The Harsh Truth You Need to Know Anxiety and Avoidance
When in the mist of anxiety, you can often reach out to find any sort of shelter to allow you just an instant of calm in the storm of thoughts. In my own efforts to do this, I often find shelter doesn’t last for long and may even make the storm feel worse. When I inhale anxiety, I exhale avoidance.
Avoidance is a trick — a façade of respite from a mind in conflict.
I sit here typing fairly early in the morning, all dressed, and a bag packed ready to go. I’m not going anywhere. I should have left for work an hour ago; I couldn’t get out the door. Today, I woke up and spent over an hour in a battle with myself about getting out and going to work — a battle between rational thoughts and anxious fears. This isn’t new to me; it happens almost every day. Usually, rationality wins the battle and I manage to get to work or the place I need to be, already exhausted from the mental strain of fighting my own mind. However, today, the fear won. I have taken shelter under the roof of avoidance and for the first moment since I woke, there is a glimpse of calm in my thoughts. But this small moment of calm will be proceeded by consequences.
Avoidance always makes it worse. I have learned this on countless occasions, and yet I continue to indulge it. The thing about avoidance is that it presents itself to be so tempting, so warm, so safe. But there’s rot at its core. For a brief instant, you feel relaxed; the situation causing so much anxiety is no longer happening, and you can breathe. And then, all that relaxation is immediately shattered by shame. You look to everyone you know and think, “they could’ve managed it, so why couldn’t I?” And the thoughts continue in this fashion over and over again, questioning what’s wrong with you that you couldn’t cope with doing this one thing everyone else seems to find so simple. This feeling of shame and worthlessness may last all day and you ask yourself, “was avoiding it really worth it?” No. No, it wasn’t. But in the moment’s anxiety is controlling the storm in your head, sometimes you have to let it win. Sometimes, no amount of positive and rational thinking can break the fear. And then it feels like the only option left is to allow avoidance to shelter you, for better or for worse.
I cannot recall a single instance as to when avoidance has ever improved my situation. Yes, for a moment I am gifted with peace and quiet from the battle cries of anxiety, but the next time I am faced with the same situation or one similar, the anxiety feels 10 times worse.
The harsh reality for me — the utterly unfair truth — is that the only way to eventually stop feeling anxious about something is to do the thing that makes me anxious and suffocates me. As much as this truth is exhausting, as much as I’m fucking terrified by it and as much as it makes me feel like I’ve got a choke hold on my neck, it’s a necessary truth. I need to feel the fear and do it anyway. But for today, I avoid and deal with the consequences.
Photo by Nicolas Ladino Silva on Unsplash