthly idea. I do vividly remember sitting on a beach in Southern California about 8 years ago for almost a whole day, by myself, and I felt so at peace. Then, there was the trip to the beach for a birthday. Okay, I’ll be honest, I was a jackass and I wore jeans and a black t-shirt, but I didn’t hate it. That night, I remember hearing the waves of the ocean, and letting it lull me to a very deep sleep. Since I don’t have a good track record with sleep I remember waking up the next morning astonished at how well I slept. Over the course of the last few years, I’ve gone on a few trips that involved renting a place on a beach somewhere, and taking walks on the sand, and even taking off my shoes! The beach has become a place to relieve the pain of all my anxiety, to sleep deeply and to feel refreshed. I’ve even gone on the sand, in a bathing suit, and splashed around in the ocean. I’m not sure if it’s the ocean tide ebbing and flowing, which makes me think of my breath and how to take in the moment, or if it’s just a change of scenery that does me good. Whatever it is, I know there’s something about being around the water, and even being on that sand that made me scream so loudly as a child, that allows my mind to be at ease. It’s so quiet in my brain when I’m looking at the ocean, and one of my favorite things to do is sit in a chair, looking at the waves coming in and going out. In fact, recently, a dear friend of mine and I went to the Oregon coast, rented a place right on the beach, and sat in our La-Z-Boys watching the ocean for hours while we drank tea, and talked. It’s one of my most treasured memories.
"It's so quiet in my brain when I'm looking at the ocean"
I’ll always be anxious. I’ll always be somewhat worried about the things I can’t control. I know all of this because it’s who I am. But, I’ve learned that there are ways to calm my mind, and I’ve also learned I can’t control everything, so I need to stop and breathe for a second. Also, there comes a time when I just need to put on a bathing suit (yes, a real bathing suit), show the world my very pale legs, and jump through some waves with a best friend on a Rhode Island beach. Anxiety will always be there, but like the tide, it comes in, but it also goes out.