Anxiety: 1. A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. 2. Desire to do something, typically accompanied by unease.

This is the dictionary definition of anxiety. It's just a few sentences, easily read and understood.

Many think of anxiety as the feeling you have before a final exam, or maybe that weight in your stomach while you wait to hear the outcome of your recent job interview.

To some, it’s a little more real. If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you probably feel like you could write books on the many masks of anxiety. On the chest pain, the tight throat and foggy thoughts, the sensations that hide the real problem. But I bet you could write libraries on what happens when anxiety runs out of masks, the malicious little creature that it is, doesn’t worry, instead, it begins to show its real face, a guise even more terrifying than the masks. Maybe it shows its disfigured, gnarled features as compulsive thoughts that have you questioning the stability of your own psyche, the very truth of your thoughts. Maybe it shows itself in anxiety attacks that seem to rise from the floor and grab you by the neck, moments of such unreasonable panic, you find yourself searching for the cause, grappling for the dragon that must be breathing down your neck for your mind to be thrown into such chaos. The worst moment of all? When you finally find the lair of the Dragon, and discover him to reside in your own mind.

Yes, I suppose the words, “A feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome,” might be an adequate synopsis for some. What’s left out is that the imminent event is life and the uncertain outcome is whether or not you’ll be able to make it through the day with your sanity.

If you have an anxiety disorder, you have a special place in your mind for uncomfortable feelings and that place is a stranger to light. A place like an old forgotten well in a dense forest, covered so thickly in underbrush that you may miss it upon first glance. The problem with ignoring places like this is that there, deep in the damp and dismal air, the most foul of creatures feel at home.

The good news is: Dragons can be slain.

So, like any hero of a grand adventure, you must begin to educate yourself on how to vanquish your beast. The first thing to know is: you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 18 percent of adults in the US suffer from an anxiety disorder of some kind. Anxiety disorders are considered highly treatable, yet only about one third of those suffering seek treatment.

Don’t try to live in the shadow of your dragon. Your first step should be telling someone you trust about your anxiety, a professional if possible. A psychologist, who has devoted her life to being the sword maiden to those with dragons in their minds, can be a helpful sidekick to rival the likes of even Sam Wise Gamgee.

Now comes the scary part. You must begin by climbing down that old rotten hole and painstakingly bringing to light the things that huddle in the corners of that deep cavern.

Your faithful sword maiden, whoever that may be, can help you to dig through the darkness and realize that the ugly little thoughts that make their home there aren’t as menacing as they seem.

Eventually, you’ll begin to realize that there is no force as effective at changing a person as hardship. You’ll learn that uncomfortable feelings are part of being alive.

Maybe, you’ll begin to define your anxiety by the second of the above definitions: “Desire to do something, typically accompanied by unease.” Desire to do something. Desire to change yourself into the person you want to be. A person who can go to bed every night knowing the day behind them was wrung dry like an orange with every last drop squeezed from it. A person who knows it’s all right to fall to their knees every now and then. A person of consequence.

Decide that your anxiety was given to you as a force to drive you forward, that your anxiety is an opportunity to search the darkest caverns of your mind and to come out tired and smelling of smoke and sweat, but a stronger warrior. Though certainly, every now and then, your invisible dragon will still roar, you’ll know that he is conquerable. For how can a person appreciate the grace of light if they’ve never walked through the darkness?