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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 Keerthana Dasari, a 26-year-old corporate lawyer from Bengaluru, India.

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My history with anxiety

Looking back, being brought up as a child with a fear-based mentality is probably what lead to my anxiety as an adult.

My history with anxiety goes back to law school. My perfectionism combined with the stress of law school quickly descended into generalized anxiety. Not only did I find it difficult to adjust to a new place, but I also found myself stuck in toxic situations with friendships, internships and academics. I soon found myself paralyzed by fear and perfectionism and found myself in negative situations again and again. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although I peaked in terms of performance in my initial years at law school, I soon found myself struggling to just keep up with the pressure. A lot of external factors like my health and personal issues made my anxiety worse, and those were times where everything went wrong and felt wrong. I was filled with despair, exhaustion (mental and physical) and loneliness.

How anxiety presents itself physically

Palpitations and nausea have been my constant companion for years. There are days when I walk around with this tightness in my chest and body muscles without even realizing it. The knot in my stomach and nausea follow me around to remind me of my fears even on a seemingly calm day.

In the early years of my anxiety, I would also have constant bouts of allergies. Whenever I was in a painful situation and it triggered my fears, I would start having allergies which would eventually turn into a fever. There was a semester in law school when I would fall sick and catch a cold/fever every week.

Sitting with my feelings and accepting the reality without fear of the future has actually helped instantly clear my allergies but it’s easier said than done most of the time.

How anxiety presents itself mentally

Inability to concentrate, perfectionism, overthinking and being my own worst critic. These paired with the existential dread just paralyzes me and prevents me from doing any basic task at work or home. I also always jump to worse case scenarios. My fear turns me into a people-pleaser sometimes and I find it very hard to say “no.” I hold myself to unrealistic targets and performance standards and I am almost always in a state of panic about not reaching those. I can also pick up the slightest tension in a person’s voice and it immediately triggers me into a state of anxiety. And being a corporate lawyer definitely doesn’t help achieve better mental health.

Constantly living in a state of anxiety also means I find it super difficult to unlearn these patterns. I am constantly worried about the future and filled with dread.

It was only after a lot of therapy that I discovered my problems with dealing with any sort of emotion and that being imperfect and vulnerable is okay.

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

I am in a constant state of worry with a tightness in my stomach and nausea. I am paralyzed and crippled with fear and unable to perform even the most basic tasks or chores. The most difficult part is when you have deadlines and deliverables. It’s working all day while having an unending and continuous panic attack.

My go-to coping mechanism

There are a couple of things I have picked up in therapy including mindfulness meditations and deep breaths. These help me calm down any time of the day when I find myself panicking too much. Yoga, dancing and eating healthy helps in the long-term to alleviate physical symptoms of anxiety.

What I wish people knew about anxiety

I honestly wish people just spoke more about anxiety or mental health in general and how it prevents people from achieving their full potential. If only our families, peers and society were more accommodating, it would definitely encourage people to focus on their strengths and move ahead in life without caving to the stigma.

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