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Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.

This week, we hear from Lucia Aybar, 32, who was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is an architect, photographer and passionate about storytelling.

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My history with anxiety

I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. So my story with anxiety started when I was a kid. I just didn’t know what all those symptoms and unusual reactions were.

How anxiety presents itself physically

After almost two decades of suffering from and coming out about the abuse, I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety. The physical symptoms, I would say, are worse than the psychological ones. I suffer from insomnia, which gets worse with time. I get panic attacks and tunnel vision. The worst are the panic attacks. They come out of nowhere and sometimes I don’t have the “tools” to handle it right away. For example, when I am at work and know it’s about to happen, I can’t just run out of a meeting and lock myself in the bathroom to calm down. I decided to tell my colleague/boss that I was going through a healing process and about my diagnosis. I found it necessary to tell them, because it could only get worse if I had to contain the first symptoms of a panic attack just to remain functional at work. I also get palpitations that lead to chest pain and have difficulty taking a deep breath, which makes me even more anxious. Then I start crying while still trying to catch my breath. I have suffered from migraines since I can remember.

How anxiety presents itself mentally

It starts first thing in the morning when I open my eyes. I start thinking about work and every possible scenario that could go wrong, not just at work, but in basically every aspect of my life. It is self-sabotage at it’s best. Very few people around me understand what I go through.

What a day when my anxiety is at its worst looks like

It’s a battle with my own brain. I don’t want to get out of bed at all, and that’s when I take my Desvenlafaxine dose. Then I go and do everything a normal person needs to do on a daily basis. I have zero confidence in myself or anything I’m doing that day. The snowball effect that makes me think everyone is mad at me, or thinks I’m doing everything wrong. Which makes me need lots of reassurance from others. I judge myself and demand too much from myself. I even have more empathy toward others, but I find it hard to have that same empathy toward myself.

My go-to coping mechanism

I wear a rubber band around my wrist all the time. Every time my mind tries to go to that place of self-sabotaging, I pull the rubber band. It sounds simple, but it works (most of the time). My therapist made me make a list of all the good things about myself and I stand in front of a mirror and I read it to myself. It was hard at the beginning, but now I find it easier to do, which has helped me to gain confidence. Taking pictures helps me a lot, too. It makes me look for beauty everywhere I go. Playing piano gets my mind off everything for a while.

What I wish people knew about anxiety

Two words: empathy and kindness. Don’t rush into judging others for the way they act or if they are shy and don’t feel comfortable in certain spaces or situations. You never know what is going on in someone’s life, and empathy doesn’t take much effort.

This is what helps with my anxiety: ‘Giving people the opportunity to understand’

I’m trying to talk more openly about my ongoing struggles

‘It feels like my body is literally caving in’: This is how I experience anxiety

‘No one understands the paranoia’

Positive affirmations and playing solitaire: This is what helps with my anxiety

The presence of anxiety is a constant in my life