Use it or lose it, the saying goes.
Never before have I found such truth in it. As I try to examine my own anxiety, I realize how much we with anxiety have to lose, but also how much we stand to gain. If you have anxiety, chances are it built up slowly, quietly, but persistently; becoming so much a part of you that you started seeing it as a personality trait.
“I’m a worrywart.”
“Don’t worry about me, ha-ha, I cry at the drop of a hat!”
“I’m no good at examinations, I can’t think on the spot.”
And so on. Think though. Did you really always cry at the drop of a hat? Maybe you make great conversation and write great compositions but fail exams – how can that be? Don’t many other instances in your life require quick thinking as well?
Soon enough other things creep in, limits you didn’t expect. Life was supposed to expand as time passed, you think. Yet as the world at large became broader, the life you allowed yourself to live became ever narrower. To protect you, of course. You’re only trying to stay safe.
“I didn’t use to be afraid of deep water.”
“I’ve never had such awful thoughts before a presentation before.”
Successes in scary situations don’t feel like successes at all, but narrow misses. Perceived failures are even worse.
“I never want to feel that way again.”
“I’m lucky X. helped me out – otherwise that terrible feeling might never have ended.”
There is a dark side to the relief we feel, because for every ounce of relief we feel avoiding or somehow escaping a situation, there is always an ounce of terror added, irrationally to the thought of the situation escaped. Maybe it’s public speaking. Maybe it’s driving a car. Maybe it’s getting out of bed in the morning.
The thoughts that follow next time you want to try that difficult task again always surprise you – even the1000th time they play out.
“It’s gotten so much scarier lately”
Worst of all,
” If I used to do it and I don’t anymore, it must be because I’ve let myself become an unproductive, lazy person.”
You are especially surprised because these thoughts are not rational, therefore they don’t rationally follow only specific, actually fearsome things. Instead, they spread to all manner of aspects of your life, from the most complex to the simplest things you used to be able to do.
It only takes one time avoiding an ordinary situation, to make it scarier, more anxiety-triggering the next time.
So, why am I writing today?
Because I want to be able to now and in the future.
Use it, or lose it.