A Letter to My Anxiety W(o)rriers
To my anxious friends,
We are warriors. Strong and beautiful in our differences, mighty and courageous in our similarities. But we are often also worriers. And with that comes the responsibility of acknowledging that sometimes, we have an innate ability to escalate someone else’s emotions or actions through what we thought would be a normal conversation.
While we are well built for understanding the emotional complexities of others (sensing fear under anger, resentment under tears), we can let our feelings escalate up to a mountain levels – when yesterday they were mere molehills. I do it – we all do it – not because we mean to but because our mind propels us in that direction. We ride the roller coaster of thoughts (“What are they really thinking?” “Why won’t they message me back?”) at a speed where brakes aren’t effective – we are used to just holding on until we feel it slowing down.
A lot of the time, there’s nothing we can do about it – we have so much going on in our heads, a wild thought swarm of buzzing, stinging bees trying to be heard. We can’t change who we are, but we can change the way it manifests in our reactions.
It sucks to admit you’re wrong, especially when you know the incident was motivated by your own anxious feelings. You have to remember it’s OK to be wrong! It’s OK to make mistakes! None of us in this world are perfect (except puppies, they can do no wrong), and you have to accept your flaws to be able to move past them. This starts with surrounding yourself with the best people – and I mean, the best people. The people who treat you with respect, the friends and family who love you and will fight for you. Those are the people who will help you when you’re riding the roller coaster; they can help you notice the triggers and guide you through understanding your own reactions when things get hard.
Don’t settle for less. While we need to understand our own reactions, we can also be too passive in situations, in fear of starting an anxiety cycle. Stand tall, and don’t let your beautiful self be walked over in a situation where you are treated with malice or disrespect. You deserve the respect you give to others.
In saying that, it’s important not to disrespect those who don’t understand your anxiety. Chances are, they’ve never (knowingly) dealt with a person with an anxiety disorder. They might tell you to “calm down,” or “stop taking things so seriously.” These phrases can be hurtful and overwhelming to process. But take into account they were probably not said with the intention to hurt you. It can be hard to dissect the intentions of words, but we can acknowledge that some phrases have completely different meanings to people living with and without anxiety. But we can educate. We can teach. The great thing about having anxiety (I know, how can you pick just one from all the great things?) is that we can help others understand their own diagnoses and help them not to feel lost on the roller coaster.
Worriers, we are strong. We are powerful. And we can use that power to educate others – because in today’s world, there’s no better time than now.
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Thinkstock photo by Yue_