Alas, my writing spirit has found me again. It has been a while since I sat down to write. This seems to be a pattern with me. One moment I am flooded with relatable ideas to talk about followed by months of a blank mind. Anyways, I am back…maybe…temporarily. Who knows?
Here is a fun fact: 99% of the pictures on my camera roll are me holding a fish, a fish in the water, screenshots of fish, or different fishing techniques. As odd as that may seem, it helps me. Yes, you read that right. Fishing helps me.
You see, I am a very anxious person. Not the anxious type who stresses about a big test or worries about the consequences of jumping out of an airplane. That would be a much more simple mindset to have. Unfortunately, my anxiousness extends far beyond the normal realm of activities or subjects to feel anxious about. Allow me to break this down for you. Anything, and i mean ANYTHING, that requires me to be within 5 miles from my comfort zone (either my house, or my family) I immediately go into a survival mode. There is not a second that goes by while I am hiking, driving, eating, thinking, or pretty much just breathing that I am not prepared for the worst possible thing that can happen to me. My palms break out into cold sweats, my heart feels like it will beat right out of my chest, my eyes become hazy with a sort of tunnel vision, and any ability I have to think multiple thoughts at a time goes out the window. Irrational thoughts race through my head 90 miles an hour. This includes me questioning over and over if I am about to get sick, where is the nearest bathroom, what if I were to get too far from a hospital, what if the hospital I was closest too wasn’t any good, what if the person I am with just decides to leave me stranded, what if I lose my memory and cannot get back home, etc. The list goes on and on. So, you can imagine how hard it is to live a full and daring life when all. you. do. is. worry. about. every. single. thing.
However, one of my greatest coping skills is fishing. Given, the moments and preparation leading up to the actual act of casting my rod and trying to catch a fish are filled with the previously stated feelings of worry. But when I feel that first bite or snag that first fish, I forget about all of the worry. If it were just fishing, I would be able to sit patiently for hours without a bite. Perhaps I could travel long distances by myself to catch a rare sight. I could even stick my feet in the water a time or two to appreciate a sky of blue. Instead, I repeatedly consider the different types of bait in my head; considering which would be more effective and land the best fish. I say prayer after prayer that I can just make to the water. There have been times where I was minutes from my destination and I had to turn around and go back home because the anxiety became too much.
I recently had the opportunity to go fishing in Colorado. Oh, what an experience that was. The entire fifteen hour drive there I worried, I obsessed over my well-being. At one point I had even convinced myself I had melanoma and appendicitis due to a funny skin rash and pain in my side. Like, really Liz? After two days of hiking, dining, and exploring, the task of fishing the legendary San Juan River had come. I am down playing it when I say I was freaking out. I was having a full blown panic attack just seconds before it was time to meet up with the fly-fishing guide. I called my mom, I ran cold water on my face, I gave myself a pep-talk, I massaged the palms of my hands and base of my neck all in an attempt to calm down. It was just fishing. Fast forward an hour and thirty minutes later and I am standing on the banks of this beautiful river convincing myself that I cannot do it. For all I knew, the world’s largest river monster could open its gnarly mouth and only eat me and there was no phone service to let anyone know I was a goner. Thankfully, my boyfriend never left my side. He kept talking me down, hugging me, and telling me irrelevant stories to keep my mind busy. We were surrounded by roughly 15 other drifting boats full of people with no luck of catching a fish yet. So, against my anxious mind I stepped foot in the boat and we set out on our journey. Not even 10 minutes in, I felt a bite on my rod. For the first time that day I was actually glad to be out in nature doing something I love. Adrenaline surged through my body knowing I was probably the most inexperienced fly-fisher out there and I had just received the first bite. The next 8 hours of my life were spent drifting, casting, and catching. With help from the very experienced guide, my casting improved tremendously, as well as my overall knowledge. Looking back now, I would not trade that experience for anything.
I spend almost every afternoon fishing. It is not just fishing for me. If it were just fishing, I would not enjoy my life as much as I am able to. Being able to look forward to something that calms me so much is more of a blessing than someone on the outside could comprehend. Its therapeutic to weigh options, assess water types, and practice different types of casts. I am so thankful to anyone who has helped me learn techniques or different types of fish. It gives me something to look forward to. It gives me a sense of hope because overcoming anxiety requires a lot of coping skills and thought processing. It also requires acceptance and open-mindedness. Fishing positions me right in the middle of nature. There I am surrounded by calm and quite beauty yet my heart can race not with the anticipation of doom, but the excitement of success. This is what I love. This is part of me. My advice to anyone who experiences anxiety would be to find something that challenges you and that you love. It can literally be anything. Then, set your mind on your ability to complete the task and completing it well. It is important to keep in mind that you must enjoy life. For the anxious mind, it can be incredibly hard to see the wonderful potential of the surrounding world. If you feel like giving up and succumbing to the overwhelming thoughts, fight. Fight with everything in you to find something fun, something beautiful, something worth smiling about.
With much love and appreciation,