This is a Story that I live in, from time to time. It can happen often, and I can also go long stretches of time without relieving the Story.
I call it Story, because I can look at it as if there are characters at play. We have Anxiety, a beautiful being, who is at times very troubled but always has the best intentions, we have Brain, the most loyal companion, always there to protect me and we have You, the one who gets to decide, because You is in charge. In this story though, You is not always aware that they have influence over Anxiety or over Brain. In fact, most of the time, Anxiety and Brain sweep You up in their drama almost drowning You. The curious thing is that as I go through life, I learn that most people live this Story, and most people are ashamed to talk about it. Because what these characters do in your Mind – which is the realm where it all happens – is make You believe that You is stupid, wrong, delusional, scared for no reason and a plethora of other adjectives. This Story I am talking about is strongly linked to reality because you get very real sensations in your body. So let me dive into one of the versions of the Story.
The context: I want to go outside to enjoy the sun, or to go shopping.
I start preparing myself for that and then Anxiety says “Look at the time! They are probably downstairs” they being the landlords, who own a shop. Then it begins telling me “They’re going to think you do nothing all day, they must know by now you don’t have a job. They are going to ask you what your plans are, and you are going to either lie and invent a plan or say the truth. You don’t have a plan. Who are we kidding? You can’t tell them you don’t have a plan!!” By now, You is starting to feel their hands getting cold, their breathing getting shallower, a big cold baloon expanding in the stomach area making it hard to breathe, tightness in the chest and a slight tremor in the whole body. If You gets still, they can hear their pulse throbbing in the chest, in their throat and between their ears. Thankfully, Brain, always on the lookout for danger, intervenes “Hey, look, no need to get upset. Just stay inside. No big deal, you can go out later, or tomorrow. Why get this worked up about nothing?” “Why indeed?” Says a thundering voice. That’s the Mind speaking, having a voice of its own. “What the hell is wrong with you? Why can’t you just be normal, get ouside and be done with the drama? It’s not even that hard. Anxiety, you are always blowing things out of proportion. To be fair, it’s all You’s fault, for not being better at keeping Anxiety under control. You’re just useless.” By this point You is thinking “It’s true… it’s all true. I am so pathetic. Why can’t I just get over it? Am I always going to be like this, unable to perform the simplest tasks? Am I going to die alone with no one to find my body, because I am so afraid of living? What is the point of being alive anyway if I can’t do anything with myself? I just want this to stop!!!!”
You know by now that You is me. That’s my internal monologue, it’s me believing all those hurtful thoughts about myself. This is part of the Story that goes on inside my head, wreaking havoc on my body, when I am not present to what is happening in my mind. It all escalates incredibly quickly. Probably most of this dialogue is no longer than 5 seconds. In the Mind, time stretches. This Story doesn’t always have the same context, it can vary. It can be going to the doctor, going to work, getting outside of bed, writing an email to someone, talking to parents or a manager, trying to set boundaries with friends or family… and the list can go on and on. My point is, in the Story, it goes from nothing to complete terror in no time.
Is there an end to the story? Yes, there is. But it depends on how much of an active or a passive participant I have been to the Story. Sometimes I manage to calm my mind and my body and do whatever it is I need to do, sometimes I just immediately agree I should just give up, but I am berating myself for my decision because of course I see it as a failure. The scary thing is that for the longest time, I bullied myself into doing all things in life, living with acute terror on the inside, thinking there must be something very wrong with me for feeling like this. Nowadays, when I am my best self (which can depend on a myriad of factors ranging from good rest and healthy food to whatever I am reading or listening to at that time or how much time I spend with my friends), I manage to do what I strive to do every time: I manage to thank Anxiety for trying to point out the dangers of my actions, I thank Brain for always having my side and trying its best to protect me, I thank Mind for trying to push me to do what I know to be the best thing for myself in the long run, remembering to have a more compassionate inner-voice.
One thing is still an incredible struggle: sharing the Story. I am ashamed to share it with my closest friends, who already know I live with Anxiety. My body starts trembling again as I write this and my hands get cold. The cold baloon is inflating again and my breathing becomes shallow. I am in the story again and I didn’t even realise it, because my Mind was busy writing this. I am ashamed of Anxiety, ashamed I have it still, after all these years, ashamed that it flares up a few times a day, sometimes with ringing in my ears, sometimes with tears, sometimes with simply cold terror all around my body like an icy glove.
The reason I write this now is because I know for sure it’s happening to you as well. You know the story, feel the story, hate the story, have to live with the story. For you and me both, I have to believe we are fine, we are not broken, we are not wrong and we will learn to be okay with this. We will learn to question the story, question the Mind, be kind to Anxiety, thank the Brain. We will even have the strength to be grateful to the Story, it will have made us stonger, more aware, maybe even happier.
It took me a few days to finish this post. Every time I’ve read it for editing purposes, my pulse accelerated and it got harder to breathe thinking I am going to share it with people. I am not saying this to play the victim, I am saying so that you know it’s that powerful and profound.