I am pretty sure that I have said this before, but anxiety can be a very selfish disorder. Okay, it is a selfish disorder. Now I am sure there is someone out there reading this who just tensed up a little bit and felt their blood boil a tad over that remark, but it is true, and I can say that because I was in that selfish state for so long.
As an anxiety sufferer your thoughts constantly revolve around your state of being throughout the day. How am I feeling? What are people going to think of me? What if something is wrong with me? I don’t want to do this because it will make me feel uncomfortable. I will show up when I am ready. I won’t go to that because I will feel uncomfortable. I, I, I, me, me, me.
If you are reading this and feeling like I am attacking you personally I do apologize, I was just giving you specific examples from my old brain. This does mean though that you can relate to me and that’s a great thing, because then you are in the right place. Those were thoughts that moved around my head like they were at a dance off. You couldn’t stop them. All day, it was me, me, me.
My poor husband. Everything we did revolved around how I was feeling or my favorite, the ever anticipated, how I was going to feel. I would rob myself of all the joy before I was even in the moment I dreaded so much, one in which I must say I always came out alive from.
I was constantly making excuses for myself and my behavior or for the way I felt.
I am exhausted just writing this, thinking back to how I would obsess over myself. It was like my brain was on this hamster wheel of negative thoughts about no one else but me.
I do want to stop here for a minute and point out that I find it extremely important to take care of yourself; to love yourself unconditionally and nurture your mind and soul, but obsession is where I draw the line. There will be times in life where you should take a back seat and that is just fine.
On my road to recovery one of the things that I was determined to do was to stop my constant obsession with my health. Was I having a heart attack? Was I going to have a heart attack? When would that be? Would I die young? Would I die in front of people I loved? Would I die while I was driving and possibly harm other people? Would I simply pass out in front of people and wet my pants (Okay now this fear was legitimate because it did actually happen to me. Not fun.)? Would I become just another statistic and sad story?
In case you didn’t realize my biggest fear was having a heart attack. There are reasons for that fear, but I will get into that another day. This fear consumed my life. I couldn’t enjoy a meal out with my husband without panicking the entire time that I was going to die right across the table from him. How traumatic would that be for him?
I couldn’t imagine living my life without this fear of dying. It seemed so unrealistic, but when I finally made the commitment to my recovery I knew there had to be no other options.
So here’s one of my favorite steps that I began, “fake it until you make it.” What I mean is to do what you want and ignore the rest. If I wanted to go out to a restaurant I would just go. I had to tell myself that whatever happens was out of my control and meant to be. This is a terrifying thought for an anxiety sufferer, but even though I didn’t like it, I knew it was one of the important keys to my recovery. If I went out to eat and passed out, fine. If I had a panic attack, fine. If I died, well I would be dead so fine. Okay, not really but you get where I am going here. I had to push my thoughts aside and simply go through the motions of living even though I didn’t like it at first.
I didn’t want to ruin another date because of my anxiety. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to catch up with an old friend because of my anxiety. I didn’t want to say no to my daughters one more time because they wanted to go to the park and I was afraid of having a panic attack. I wanted to start living and enjoying the people in my life that I loved so dearly.
My anxiety didn’t just affect me; it affected everyone around me, even if they didn’t realize it. I couldn’t ignore this fact any longer.
I had to fake it.
When I started doing this I was miserable a lot, but that was because I was doing more. If I wanted to get something at the mall I didn’t analyze my decision to go, I just went and dealt with it. I didn’t argue back and forth with myself for hours about taking my kids out for a walk, I just put my shoes on and walked out the door. I didn’t give myself the time to think, I just went.
With each little accomplishment I let myself be proud. WHAT??? Be proud of myself? How is that possible? When you have anxiety you tend to be very self conscious and you are constantly putting yourself down. I had done this for years. I was use to feeling worthless so this idea of praising myself was so foreign to me, but I was faking it and trying to make it.
In order to do this I had decided to talk to myself the way I would talk to my sister’s or a friend of mine. If they were suffering and were experiencing little accomplishments on their journey to peace I would praise them for each step they took. I would constantly reinforce their efforts. When they fell down I would tell them it was okay, that everyone falls down and they just need to get up one more time. I would remind them that every step is one step closer to their goal.
And that is exactly what I did, for myself. I praised myself and I let myself be proud. Even when I came out of an experience exhausted and spent I would say, “You did it, great job.” The best part is that I started to believe what I was doing. I started to truly feel proud of myself. I eventually became a great cheerleader for myself. It wasn’t forced, it just happened organically over time.
I will tell you that it felt amazing.
What are you obsessing about? What holds you back? What robs you of your joy?
Don’t allow that to happen anymore. Take back control. Stop thinking and start doing.
By removing yourself from the picture you will actually find yourself more clearly and you will love that person even more.