The frustrating part of anxiety is that little voice in your brain zipping around your head telling you things that are absurd and irrational. Deep inside, I know it’s not the truth, but it’s exhausting. The next time your friend, mom, sister, aunt, husband, or loved one asks you ten questions repeatedly to assure you are safe – humor them. Sometimes the voice is loud. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
REALITY: The dog has been outside a long time. She must have found something to eat
MY BRAIN: She chased a rabbit or a squirrel all the way to the highway and she is about to get hit by a semi. Or a coyote or an owl snatched her up and she is hurt and I can’t hear her whimpers. I’m now screaming nonstop out the back door, “Rosie! Come home right now!”
REALITY: I’m catching a cold. I feel achey with chills.
MY BRAIN: It could be a brain-destroying encephalitis from the mosquito bite I got at the bonfire last night.
REALITY: As I go for a walk along the highway, I see someone else walking toward me on the other side of the road. It must be one of the neighbors.
MY BRAIN: Or a serial killer. If he attacks, I can dive into the corn field and hide in the rows. Remember to poke out the eyeballs. There’s no traffic to see me get kidnapped! I wish I was in better shape to run faster.
REALITY: There were a bunch of cars at the neighbors last night. We weren’t invited. Must be a family or work event.
MY BRAIN: They’re sick of us.
REALITY: I have a few hours to relax and maybe I’ll watch a little Netflix.
MY BRAIN: Quit wasting time. You should write a few more chapters, clean the toilets, wrap presents, do some laundry, fine tune my online class, or do some burpees.
REALITY: I found a new bruise on my leg. Must have happened when I bumped my leg on the steps.
MY BRAIN: Or leukemia…
REALITY: When I give advice, the kids roll their eyes and keep saying, “Oh, Mom!” I know this teenage stage will surely pass.
MY BRAIN: I’ve failed as a mother and they will turn to drugs.
REALITY: I wake up with my left hand numb. I must have slept on it to pinch a nerve.
MY BRAIN: I’m having a stroke. What if my speech starts to slur and I can’t tell my family how much I love them before I die?
REALITY: My computer feels hot. Maybe I should shut it down for a while.
MY BRAIN: My programs won’t back-up and I will lose the fifty manuscripts on my computer and never be able to retrieve them again. My words will be lost forever.
Anxiety doesn’t define me, but it is a part of me. It’s not always possible to “get over it.” Even though the fear is irrational, it’s still a real fear. When I get anxious, my heart flips, I clench my teeth, and I want nothing more than to go home and curl up in my bed with a good book and my dog.
I post this mainly to help others understand anxiety. I try to relieve my anxiety by talking about it, honestly describing what I’m worried about so others understand (no matter how ridiculous it sounds), avoid anxiety-provoking activities if possible, medication, exercise more, and recently, yoga has been a wonderful therapy for my brain more than my body. There’s help out there for all of us, so don’t hesitate to ask for it. I’ve gotten help. If we let the fear win, we won’t be able to lead healthy, productive lives.