How to Deal With Anxiety and Its Childish Ways
Anxieties exist to be quelled. They turn on all of the alarms in your brain until, eventually, you decide to follow the path they blink on and off in front of. These lights are bright and loud and they demand you do something; believe me, I have done everything under the sun in the name of quelling my anxieties.
Anxieties are like children that run to you during a thunderstorm. As a parent, you cuddle them into your bed and hold them as the storm rages. With every boom, it is your job to tell them they are safe inside.
Anxieties demand to comforted.
They demand to be quelled.
The difference, however, between children and anxieties is that children have a parent to soothe their fears while anxieties… well, they have you.
And let me tell you: I am a very shitty parent.
When I feel anxiety sitting in my stomach, twisting it into a knot, and I see the lights blinking next to the so-called solution, I am tempted to follow the light. But much like a parent teaches a child, I am learning to teach my anxieties to trust me — to trust who I am and all I stand for.
Recently, I went through a very rough breakup. We were together for two years and he was the love of my life. He knew everything about me; he saw me at my worst and loved me through it all. The flaw in the system wasn’t him, per se; it was in the white noise I presented as myself while the authentic me lay dormant below. So, we broke things off.
If you asked me right now how I am feeling, I would tell you I feel lonely. With the boy I loved gone, there is now a hole — a hole my anxieties wish to fill. So, they follow me around and tug me toward the first thing that will provide me with temporary relief from the fear I feel.
I fear I will be alone forever now; I fear I am unlovable, that I am not strong and cannot sit with the emotions that arise with losing someone I love; I fear I will not grow from this. With my heart in shambles, my anxieties came to the rescue and tried to be the parent. They turned the lights on and pointed in the direction of their most logical solution: find another boy to fill the void.
So, emotional and irrational, I decided to try that out. A few weeks later I found myself waking up beside a guy I had met on Tinder — a guy who would later text me to tell me he wasn’t interested in anything beyond sex. Ouch. The feeling of being on top of the world from having made the anxiety temporarily disappear was gone.
And I was alone, again.
And so they started telling me to reach out to him, to send him a text — anything to make this awful feeling go away. But, by some act of grace, I woke up one morning determined to fight.
I sat my anxieties down in the chair across from me at the breakfast table and I argued with them. For the first time in my life, I mustered up my voice, my authenticity, and I crafted my truth.
Anxieties don’t like the truth. Anxieties like the fastest, most convenient way to feel better. But in that moment of clarity, I knew I needed to be the parent.
Every time they told me I needed the guy to reach out to me, I told them I had enough of what I needed in that very moment.
When they tried to tell me to crawl back to his bed where I wasn’t so alone, I crafted a paragraph-long text telling him how degraded and used I had felt.
I told him I deserved better, that I was worth more. And I stood up for myself. And my anxieties raged on.
I would get a text from him, feel better for five minutes, and then the anxiety would return. I felt like I was in a boxing ring. Every time I would swing, I would get a few seconds of adrenaline before I was knocked down again.
But like a parent, I held my ground.
I repeated to my anxieties that I was not alone unless I chose to be alone.
I deserved better than to be used by someone who couldn’t take the time to get to know the real me before taking my pants off.
And as this back and forth raged, I didn’t feel any better.
I felt real. I felt raw and unfiltered, and I finally felt like the parent.
Being a parent to anxieties is exhausting. It is an around-the-clock job but, at the end of the day, I am self-soothing. I am learning to sit in a puddle of emotions I do not want and breathe in deeply knowing I can wear rain boots the next time.
More thunderstorms will come along, and anxiety will crawl into my twin-sized bed, looking to me to make the rain stop, and this time I will not rush outside and beg God to make the storm end.
No… this time, I will sit anxiety next to me at the window and we will watch the storm together as I teach it to trust that I am capable of making the sun come up tomorrow.
Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash