anxiety shrinks my world. it pulls in tight and collapses on itself until there is no space or freedom for me anywhere. everything becomes small, and ritual becomes everything.
anxiety likes to let me do exactly nothing. things i used to enjoy are left behind, no longer appropriate because they’re hard, or might be dangerous, or i might get laughed at, or i might be required to go outside. anxiety turns the world into my house and even there, i’m unsafe.
anxiety follows me from room to room. it makes it hard to sit, to attend to a task, to focus. i’m too busy arguing with the random thoughts the anxiety-generator in my brain posts to my consciousness board. it does not post charming and inspirational thoughts. it is a negative and critical observer.
it’s not that i don’t want to change, it’s that i don’t follow through. i’ve mentioned this before, but change at times feels like an impossible task, one that’s too great to manage. i ignore the changes i’ve made already in favour of a negative global analysis. what i’ve done to date is never considered enough.
some of the things i do are harmful. some hold me back. i know this, and i keep doing them anyhow. i like to follow politics. i use twitter for that there and also keep informed via a variety of newspapers and journals. i do this because i believe political engagement is important. i believe politics is a huge and massively impactful part of our lives. it’s important to know, to understand, and to be informed. and yet, it’s so ugly of late. things are so polarized. there is no common ground, or if there is, it’s hard to find. people are hard, critical, and judgmental. the rise of sectarian viewpoints across society is disheartening. we are not pulling together, nor are our politicians encouraging it. so many of them dog-whistle, so many of them seek to divide. all in the name of “winning” and yet what do they win when they’ve basically splintered the world? it makes me quite agitated and miserable.
i feel better when i don’t engage with all the noise, especially first thing in the morning. i feel better when i leave it be, and yet, i don’t. i get up, i get coffee, and i begin. i can feel the anxiety start to mount as i read. i can feel my brain get tight and fast. i feel the urges to move, to escape, to binge, to cut. all i need to do is stop, but i don’t, because that’s not what i do. that’s not the routine.
what does it say about you when you make the same foolish mistakes over and over? why is it so damn hard to alter a behaviour? i believe i’ve said that i consider that to be a serious design flaw.
my anxiety also keeps me in front of my mirror for far too long. you’d never know it by looking at me because i struggle with caring for myself – dressing well, doing my hair, putting on makeup, adding some flair – but i actually spend a fair bit of time each morning in front of my reflection. it’s not time well-spent. it’s categorizing my flaws. it’s an evaluation of this scar, and that imperfection, this bump, and that hair. it’s concluding the lips are wrong, and the eyebrows mismatched. not a shred of self-love comes from this behaviour, yet my anxiety compulsively pushes me to perform it.
all of these behaviours are used by my anxiety to help keep the world small. how can i be expected to go out, to engage, to participate in life when it’s so hard and i’m so patently unacceptable?
anxiety attacks anything that brings pleasure and might expand the horizons. i used to read for hours but those marathon reading sessions are a thing of the past. i start to read a book on, let’s say mindfulness. the first page goes well but then my brain walks away into this or that imagined scenario. things go badly, as they are wont to do in these types of daydreams, making me agitated. i pull myself back, take a deep breath, and try not to castigate myself. i move on to page two, rinse, and repeat. before long i find myself on my feet, stalking down to my office for something that seems immensely and immediately vital, or downstairs to deal with a vitally important organizational issue, or into the kitchen to pace around and have a conversation with my eating disorder. eventually, i recollect myself, head back to the couch, and move onto page three. you can see why this starts to get old.
i have spent a long time waiting to get better. i do some of the necessary work but part of me was still waiting for my feelings to just change. over the last year, however, i’ve come to realize that despite my hopes, there will be no magic moment. i won’t wake up different one day. my fairy godmother is not going to show up with some mice and a pumpkin to fix everything. medications will only work so well. the only thing that seems to promise a real difference is pushing on through.
feel the anxiety and do it anyhow. attend to the anxious thoughts, pull myself back, and start over. make plans, initiate changes, and if i fail to follow through, try again. i can make my world larger again if i work at it. in recovery, persistence is not futile.