What Living Life Despite Anxiety Means to Me
One of the hardest things I find about living with depression and anxiety is not letting it hold me back, because sometimes it’s just easier to use it as a safety net and give in, let it win. Pick another battle to fight on a different day. Which is no way for anyone to live their life of course. But it is also hard work to go against those feelings. Battling your mind every day, overthinking every decision you make is hard. Yes, sometimes I just give up, I throw in the towel and call it a day.
Over the years I have missed out on many things because I decided I didn’t want to fight my anxiety anymore. But I have also done things despite it as well. Sometimes all I need is a push from a friend or family member, someone to support me and walk through as much of it with me as they can, other times I accomplish things purely out of determination to not let anxiety beat me. I remember being forced to go to my high school graduation, which I was furious about at the time, because oh my gosh! All. Those. People! But am so grateful for now because I have good memories from that night. It was a chance to say goodbye to so many people, teachers, friends and classmates. And a chance to celebrate all of our accomplishments, we worked so hard to get there.
If I had gotten my way, I would have missed out on all of that and I would have regretted it. I know that with 100 percent certainty because I didn’t walk across the stage for my college graduation, because even more people! I did go to college though, kicking and screaming all the way of course. Despite what I thought back then when I was doing all that kicking and screaming, I did not regret going. I had an amazing couple of years. Had I given in I would have missed out on some of the best experiences of my life. I have so many good memories, I loved almost every minute of it, though it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. I grew so much as a person in that time period. I made amazing friendships with people who I can’t imagine not having in my life today.
Even though I graduated college without walking across the stage, because of those friendships and connections I made during that time, I didn’t miss my college graduation entirely. My amazing teachers kept my graduation gown for me and waited for me so I got to join them all after the ceremony for pictures and to say goodbye and celebrate, which was lovely. I am so grateful for those women, I will always be a little sad about not walking across the stage with my friends though.
Over the years I’ve missed out on jobs, trips, parties and so much more, but I’ve also taken the job, taken the trip and gone to the party. I guess what I am getting at is that everything I have ever done, everything I’ve ever accomplished, everywhere I’ve ever went, every one of the decisions that were made to get me where I am now, were all made after days, weeks or even months of anxiety.
Sometimes I wonder why I can’t be an adult like a “normal” person. Why do I overthink everything and make things 10 times harder for myself? I hate it. However, it is a permanent part of who I am, and I am forever learning how to live my life while accepting those feelings and emotions. Most people don’t understand how anxiety can have such an impact on your life. They say things like “just don’t worry about it,” because I’ve of course never thought of that before. They ask questions like, “How can you just not do something because you are afraid?”
Well first off, anxiety isn’t just fear. It’s your whole body being stuck on high alert, tensed and waiting for the next emergency. It’s overthinking every single detail, even the tiniest bits. It’s the small things like walking by someone you know and saying hello, only to ask the friend you are with once you are out of earshot if you did indeed say hello back to that person, and did you say it loud enough for them to hear it? It’s the big things like what if I get this job and I hate it because it causes my chronic pain to flare up, and it’s so stressful and overwhelming that I have another breakdown? But at the same time, what if I don’t get this job? I need this job. I have bills and medication and I definitely need food; I can’t live without food. It’s automatically going to the worst-case scenario every single time and it doesn’t matter the situation.
It’s being a people pleaser because you can’t bear to disappoint someone or make them angry, so you say yes to things you don’t want to do and stress about it because it is going to be uncomfortable for you. Then if you do say no it’s stressing that someone will be angry because you did, so you feel bad and wonder if you made a mistake. It’s thinking that you have to always be prepared, that you can never take your eye off the ball even for a second, because if you do something bad will happen. That is how anxiety wins. That is how I can just skip things because I am “afraid.” It wears you down until sometimes you just give up. Not necessarily because you don’t want to do it, but because that worst-case scenario and all of those little bits of overthinking that are floating around in your head are too much, they’re too overwhelming and you just want them to stop. So, you quit. You give up.
Today I am in that place. The place where everything is all so overwhelming that I want to curl up in my bed and never leave. I am in the process of starting a new business. I know this is what I want, and I know what I am doing, and I have friends to help me learn to navigate through the bits that I don’t have as much experience with. Yet even though I know all of that, I can feel the anxiety creeping in, I can feel the depression fighting to be heard. I am not good enough.
I am not capable. I don’t know what I am doing. I am going to mess everything up and it will be a disaster. I am overwhelmed by the amount of work and responsibility I am taking on; I am overwhelmed by all the emotions floating around in my head. Some days the only thing I can do is cry because I am frustrated with myself and everything I have to do. I find myself thinking, what is wrong with me? Why do I have to react this way? On bad days I just want to give in to those feelings and let it go so I can just forget about it.
I know that is not how it works of course. If I were to give up on my dream and not start my business then not only does my anxiety and depression win, but I am leaving myself open to a whole new set of feelings because I didn’t do it, and I will regret it and forever be sad because I listened to all of the lies that my anxiety and depression told me. On good days I am making the calls, filling out the papers and making all the plans. Because I am capable. And then my thoughts get away from me and down the rabbit hole I go.
I am now working very closely with my doctor and my therapist to learn how to live with these feelings. Feeling like you are going to fail is a normal feeling for anyone starting a business. We have chosen to try ACT therapy (acceptance and commitment therapy) instead of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) in the hopes I can become more aware of my feelings by practicing things like mindfulness. With this I am learning to manage my anxiety in a different way in the hopes I can learn to accept that my anxiety and those feelings are there and instead of letting them win. I try to have a full and happy life despite them, by doing what I want to do, opening my business, going on that trip or going to that social event. It’s hard work and that is why sometimes you just give up. Because you’re tired of fighting, the emotional toll it is taking on your body doesn’t feel worth it. So you are just done.
One of my favorite quotes is from Carrie Fisher who said “stay afraid but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
I think that fits my current situation perfectly and goes right along with my new therapy. I’m terrified, I’m anxious, I am stressed out and overwhelmed. But I am going to do it anyway.
Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash