September 10, 2010

Anxiety Is Not an Enemy

Anxiety is overwhelming and sometimes even painful. It drowns out everything else, making it hard to think, make decisions, and love.

We want it to go away, to leave us alone, to find that magic button that will turn it off. When I am in the throes of a confusing, painful, and seemingly hopeless situation, I want to crawl out of my skin and leave behind all of the physical and mental anguish that I'm feeling.

But I'm starting to learn that anxiety is not just an annoying thing our bodies and minds do to us because we're weak, or because something is wrong with us. I'm starting to see it as a friend, telling me when I'm going astray from who I am, what I believe in, and my integrity.

If I'm feeling anxious about something, maybe it is something I wasn't supposed to be involved in or in control of in the first place.

A true friend will tell us when we're going down the wrong path. Anxiety is trying to tell us something. Sometimes it's telling us that we are taking the wrong approach, sometimes it's telling us that we're befriending the wrong people, or have the wrong job, or say "yes" when we should say "no" and vice versa. And sometimes it's telling us when a situation is beyond what we can make better.

Sometimes it's telling us when it's time to let go, and let it all fall apart, and see what happens.

My anxiety is not comfortable, but that's OK because it's telling me to investigate my expectations, my situation, and the variables in another way. The choices I'm making are not the right ones.

It's tricky sometimes, because we want to find the answer and make sure everything will be alright. That search can easily manifest itself in destructive or isolating behavior. Sometimes there is no answer, no magic button. By accepting that things will not always be alright, and accepting that sometimes the choices are bad, worse, and worst, we know we still have a choice, and we still can use our body and mind's signals to take a step back and look at all the variables. It's tricky because we want easy. Easy isn't always best.

The best course of action will always make us stronger, and be good for everyone else, too. That's the solution we should look for, what will make us stronger, not what seems like the easiest. If a choice does not make us stronger, we need to keep searching.

Anxiety says, "You are hyper-focused on the wrong thing. Back up, look at it from a different angle. Let go, and see the path you couldn't see before." But it only tells us this if we listen carefully, and don't get lost in the message we think we're hearing of "It's time to freak out." That's not anxiety talking, that's our habitual response to the anxiety, where we stick our fingers in our ears, singing, "la la la I'm not listening. Just go away."

I'm embracing my anxiety. It has served me well in these past few months, making my life harder and harder each time I made the wrong choice until finally, I realized, I was not where I belonged, I was going down the wrong path for the growth I need, and the people around me need, right now. Everything that happens has a positive, even if we can't see it. How can we find the positive in anxiety? By listening and and saying, "Ah you there anxiety, good friend, what can I learn from you today? How can you make me stronger?"

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