Making Peace with Anxiety: From I Hate You to Thank You
I refuse to hate you. I’m not going to fight, scream or even resist, though that’s my knee-jerk reaction to you. Honestly, I greet you like a chirping alarm waking me from a deep sleep at 3 a.m.
I’m annoyed, afraid and enraged. Terror slips in whenever I feel threatened, and anxiety you do scare me. You never arrive with flowers or smiles or when everything is great.
You don’t call to tell me you are on your way. You show up at my door with bags and bags like you might never leave. It makes it hard for me to breath.
You only come when the house is a mess and I’m feeling vulnerable.
But maybe you aren’t inconsiderate or rude. Maybe you are just doing your job.
You get my attention like little else can. You remind me my batteries need to be plugged in, recharged or even replaced.
Maybe you are a warrior worker bee sting-buzzing me awake rather than a threat I need to slap at?
Maybe you aim to save all that I am and I possess? What if you are a guardian seeking to protect me? Maybe you are a sacred signal, a meaningful messenger and a necessary alarm?
This isn’t some mind-twist perspective shift. Affirmations don’t work for me unless I believe them. I can’t buy greeting cards if I don’t agree with every word and line. I can’t just wish suffering. I’m not pretending you don’t mess my plans or schedule or sleep or mood. You have. You do. I mean they aren’t called anxiety attacks because they are mild, gentle and soothing.
But maybe I’ve missed your point. No one ever talks you up, anxiety. Few say kind things. I’m starting to recognize your worth.
Maybe I’ve had you all wrong.
You come when I’m stressed out of my mind and have put myself on the back burner’s back burner in the other room. That is why it’s so hard to pull out the towels for you. You only come when I’m brutally depleted. But maybe that’s the point.
I’m starting to recognize your pattern. You really do have a routine. You aren’t a cruel punishment but maybe you are the bill that comes due after all the drinks and food have been devoured. Maybe you are the credit card in January when Christmas went on plastic.
You force me to confront the way I’ve neglected myself. You make me pay attention to the here and now. To my body. You help me get real and return to myself. The tension and my sensations. You show up when my breathing is shallow. You arrive when my thinking is frantic and fearful.
And the truth is, I do respond to you. You cause me to shift gears, to slow down and to stop running on fumes. You cause me to remember I’m a human not a machine. You cause me to reach out to others. You help me say “uncle” to trying to do it all myself.
You force me to remember self-care is a requirement and not a luxury. You help me remember I have post-traumatic stress and must nurture me on the most primal levels.
Eating. Sleeping. Feeling safe. Love.
I can treat these things as luxuries. They aren’t. They are prevention and they are cure. Both.
You aren’t my enemy. You are the leash keeping the puppy from running into the road even though the puppy gets frustrated.
No wonder fighting you never works. I’ve treated you like an opponent in the boxing ring I can clock out of my existence. I pummel and threaten and try to knock you out. It never works.
The Buddhist writer Cheri Huber said, “Nonacceptance is always suffering, no matter what you are not accepting. Acceptance is always freedom, no matter what you are accepting.”
Can I accept my anxiety? I that possible? Is that what’s happening and why I can feel anxious and o.k. at the same time.
I didn’t even know that was possible.
It’s not like the anxiety dissolves 100% or is immediately gone, but it is less terrifying and scary. I don’t feel hijacked and jumped and betrayed.
I still feel like me.
Me while anxious. Maybe anxiety is just a message? Maybe it’s an alarm I don’t love to be woken up by but can be grateful for nonetheless.
I’m not going to lie. I’m not all blissed out or totally at peace, but I’m not at war either. That’s something. I don’t want to jinx myself but, it’s kind of helping.
Thank you sign photo available from Shutterstock
Cissy White, C. (2018). Making Peace with Anxiety: From I Hate You to Thank You. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 8, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/making-peace-with-anxiety-from-i-hate-you-to-thank-you/