HOW TO BEAT ANXIETY – A Soldier’s Story
HOW TO BEAT ANXIETY – A Soldier’s Story
Like most people that clicked on this article, I came across some demanding situations in life that led to a point where my body was literally affected by my mind. I was never the type to talk through emotions or buy into “mental disorders”, probably because when I hear the words “mental disorders”, I automatically think of something that can’t be fixed and I’ve never been the “can’t” type of person. I have a clear understanding of how strong a person’s mind truly is with the proper self-discipline and training. This will probably be a good place to put a disclaimer… I am not a doctor… I did not read a fancy book by a doctor… and what I am going to say may sound easy, but I assure you, it takes work… This was my experience in life and what I did to overcome it… So, let’s continue.
A quick little back story about me… I was born and raised in Brooklyn New York, during that time there were quite a bit of challenges that I overcame (but that’s a different story) … Then I joined the US Army. I gotta tell you, when I joined the military, my transition into the military was not difficult, I felt like I was home, probably due to my familiarity with institutions and violence, either way, I knew where I wanted to be. As time passed and the military changed, I felt like I needed to move on. I always told my soldier’s “if you don’t like being in the military, finish your time honorably, then leave” … I decided to take my own advice. Little did I know that when I decided to transition back into - what we military personnel call – “the civilian world”, I failed to realize that I was never truly a “civilian”. At this point, I never had a formal education, I never worked a legitimate job outside of the military (excluding security and construction gigs of course), but more importantly, I didn’t have a clue that this was going to have an adverse effect on my mind and body.
So, I left the military in 2014 and did what most people do, go back to where they came from, for me, this was New York. I was staying with my sister in Queens while I tried to find work, literally anywhere in the world. One day I noticed when I walked up the stairs in her house I found myself out of breath. Like any Army guy would think, I told myself I needed to drink more water, so I did. That same evening, I went to the gym (now keep in mind I was 5’10’’ 210 lbs of solid muscle at this time) and I went to do a set during a normal workout on the bench. I was literally only able to do two reps… TWO REPS!... (I digress). I kept feeling like I was going to collapse and blackout with my heart racing and taking short rapid breaths at the same time, so what did I do?... I tried again, this time I did only one rep and the feeling felt worse than the first. I had no idea what was going on with me but at this point, I was convinced this was going to go away on its own, so, I waited a week and drank more water. After that week, I knew something was wrong, so what does someone do when they feel something is wrong with them? Naturally, they go to the gym!... Just kidding, I went to the hospital. I stood there for 24 hours hooked up to machines, wires and walking on a treadmill for the doctor to come in at the end of it all and say, “You’re 100% healthy, there is nothing physically wrong with you”. That was my moment. That was my moment to question him or challenge myself, that was my moment to be a victim to my own mind or overcome it. This is where all the questions you need answered start to show their ugly little heads.
I knew at this time, this was my battle to fight and mine alone. So, the next day, I went back to that gym and I started my fight. There are two phrases that I would tell myself to help me overcome my anxiety, the first was “stop being a fucking bitch”, yes, it was not politically correct or the nicest thing to say to myself but anything else was not gonna get the job done. The other was “Don’t be a fucking victim”. In all my life I had to endure and overcome quite a few challenging obstacles but feeling that anxiety was crippling to me. Maybe I was scared of “normal”, maybe I was feeling sorry myself, maybe being back in New York was kicking up some negative feelings, maybe I felt like I didn’t know what was expected of me on how I’m ‘supposed to be”, maybe I was thinking negative about me going back to somewhere that I was never really accepted (“the civilian world”). I couldn’t tell myself 100% why I was feeling the way I felt, so I didn’t bother, what I did do was focus on converting the fear of my anxiety into anger, then channeling that anger in the gym. I refuse to ever be beaten by anyone, including myself. I refuse to be a victim to the barriers I’VE created for MYSELF! This was the mentality that I needed to embrace or in my case re-embrace for me to get better. I needed to be who I am. Obviously, me overcoming this didn’t happen in a day and I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t come back but I have to be aware of myself and conscious of who it is I want to be in life. Look, I don’t know if this is gonna help anybody, but this helped me, shit, I don’t know if anybody is even gonna read this thing, what I do hope is that if someone does read this, please share it, because if my experience helps one person, then this wasn’t for nothing.
- Former US Army SGT David J Pollack