I think I just had a breakthrough.
I have always been a very anxious person. I worry about everything. And then I worry about the fact that I worry about everything. No exaggeration.
Before sending pretty much any text, I have to reread it at least 3 times–are there any grammatical errors? Embarrassing. Is the wording perfect? Is that really the right emoji? I don’t want to be offensive in any way. Do I use too many emojis? Not enough? Ugh, again, embarrassing. Is it too long? Too short? Don’t want to drone on and be a bore or appear rude. Have I texted this person too often lately? Don’t want to look desperate. Not enough? Don’t want to appear uninterested. *Send* Why did I just do that?! They probably won’t read it anyway. And if they do, they definitely won’t respond.
I need to know how a day is going to play out the night before. If I don’t have a general idea of what is going to happen, I can’t fall asleep. If plans change, it’s like the world was turned upside down. You want to try a NEW restaurant for dinner?! But I was excited about making a roast! Where is it? That’s kind of a sketchy area. What if we get lost and something bad happens? What if the restaurant isn’t clean? What if the food is terrible? What if there’s no one else there, so everyone can hear what we’re talking about? What if there are too many people there and it’s so loud we can’t hear each other?
I used to be terrified that someone was going to break into our house and kidnap me or kill my family in front of me. Those were real thoughts that I had nightly and sometimes they seeped into my dreams. I can still remember one recurring dream I had where these thugs came in the middle of the day posing as some kind of tradesmen and they would threaten my parents and I would sneak out of the house and run as far as I could. But they would always find me. I would ask my parents multiple times before bed to check that all the doors were locked (even though we live in a very safe area). I also asked them to leave a TV on as long as they were awake, so I would know they were still safe. Every rustle or creak convinced me that those thoughts were finally coming true. There was definitely someone walking around the house with a gun. Because of those thoughts and dreams, I became scared of answering the phone and the door. To this day, I will not answer a phone call or the door unless I know without a doubt who it is and what their purpose is. (I literally hide from UPS and FedEx.)
I also have social anxiety. I’ve always been shy, but I think this goes beyond it. If I’m talking to someone I don’t know face to face, especially if they are in some position of authority, my face gets beet red, I start sweating like a crazy person and come this close to crying. My brain shuts down. I can’t process anything. If I have to initiate a phone call with someone I don’t know, it takes at least 45 minutes for me to actually dial and press send. I have to psych myself up. That’s okay as a kid, but it’s pretty hard to function in the adult world if you can’t effectively communicate with people you don’t know.
There were periods in my life when that anxiousness completely took over and smothered the real me. (I would prefer not to revisit that time, so let your imagination run free. It’ll probably end up where mine did.)
For some reason I really felt like I was supposed to learn more about anxiety last night (I don’t know why I had never done so in the past). I remembered reading something about Emma Stone being very anxious (finally the La La Land obsession paid off!). I did a quick search and came across this article where she talks about how debilitating it was when she was younger and a book she made to help deal with it.
“I wrote this book called I Am Bigger Than My Anxiety that I still have: I drew a little green monster on my shoulder that speaks to me in my ear and tells me all these things that aren’t true. And every time I listen to it, it grows bigger. If I listen to it enough, it crushes me. But if I turn my head and keep doing what I’m doing – let it speak to me, but don’t give it the credit it needs – then it shrinks down and fades away.”
As I kept rereading that quote last night, I realized that that felt familiar. It wasn’t until this morning when I started reflecting on it in my journal that it really hit me.
I’ve been thinking of myself as this negative person for years. But when I’m not listening to that little voice in my ear, I’m actually a very happy and positive person! I don’t like being a Debbie Downer. It doesn’t feel natural. Happiness feels natural. Laughing feels natural. Joking feels natural. Being hopeful and positive feels natural. It’s the voice that brings me down. I’ve been feeding it for far too long.
It’s made me realize that I don’t have a million huge problems, like it sometimes feels. I have one major problem that presents itself in a million little ways. And it always seems easier to fix one problem than a million all at once!
I feel like I can finally see the sun coming out from behind the clouds!
I don’t know how much this new outlook will change, but I feel a lot more hopeful than I have in a long time!
(I definitely reread this 3 times before pressing “Publish.” I’m hoping this will be helpful to someone, just like Emma’s story was helpful to me.)