Oh Hey, Anxiety. You’ve Been Unfriended.
Sometimes I think that if I write enough posts about my anxiety, I may just get somewhere with it. Well…it may actually be working, and I thought I’d let y’all in on a little technique I’ve been using to deal with it.
Not too long ago, I wrote that I’ve given up using alcohol to cope (this Friday, it’ll be two months without a drink), and hinted that I was ready to try using some kind of daily medication. Well, I was ready, but for one reason or another, I just haven’t been able to get in to see a doctor about getting a prescription. That being the case, I knew I had better figure something out quick, before I found myself struggling and tempted to address the anxiety in some less-than-healthy way.
To (re)state the obvious, I AM NOT A THERAPIST, and I haven’t had any training on how to counsel people through their experiences with anxiety, depression, and the like. I’m just a regular girl that has had plenty of personal experience dealing with anxiety. I’ve had a ton of therapy and learned a lot of good stuff from it. Inner healing sessions, conferences, books, prayer…you name it. I’ve done the work, yet anxiety is still a part of my life.
CAN I GET A WIT-NESS???
So let me lay a little foundation here, a background of basic things I believe about anxiety:
- It has a root cause (or causes). While someone may be predisposed towards being an anxious sort of person (genetics, personality, etc), some event, thought, or perception triggered it in the first place. We must figure out what that is if we are to get anywhere.
- It has been reinforced over time by a chain of similar events, thoughts, or perceptions. Think about that phrase: a chain of events. Think about that chain being an actual chain—one experience forming one link of a chain. And that link connects to the next experience, thought, event, and so on. Some of us have very long chains with extra-strength links that practically require a bolt cutter to unhinge them. And however long your chain is, that chain is wrapped right around you. (can I get another witness?) In a panic attack, you can feel the chain around your neck and chest, tightening. We need to recognize each link, and then one by one, we have to cut these things off.
- ANXIETY LIES LIKE A RUG, y’all. Seriously, it evokes fear in us based on lies. You know that old acronym about fear? “FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL”? If anxiety wore a t-shirt, that’s what it would say.
- We have to work on #1 and #2 as long as it takes for real freedom and healing to take place. Identifying the root is vital, but even once we have done that and addressed it, we have to methodically cut those links off as we recognize them. That could take a really long time, like even a lifetime—but don’t be discouraged by that! It means there is something we can do. We are not powerless over our anxiety.
But what about when anxiety inevitably invades our space, gets all up in our faces, like some unwanted bully? Even when you’re doing all the ‘right’ things???
OK, put your creative thinking caps on with me now as I try to paint a little analogy-picture for you.
Most of us (who are reading this post) are on social media. We all know some pretty annoying, toxic people from those sites, right? Negativity, bullying, obnoxiousness. Posting images you don’t wanna see. Writing crapola you don’t need to hear. Stressing you the heck out. How long do you put up with those kind of people? Hopefully not long. You get rid of their sorry selves; you unfriend them. That does not mean those same people cease to exist, or even cease to be posting their garbage. They’re still there, spewing their junk. But you…you just gave them the ol’ heave-ho. Buh-bye.
Now, when I’m ‘doing the work’—doing all the stuff I should be and not doing the stuff I shouldn’t—and anxiety rears its ugly head, I unfriend it. I’m serious. I acknowledge it for what it is, like,”oh hey, anxiety, I see you there, but I don’t have time for this nonsense.” I realized recently that I often get what I call ‘night anxiety,” so I acknowledge that too. “Oh yeah, it’s you, it’s nighttime, and here you are again.” And I put my hand up and wave it off and I carry on with whatever I am doing. It may still hang around for a while, taunting me, but I remind myself (and the anxiety), “You lie! Every single time, you lie.”
I realize this all may sound silly, or like I am making light of the struggle. I am and I’m not.
Listen, I’ve gone for days at a time unable to leave my room because I was so wracked with anxiety and panic. I’ve lost a serious amount of time to it, and anxiety has ruined far too many otherwise wonderful moments in my life. I’ve worked super hard to rid myself of it. I even checked myself into a residential clinic for 30 days (you can read about that journey in 3 parts, beginning here). I’ve identified the roots and I’m breaking chain links left and right. I work hard, and I literally do not have any more time for this crap. It’s ridiculous, and I’m beginning to treat it just like that.
And it’s working. It’s actually working!
It’s been so important for me to acknowledge and name the anxiety. I mean, I didn’t give it an actual name, like Fred, but if it works for you…
I don’t accept that anxiety is a part of my identity, but it is part of my story, my ongoing story for the time being. Will I ever be rid of it? I hope so. But pretending it isn’t a recurring issue isn’t helpful. So I acknowledge it to myself, and to my husband and friends, when it feels like it’s bigger than I can handle alone. I imagine the anxiety being beside me, behind me, over me, whatever. But it’s not IN me or OF me. It’s an outside force that I can straight-up turn away if I choose to.
And choosing to is working really well for me right now. It’s a major victory, actually. I haven’t had debilitating anxiety, taken a pill, or taken a drink in almost two months. So apparently, anxiety, I’m getting on just fine without you. And I’ve got plenty to do without you hanging around and bothering me.
Do you have any tips or tricks you use to deal with anxiety or other mental health issues? Share them with me and others. Help a sista or brotha out!