Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Some Anxiety is Normal

I have spent my entire life personally dealing with both anxiety and depression. One of the things I noticed when I was working directly in the mental health system with clients is that if a person even felt a hint of either anxiety or depression it was a sign of severe mental illness or a "bout" coming on. This can be true sometimes but I believe that all of us deal with these two painful "conditions" and should probably give ourselves a break because to some extent they're normal. Next time I'll tackle depression but today I was thinking a lot about anxiety and how it effects so many of us.

Let's take a look at anxiety. While research is still being done on other species to determine if other animals are aware of their own impending death, one thing is for sure - as humans we ALL know that one day we are going to die. No way around it! It doesn't matter how healthy or wealthy someone is - it's just a matter of time. Most of us don't take much time to think about it. Why? Because it causes a lot of fucking anxiety, that's why!

Most of us push the thoughts away by staying busy, living life (which is a good thing!), avoiding conversations concerning death and not allowing our minds to enter into pondering the morbid. But when we hear about someone dying "too young" or attend a funeral or in the wee hours of a dark, quiet night - we know. We know someday it has to happen. As I write this I can feel my own emotions churning. In fact some of you reading this now don't even like "talking" about it.

Even the deeply religious who believe they know where THEY are going still worry about those they are leaving behind. I guess there may be a few people around - martyrs, suicide bombers, etc. that may find the thought of death a positive, but for most of us this is not the case.

Moving away from death as a source of "normal" anxiety, we, as humans, are also well aware of how little control we have of the world around us. Our car breaks down, we lose a job, our kids are out in the world without us right there to protect them, blizzards, tornadoes, car accidents, kids with guns, war, famine, etc., etc., etc.

So is it OK to carry some anxiety around. Hell yea! We need to stop feeling freakish if we get nervous about a plane ride, or going somewhere new, or a first date or a job interview. Our culture looks at anyone that's open about these things as weak. But doesn't it take someone strong to do things that make them anxious?

And that's the point. Don't beat yourself up because you "suffer from anxiety". Know two things. 1. We all do. 2. We all should. I don't mean we do or should walk around all day shaking or worse, hiding in the house. No, I mean we should accept that it is part of our human make up, our biology, our ancestry and move on. You are OK!

It's how we choose to deal with the things that scare us that make or break us. I spent a big part of my life trying to find out the "whys". Why does this scare me? Why am I anxious of this. Why did I wake up sad. Was it my parents? Is it genetic. Then I met a wonderful woman who said "Who gives a shit why or where? Spend your time learning to move through it!" And that completely changed my life!

Although I referred to suffering from anxiety at the beginning of this post, I did so only because that's what people are used to hearing. I try not to even say that I'm anxious anymore. Say nervous, or stressed or feel shitty. Don't give away your power to some term! I don't "suffer" from anything. I deal with life and it's stressors like everyone else has to. Sometimes I kick ass and surprise myself and sometimes I fail. I don't worry anymore about the whys. I try really hard to figure out the how tos.

As far as death and the chaos all around me. I think about those things at times. But I realize I control my reactions to things. Nothing more, nothing less. And somehow just knowing and operating on the premise that I choose my own path seems to give me the power to overcome most of thethings I need to to live a good life.
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