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5 'Plus Sides' of Anxiety, That Still Aren't Worth It

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Admittedly, I’ve done my best to harness my anxiety into something vaguely useful in any way possible, but I would still give anything not to have anxiety. Of course it is great to be prepared, but when those thoughts and feelings consume so much of your time and energy that you are too drained to think of anything else, then it is no longer helpful. It’s a burden. Many things about anxiety appear superficially “helpful,” but in the end, I would rather be less anxious and less prepared. Because I’ve never needed to open an emergency bottle of wine with my swiss army knife — except once.

Here are five “plus sides” of being anxious that still aren’t worth it:

1. Being overly prepared, for everything

If there was a swiss army knife for life, I would own several. My car has everything from jumper cables to road flares, despite the fact I have roadside assistance through AAA. I literally carry a swiss army knife, “just in case.” I don’t know in case of what. I always know at least three different routes to get to my destination in case there is an accident. I print a map in case my GPS fails. I carry a week’s worth of medication just going to the grocery store. I am always prepared for everything, and yet, it rarely helps. My trunk full of goodies didn’t fix anything when my car needed a new starter — so all I could do was wait for a tow truck. But I can’t not be prepared, because even if I know my efforts are in vain, I have to do it. So I spend way to much time, energy and money being “prepared” for things that probably won’t happen, and in ways that probably won’t help.

2. Always being (ridiculously) early

I’m no less than half an hour early for everything. I always plan enough time in case I have to change clothes, or get lost, or there is (apocalyptic) traffic. If it should take me 30 minutes to get ready and 30 minutes to get there, I will wake up 3 hours before my appointment. I always have, and I always will. And it is exhausting. Not just the lack of sleep that results from forcing myself to wake up far early than I need to, but the overwhelming thought process behind going anywhere or doing anything – and the mind numbing fear of what will happen if, somehow, I were to be late.

3. Knowing useless trivia

I understand the basics of flying an airplane so that if anything happens, I can efficiently relay to the pilot which number engine is out (because I’m sure he wouldn’t know), or that his slats only retracted halfway. I can rattle off medical abbreviations in an emergency to save EMS time and guesswork. If I don’t know something, I find out. Why? Because I feel compelled to be informed. If I’m not as informed and knowledgeable as possible, I will drown in the anxiety of the unknown. The unknown is like a giant black pool, and I don’t want to be anywhere near it or I am certain I will drown in it.

4. Being a workaholic

Every boss’ favorite employee — I’m the arrive early and stay late type. I don’t go to lunch, I work through it. I have to. I have to be “the best” even if I’m not. I have to try. I have to work harder, longer, faster and smarter. I have to be reliable, attentive, a “go-getter.” And really I need to be funny, charming and kind too — because anxiety tells me if I’m not, then I’m completely useless and will lose my job. In the end I usually quit, because I have set the bar too high and run myself into the ground.

5. Having a reputation for being “polite”

Aside from the traditional “please” and “thank you” (and very southern “sir” and “ma’am”), I am known for being almost too polite. I will let over drivers in traffic, hold the door open for 10 people, and never ever cut in line. But I don’t do these things just because of my southern upbringing. I do it because anxiety won’t let me put myself first. That’s fine, and there is nothing wrong with being polite — we could use a little more of it in the world. But when it comes from a place where you don’t value yourself, it can be a problem. I don’t speak up, ask for what I need or stand up for myself, all because my anxiety simply won’t let me.

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Thinkstock photo via manuela bertolli

Originally published: September 22, 2017
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