Here I am 27 years old and I’ve learned to make my anxiety my strongest attribute. On October 22, 2017, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, making me a mere little 25 year old who was consistently told “you live such an amazing life." Deep rooted within me were twisted stomach pains, a constant tightness of my throat, and a worry I couldn’t escape. That year I traveled to Los Angeles as a travel nurse. It was my dream to get out west, but I left my life behind in New York: friends, boyfriend, family. That’s when my worry turned into fear. Driving down Sunset Blvd, I wondered if today would be the day an earthquake would hit and I’d be dead. I told myself “you’re just being crazy” but still obsessing over if I will make it back to New York alive. By the end of my 3 months in Los Angeles, I was returning home to New York to feel “safe” again.

This is also when I became an ICU nurse. In nursing you begin to see more clearly the cycle of life and death, where you stare death in the face too often and then wrap the body up after you have a moment of personal silence before the last heartbeat. Then in September of 2017, a light in my world was turned off. An amazing influential mentor, friend and old coworker of mine passed away. She wasn’t someone who deserved to die. The tears ran and ran for her; anyone that knew her felt their world become darker. She taught me how to take care of people and love myself but my anxiety was eating away at my happiness. Death was now laying in bed with me, visiting in my dreams - it never left my mind. Day by day it became worse. I was scared to walk on the platform of a subway station thinking my impulses would overtake me or cross the street, looking both ways at a red light at least three times before stepping into the street. I felt as if death was my fate before I had the chance to live my life. I was scared of the girl in the mirror. I didn’t want to wake up in the mind I went to sleep with.

One day I refused to get out of bed. I cried and cried until my dry heaves hurt. I looked my boyfriend in the eyes unsure if love even suited me anymore. How could my fear of everything from love to travel be the emotion I faced? I knew I needed help so I contacted a psychologist that I started seeing weekly. I spoke of the secret thoughts of suicide and the terror of feeling like I couldn’t control my impulses. Hearing yourself speak of such horrors aloud is the most liberating and terrifying thing in the world. Seeing a psychiatrist was my savior. As a nurse, I thought a psychiatrist was only for people who were “crazy," but that’s what I felt - not in control of my on mind. I see people who suffer from mental health issues and I hold their hand when their scared, calm them down when their anxious, stroke their forehead to help soothe their fears. But now, I was the one who needed that. I was afraid of my diagnosis.

The day I was diagnosed with GAD was also the day I was introduced to The Confetti Project. Jelena was the first person I told of my diagnosis where tears filled my eyes as the anxiety was still oozing off of me as I shared a label to my pain with a total stranger. That’s the day I swore to celebrate who I was: anxiety and all. I blacked out while tossing confetti, the delicate spectacles of life falling onto my skin. It was magical. Just because I had a diagnosis didn’t mean the battle was over, now it was time for healing.

1.5 years later, I’m still working on it. I thank every spectacle of the universe for this obstacle. I’ve learned to take charge of my anxiety and put the energy into it when I need to. I’ve shaped my anxiety into a part of me. It doesn’t define me. I go to work and tuck it in my pocket, only bringing it out when I need to take charge and save a life. I look in the mirror and recognize myself, and I love her. I’m honest to myself when I’m feeling anxious and honest with those around me. When you’re honest, you find truth. The greatest truth I’ve learned is that I’m not alone. I want every single person who deals with mental health to know that. Do not be scared and talk to anyone who wants to listen. You are greater than your biggest fear.  It’s easy to speak of this now because I’ve chosen to accept my anxiety. It’s so easy to be mad at the shortcomings of life, but maybe those are the moments we have to learn how to be ourselves. When rock bottom doesn’t seem far enough - to be our own hero.

I celebrate: progression over perfection. Let yourself manifest in your flaws. Make them beautiful.