I know that title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s something I’m working on at the moment as a new approach to anxiety and the way it controls me in situations. I’ll try to explain (stay with me, I’m 2 ciders in).
As part of my new mindfulness approach to life, I’ve been trying out different things to keep myself in the present, and to be more accepting and welcoming of my anxiety, even if it is an absolute bell end and all I want to do is punch it in the face. In fact, that’s usually how I visualise it. If I could describe my anxiety, it’s a massive knob head that I just want to punch in the face repeatedly every single day because of the torment it’s given me. A big 6 foot punching bag. That I’d also kick.
But this approach is different, Its about learning to accept it. Yes, anxiety is a knob head. Yes, I just want to punch it. Unfortunately though, it isn’t going anywhere, and like the friend we all have but secretly don’t like, there comes a point where tolerance is better than defiance, and sometimes it’s a good idea to just try accepting it, go with it and see how that works.
My first challenge after therapy was going out for the day to shop for windows (no really) followed by lunch out, followed by a shopping centre, followed by dinner out. Now, a few months ago none of this was impossible, but since my symptoms have shifted and I get an overwhelming sickness feeling when anxious, this has made things a bit tricky for me, hence the reason why I sought a new therapist recently. As the therapy was so fresh in my mind, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to “take anxiety with me”, rather than try leaving it at home for it to turn up anyway.
I was dressed, aftershave on, coat on, shoes on, looking good and feeling fresh (you know it), and then I spoke to my anxiety. “OK, if you’re coming, then come, we’re running late”. Actually out loud. Suddenly, I could picture my anxiety. This annoying little kid, following me around at all times, sometimes well behaved and barely knowing you have it, then other times they’re climbing all over you, tormenting, frustrating, overwhelming. I walked downstairs with my anxiety in tow, and off we went.
I climbed in the car and placed my anxiety in the back. It was there, it was with me coming along for the ride, and I was accepting that. In doing so, my actual physical symptoms seemed reduced. I was no longer fighting, I’d begun accepting. We arrived at the window place where I actively took anxiety in with me to look around the windows and get involved, and because I gave my anxiety this attention, the physical symptoms didn’t feel so strong, and anxiety was behaving. In fact, I barely noticed it. I sat, discussed my options with the sales rep, went through all the materials absolutely fine. It was only when we stood up, that I began to feel the rush of anxiety come on. You know what I mean right? The heat, the tension, the racing thoughts, all starting to overwhelm me – and then I stopped.
With a quick “OK, come on”, I moved my anxiety in front of us, stood getting involved, listening, partaking in what was happening (granted, this bit wasn’t out loud, can you imagine her face if I had spoken to and moved an imaginary kid?!). Suddenly, it lifted again and I was back to concentrating again, taking everything in, accepting anxiety. We had the appointment, walked back to the car and carried on about our day, with the same principals for the rest of it and it all felt really strange.
Now, I’m the first person to say this all sounds like absolute rubbish. How can just picturing anxiety as a kid (in my head a bit like Oliver…) make anxiety go away? Well, in all honesty it can’t. What it can do, is make you more aware of it, less fearful of it and overall reduce anxiety. We all get the “I’m anxious because I’m anxious” right? Well, that’s driven by fear of being anxious. I’ve spent years fighting it, pushing it away, challenging it, trying to remove it and it’s built up this defence mechanism. Don’t get me wrong, it got me back on the road to recovery, but this is more about saying to yourself “Anxiety is natural, anxiety is OK” and being more prepared to listen to it, feel it and embrace it. Yes, it feels horrific, yes your mind races and yes, it’s terrifying, but it’s also harmless. It’s your body and mind protecting you, it’s actually there to help you and by fighting it, I’ve become scared of it.
Instead, I’m embracing it. I’m saying “OK, if you’re coming with me, then you may as well do so on my terms”. You can’t get rid of anxiety, but you can learn to live in harmony with it. Even though it is still just a giant knob head.