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How I’m Challenging My Avoidance of My Mental Health Issues

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Avoiding issues is something I’ve done throughout my life and continue to do, but why?

I think for a lot of people, including myself, avoidance is a coping strategy that feels like the most comfortable option at the time. But I know, with me, there’s a lot things I could have tackled earlier on; avoiding them has made things worse.

My mental health, for example, is one area of my life I know I spent time trying to pretend wasn’t an issue. The cost of doing this has been extremely detrimental to my well-being. I’ve reached a point where I can now more clearly see the mistakes I’ve made with this, and have started to make changes to try to face up to the reality of my mental health difficulties.

I use avoidance in every way, for small things through to large issues. For me, I often think if I avoid a problem for long enough, it’ll go away. Deep down I know it won’t, but my brain quickly convinces me this could be possible. And actually, it’s easier to put it to one side, but it hasn’t gone away and remains until I deal with it.

Avoidance is a way of trying to escape what’s actually happening, but I know brushing things off only ends up in my original anxieties around a situation increasing. I may not realize it at the time, but inside, it’s usually snowballing.

I know I have a fear of the unknown, which many people experience. I’m scared of what might happen if I deal with an issue. My outlook can often be negative, so I can quickly go to only seeing the worst case scenario. But by avoiding issues, I know I’m actually increasing the chances of things becoming even more difficult to deal with.

Don’t get me wrong — there are times when I use avoidance because I’m tired. I just don’t have the energy to face it at that point, and I think accepting that is OK. However, I know that when I am able to, I need to address whatever the issue is.

I saw a quote recently which really made me think: “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” By pushing aside important issues, how can I ever find that stable state of mind I’m always searching for?

Sitting here, writing this, it seems so simple — just face up to your issues! But I also know this is not something that can be done easily. Again, I know a lot of people feel similar to this. Changing the way you deal with things takes time; I can’t click my fingers and change instantly.

My safety net is avoidance, and taking that safety net away feels terrifying. But I know I can make small changes, which will eventually add up to bigger changes and a healthier way of dealing with things.

There are a lot of techniques I think could help me to stop avoiding issues. I know I need to learn to come to terms with my mental health difficulties, and to remind myself they do not define who I am. I know this is quite a big part of my avoidance but I know I can break it down further.

Challenging my negative thoughts is important. Allowing myself to overthink a situation usually results in avoiding it completely. I predict the future very quickly, and what I think is going to happen is usually the complete opposite of what actually happens. So, by rationalizing earlier on and actually taking a look at the situation before allowing my brain to trail off, I could reduce any original anxieties.

Another area I need to challenge is perfectionism. I avoid doing things if I’m unsure I’ll be good at them. Everyone has strengths in different areas, but I need to build my confidence to put myself out there, and if I’m not great at it, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve began to realize I am extremely hard on myself when I don’t need to be.

Breaking things down and trying to gain perspective on a situation can help. It may feel like a huge and impossible task, but turning it into smaller more achievable tasks can feel less overwhelming. Reach out to someone, with whomever you feel comfortable, and they can support you to find ways that work for you. If you can face up to it as soon as you’re faced with it, it allows less time to overthink.

As always, what works for me may not work for others and vice versa, but I think it’s important to spend the time trying to find the ways that work for you. I know it’s easier to throw out advice to someone, but taking your own is a different story. I know it is possible for me to change my habit of avoidance, but I also know it will be a slow process.

I try to remind myself that I could spend my life avoiding difficult situations, but that time spent could be used in so many healthier, more positive ways. Changing behaviors is difficult, but take it slow and do what’s achievable for you.

Small changes result in bigger changes, it may just take time.

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Originally published: April 3, 2019
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