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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 Chantal Gibson, a plant mom, cat lady, two-time college dropout and aspiring freelance writer. She has anxiety, bipolar disorder, chronic back pain and chronic pelvic pain.

Interested in contributing to a future installment of Anxiety Chronicles? Fill out this form.

My history with anxiety

Anxiety has been my longtime partner in crime. My story is like most: Once I went to the abyss that is junior high school and my hormones started raging, so did my anxiety. Since then I have been navigating through my life with anxiety and its multiple manifestations.

How anxiety presents itself physically

Physically, my worst vice is nail biting. When I am in a very anxious state I find I bite my nails down to the cuticles, until they are raw and bleeding. When I bite off all my finger nails, I chew off the surrounding skin on my fingers. My heart is racing, my feet are tapping. As soon as someone starts to speak to me, that’s when my body begins to freak out. My cheeks flush and my eyes start to water.

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

When someone either touches me or starts a conversation with me and I am unprepared, my body shutters and my brain goes into panic mode: My words mix up and I go into autopilot but my thoughts are also racing. I begin to question my responses to their questions or the dialogue, body language or facial expressions. I will have an entire conversation with myself about it because I’m sure it was my fault.

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

On those really bad days, I find I won’t even leave my house because of the true fear that my anxiety evokes. My anxiety could go on for days and at times has caused me to go into depressive states that can last up to a month resulting in me retreating to my own space.

My go-to coping mechanism

When anxiety does get to the best of me my go-to coping mechanism is retreating or sleeping. However, after being mindful about my anxiety I cope with meditation and it has really helped me learn how to quiet those anxiety provoked thoughts. I also use creative outlets, which can also be a form of meditation. Some days I will just lock myself in my room and draw, paint or write for the entire day in order to have a release of stress and/or anxiety. My last go-to for anxiety is cannabis in any form. It allows me to just rest which is exactly what I need most of the time.

What I wish people knew about anxiety

I wish people understood that anxiety is so much more than merely being nervous and that it manifests itself differently for every person. Anxiety ranges in severity and each individual has an intimate, unique and personal experience with anxiety.

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