Anxiety Lies/Why I’m Here

Brief preface: I just wrote this today and created this blog in about five minutes because I knew that I needed to get this out there, into the universe, before I lost the nerve or my anxiety tricked me into thinking that it really wasn’t so important (because, as the title says, anxiety lies). It is unedited and written in a flurry of emotion, so please take it for what it is. Once I take the time to really think and plan, I’m sure this first post and blog as a whole will undergo some major changes and/or disappear entirely. Of course, I’m writing this entire preface on the assumption that someone is actually going to read this, which is definitely presumptuous and probably delusional. Oh, and the “why I’m here” in the title is referring to this blog specifically, not meant in any philosophical sense. There will be no philosophy in this post. So if that’s what you’re here for, you should probably leave. Unless you have anxiety. Or enjoy nonsensical ramblings. In that case, feel free to stay. Preface over.

It really does take bravery to start. I’ve been using Stephen King’s quote for so long (“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will”), but I don’t think it really clicked until just now as I was sitting at the breakfast table, thinking about all of the things I could do with my life… all of the things that I talk about doing, think about doing, really want to do… but don’t. I’ve been like this for so long that I rarely ponder anymore why exactly I am like this. I don’t question my motives, my true, deep feelings… what it is inside of me that stops me from doing the things that I know, know, know for a fact would make me happy. Granted, some of them are more difficult: being more present, not worrying so much, practicing gratefulness, picking a “career” path, etc. Those I don’t do because they’re hard and I’m not exactly sure where to start and it’s so much easier to not start at all. But that doesn’t explain the easier things that would make me so much happier while requiring so little actual effort: getting up early each day to enjoy the quiet and peace of the morning, having tea before bed each night, practicing yoga, going on more walks, writing a little each day. While it’s never easy to build a new habit, no matter how small it may be, this doesn’t account for my problem. My biggest problem is not being consistent in my habits (although don’t we all struggle with that sometimes?). My problem is never starting the habit to begin with. It’s this deep-seated anxiety that I feel every time I consider it, this automatic tightening, like my body is trying to physically close itself off. My heart starts to beat faster, I forget to breathe, and suddenly it makes so much more sense to just stay in bed or not pick up that pen or not walk out the door and drive to the yoga studio conveniently located two miles from my apartment. It makes more sense because my body loosens as soon as I let go of this notion. It relaxes as soon as I abandon the idea of trying something new, doing something that would make my life better. Not to say that I feel happy, exactly. It would be more accurate to say that I just feel less. When I decide to stay in bed instead of getting up at my 6:30 alarm or stay home instead of going to that yoga class, my anxiety goes back down to its normal, background noise level. It doesn’t go away, it just quiets, waiting to rear its head up when I start to again consider something it doesn’t approve of. I just realized as I was writing… that right now, in this moment the anxiety is gone. I’m writing about it and thinking about it, but not feeling it. It happened almost as soon as my fingers started flying across the keyboard. That usual, low-level anxiety that I’m so used to living with every moment of every day, that sense of unease that is so constant that it’s almost easy to become numb to it… it disappeared as soon as I started writing. And yet this is what my anxiety keeps me from doing. This is what it convinces me will make me feel worse. Why do I listen? This has happened before. It always happens when I start writing. The noise and the sadness and the fear and the dread just slip away. And now I’m crying because I wish I could always feel like this or at least remember this when the anxiety tries to take the wheel. I want to remember that anxiety lies, that anxiety is a selfish, manipulative bitch, that I have a tool right at my fingertips (literally) that can help me not to feel so bad. So of course it’s one of the many things that the anxiety has tried to take away from me (and, let’s be honest, has succeeded). I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to be braver than the anxiety makes me feel. I want to be brave enough to start… start anything. I want to be brave enough to start one thing and then the next and then the next. I know that I’ll probably never kick anxiety out all together, but I want to take it out of the driver’s seat. Which reminds me…

As I was writing, I remembered something that I read recently by Elizabeth Gilbert. I just read it again and, in light of my recent revelations and simply because of who I am as a person, burst into tears:

Dearest Fear:

Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”

This is my new mantra, my new anthem, my new way to try to live each day. My anxiety, my fear, can no longer be in control. I don’t know how I’m going to even begin to take that control back in most aspects of my life. I don’t know how to overpower someone who I’ve already given control of the maps, the thermostat, the steering wheel, even the fucking radio. But at least I know of one safe place, one sanctuary where the anxiety cannot touch me, and that is here on the page. And so that is where I will start.