Last summer, in the midst of a terrible bout of panic attacks, a friend (and fellow sufferer) loaned me a self-help book on dealing with anxiety. I read it, took some parts to heart and dismissed others. One thing that stood out to me was this: that confidence has something to do with anxiety. The connection didn’t become clear to me until recently.

Something interesting happened in the midst of panic, and in a public place. I was standing in a check-out line, fumbling to get money out of my bag, when I came across an old school photo ID. The ID was from a community college where I adjunct as an English teacher. It’s a nice photo: while not glamorous in any way, it looks like me on a day when I felt good about myself. And not just how I looked, but my life in general. It was a moment of shock, revelation, but mostly of recognition. It was me, myself, looking confident.

I know this girl: I know who she is and what she is made of. This photo did for me what no amount of positive self-talk has done lately: it gave me a moment of confidence. It grounded me. I had no idea something so simple would have such a powerful effect.

This moment wasn’t about looks or vanity but simply one of self identity. Anxiety has a way of making you feel as if you don’t know who you are, or where you are. At the worst point in a panic attack, you may not even recognize your surroundings. It can feel as if you are separated from yourself and your life. It can be terrifying. In these moments, you need something to hold on to, something to ground you. It might just be your self that you turn to.

The crisis of confidence, of self, is clear to me now. You doubt yourself, you are afraid you will ‘lose it’ in public, or have a panic attack in front of others. You fear the unknown; you fear fear.

My moment of self identity passed quickly. But there is hope in this, too: anxiety can be dealt with, and I will start with that.

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