Treating Anxiety With a Big Apple

A few weeks ago, I took my husband to New York City, for his first time ever. I’ve been to the city six times now, and each time, I’ve loved it more than the previous.

For a really long time, I wanted to live there. When I started my current job, I was so excited, because I found out how easy it is to transfer between stores – and my company has over 700 stores across the country. I told myself I would work here for a year, then figure out how to move to the city of my dreams.

For myriad reasons, that didn’t happen – but I’m not upset about it. I love my life. I love the house my husband and I share, and I love the people who are around me every day.

That being said… there’s one very specific thing I’ve only found happens when I’m in NYC – and I’m trying like mad to replicate that here in the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania. This most recent trip allowed me some time to really think about what I had been noticing on previous ones, and I’m so glad to have finally figured it out.

When I am in New York City, my anxiety all but disappears.

The first time I really noticed this happening was on a trip in 2011, with some of my dearest old friends. We were going about our day, enjoying the city, and taking our time getting ready for the evening. We had tickets to a Broadway show (Mary Poppins, I believe), and for whatever reason, we all assumed and believed the show started at one time… only to check the tickets while we were getting ready, and seeing that it was actually starting a half hour earlier than we thought – aka, in about five minutes. Our hotel was in Times Square, so we didn’t have to go far, but you try fighting through primetime crowds in the center of the city. It was a situation that, here in my city, would have caused me to break down and freak out – I hate being late, and a lifetime in theater means nothing makes me more ashamed than sneaking into an already-dark venue.

I found myself as the leader of our group, pulling my friends behind me through literal hoards of people (I think Times Square was more crowded than New Year’s Eve that night). We made it to the theater a moment before curtain, giddy and out of breath, and I realized that I felt truly awesome. 

That feeling is what I think I’ve been subconsciously chasing since.

This most recent trip was especially important to me, for a number of reasons. As I said, it was my husband’s first time, so everything felt a little special and new – I love showing him places that hold a lot of meaning for me, and I especially love when he comes to enjoy them as much as I do.

My previous trips to New York felt like a whole lot of tourism. While I love taking cliche pictures of famous sights as much as the next person, there’s only so much of that you can take – and, in a place like New York, you are missing so much if Times Square is all you see. For this trip, we stayed with friends who live in the city, so our time felt much more leisurely, and it was so nice knowing where to get the good bagels and burgers!

The biggest reason this trip meant so much to me, though, was my utter lack of anxiety. I know that’s partially due to my symptoms being far more in check now than they used to be, but a larger part is because I don’t have time to be anxious in New York. The parts of my brain that fill with entirely unfounded dread at home (or anywhere else, let’s be real) are full of subway routes, dinner ideas, and the general buzz of a completely alive city. I don’t do well when I’m left alone with my thoughts – I need things outside me to be at least pleasant to keep myself in check.

This was something I noticed to a lesser extent in Disney World – there’s a ton of stimulation there, as well, but it’s a little more in-your-face than New York, so THAT in itself gets to me after a while. But in New York… I can just BE. The city itself is the exact balance I need of things to do and see, white noise, people-watching, and beautiful things to photograph. There’s something to be said about the way New Yorkers interact with each other, as well. Instead of being in other people’s business, everyone is just trying to make their own way the best they can. That mindset works really well with me.

It doesn’t take much thought to acknowledge that, all things considered, moving to New York would make sense for me. If money wasn’t an object, I think we would already be there by now. But, I’m not as disappointed as you might expect. This trip was a great way for me to do a hard reset on my anxious brain.

Usually when I come home from a vacation, I crash (hard, in the case of Disney World). That didn’t happen this time. I’ve felt nothing but clear-minded and happy with where my life currently is – a nice change from the constant dread that usually takes over! I’m sure part of this is due to the wonderful company we had in the city; getting to reunite with some of your favorite friends is bound to leave you in a really good place. That place means just a little more when it’s somewhere you always struggled to get to before.

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