August Journaling Day 12: Anxiety

So, I’ve done a lot of anxiety blogs on here over the years. I don’t want to go back through the story of it, the depths of how bad it was, or the effect it’s had on my life. I do think those stories have come up in some previous blogs and some future ones. I want to just discuss how it effects my life today.

My outlook on anxiety and my ‘recovery’ is in some ways the way a substance addict looks at their recovery. I will always be an anxious person. If you put me into a situation where I’m very nervous, my body is going to go into the fight or flight reaction that causes panic. I still occasionally get out of the blue anxiety/panic attacks. If I’m in a crowd, I still get that tunnel vision and some sweaty palms. The main difference today versus previous years is that I know it won’t hurt me. I know I’m in no danger. And I know that it will run its course. And maybe most important, I know I can do everything in my life I need to do, even if I’m anxious.

There was no specific breakthrough for me with anxiety. Like I said, I still have it. But my big breakthrough was facing my fears and choosing to live my life with the anxiety. There was a cartoon in a book called the Anxiety and Mindfulness Workbook that still sticks with me. It’s a photo of a person coming to a fork in the road where there’s a bunch of stop signs that say anxiety! phobias! panic! depression! stop! don’t go! and stuff like that. The second photo of the cartoon shows the person with all those signs in their backpack and moving along with their walk. That to me represents the biggest success I’ve had with my anxiety in recent years.

That realization and acting upon it has changed my life. I’ve done and seen and lived more in the last four years than I did in the previous fifteen. By like twenty fold. And as a result of doing so much, despite my anxiety, has seen my anxiety significantly decrease. Anxiety is no longer a constant part of my life. It’s an occasional part, but it no longer dictates my decisions and how I act or what I do. In the old days if someone asked me to do anything my first inclination was to think “can i handle this and could I get out of it if I panic?” Now my first thought is just to decide whether or not it’s something I want to do and if it is I do it. I mean even flying, something I was 100% never going to do again, is something I’d absolutely do if I had to. And I’m finding i’m more and more open to doing it even when I don’t have to. We’ll see.

One thing that has happened in the last couple of years is having a little bit of, for lack of a better term, survivors guilt. As I said, I still have anxiety and I think I always will. But it’s soooo much less severe than it used to be. And I still have friends and loved ones who are in the midst of their struggle with mental health issues. I know how hard and how sometimes hopeless that battle can feel. And I remember for years just hoping and praying that it would stop, or atleast get better. And now it definitely has gotten better. And I don’t know exactly how or why it finally did start to turn. I certainly put in a lot of work to learn about it. I read every book about anxiety that’s been published. I spent tens of thousands of dollars on therapy and maybe even a hundred thousand dollars on medical treatment and hospitalizations. And don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled I’m doing better. My life is so much more fulfilling than it was. But I do still sometimes ask why have I gotten better when so many others haven’t? It just doesn’t seem fair.

If you’re reading this and struggling with anxiety, all I can say is I sympathize with your struggle. I hope you know that there are so many people who are battling it as well right now. Some are having success with it while others are struggling mightily. And I just don’t know what to say other than people care for you. I can’t promise it’ll get better even though I wish I could. But I’m pulling for you. I’m pulling for me. I’m pulling for all of us.