When I was 5 years old I was taught how to swim. In elementary school I was on the swim team. I learned how to hold my breath, tread water, and even dive into the deep end. But unfortunately, no amount of this practice prepared me for the actual drowning I would face when I got older. Around 13 years old I was clinically diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder, but let’s be honest, I didn’t need a doctor to tell me how I was feeling. Somehow giving it a name made me feel better, but it didn’t make understanding it easier.
After having a formal diagnosis, my issues seemed to pile on as I got older. One problem would go away, and another would surface. I use words like ‘issues’ and ‘problems’ lightly because these words can often have a negative connotation. I don’t believe what I go through should have any kind of negative outlook or stigma on it, because it has shaped me in ways I can’t even begin to explain.
If I could go back and live my life over so far, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I cherish every low point and every panic attack. It has made me fight for my happiness, made me fight for my self worth. Once I finally found those things, I appreciate those things so much more. For the longest time I battled with the concept that my anxiety and depression would not go away. I felt like I was lost in this sea of problems, unanswered questions, and hopelessness. I would wake up many days feeling like I was literally drowning—my chest sinking and hurting, my body aching and unable to move. These feelings would come and go in waves and hit hard out of nowhere.
I’d tried what seemed like hundreds of types of therapy, read every self-help book, and wrote down every inspirational quote. But nothing seemed to help.
Why? Why was nothing working?
Why were my ‘positive vibes’ and ‘daily affirmations’ failing to help me?
Why? Because I refused to accept that THERE WILL BE BAD DAYS.
How can you possibly prepare for a disaster (not being dramatic at all…) if you deny that it will ever even happen?
I realized I had hit a very low valley when I relapsed with self-harm, lost control of my anxiety, became engaged in a manipulative relationship, totaled my car, and had to move back in with parents (and not particularly in this order).
I beat myself emotionally until I was black and blue because I knew I had everything I could possibly have for the last 3 years, until this all happened—again. It was a pattern. One I couldn’t control. Life was good, and then life was bad. I was up, and then I was down. And the ONLY thing that I COULD control was how I handled the situation.
It wasn’t until this past year I began working on my EP, not so coincidentally titled ‘waves’, that I finally realized everything:
Life is FULL of peaks and valleys.
Life is full of waves.
Life is not linear.
The minute I realized that, the easier it was to, at first, cope, and then eventually to grow and heal.
I started really being honest with myself. Started being honest in my therapy. And my life did begin to change. I started to really understand what was going on in my head. Why I did what I did. Not only did I have an honest understanding of myself, but could for the first time in my life really take the proper and healthy steps to tackling my anxiety head on.
I still have bad days.
I still have bad weeks.
I still float to the bottom of mind most mornings and feel as though I'm drowning in my bed.
But, the main difference is, I know what is coming. Not exactly when, but I know and accept that bad days WILL come, and that I have been taking the proper steps to prepare myself to heal and grow from it.
Proper steps for me would be:
I don’t ignore initial symptoms and signs (bad thoughts, pain in my chest, loss of interest in anything).
I am not on medication (and the correct medication at that). I used medications that were band-aid solutions for a long time, just waiting for panic attacks and depressive spells to hit instead of preventing them.
I surround myself with anything and everything positive and productive. This ranges from working out, to traveling (even small day trips), and a great support system of friends and family I can call.
Self awareness is the last step I believe that is super important. When you become self aware, you can be honest with yourself, quick to assess your situation, and be able to reach out for help or take the other steps listed to get yourself better.
Bad days happen, but within those days is when we truly find out how strong we can be.
I still have trouble keeping my head above the waves some days, but now I really feel as though I know how to tread water.
Life is no walk in the park, so be prepared for the peaks as well as the valleys.
About Anna Clendening
If you ask Anna Clendening to describe herself, she launches into an answer just as honest and emotionally charged as her poetic, passionate, and purposeful pop music.
“I’m a lover, I’m a writer, I’m a crier, I’m a giver, and I’m a musician with a really freaking big heart,” answers the North Carolina-born and Los Angeles-based songstress. “That’s why I make music, because I just want to make a difference, change my life, and maybe change somebody else’s for the better as well. I hope to be a voice reminding others that we all go through crap. I’ve been there. It’s okay.’ That’s who I am and what I want.”
It’s also what she’s been doing since formally beginning her career in 2013. The Chapel Hill, NC native quietly amassed a devout audience of millions of people online through a string of viral covers before enjoying a mainstream breakthrough by performing a stunning rendition of “Hallelujah” on America’s Got Talent in 2014. By testing musical ideas and making diary-esque posts, she attracted a cumulative social media following of nearly 2 million fans and generated over 85 million YouTube views as she averages 1.5 million-plus monthly listeners on Spotify.