I Opened My Heart, it's All Over This Page.
As a society we seem to immediately push down, shove down, and deny any feeling besides happiness. We rush to slam the door in the face of anger, panic, shame, jealousy, or anxiety. Anything that makes us uncomfortable is somehow “off limits.” We won’t talk about these feelings to others, let alone admit them to ourselves. But, in a way, these emotions are what make us human, they are how we can learn deeply about ourselves and others. How can we feel free when the only feeling that’s socially acceptable is happiness?
I’m tired of all the silence, I want to talk about anxiety.
I’ve had anxiety for many years now. I hesitate to write “suffered from” anxiety because honestly it has been a great teacher to me. Despite the difficulty of dealing with countless panic attacks, and quiet anxiety episodes, it’s empowered me. I’ve tried to do my best to hide my anxiety, until now. Hiding it only made it grow stronger. I now realize the value of honestly and openly admitting my battle/journey/learning experience with anxiety. I hope you guys can relate, too! I know how painful and isolating it can be to continually experience gripping fear that you don’t understand. It can feel like your whole life is spinning out of control. But, trust me: it isn’t!
It seems to me that anxiety is one of the least understood emotions. We all know about it vaguely, but maybe we don’t really understand it on a deeper level. In fact, I want to argue that there is a very intense spiritual dimension to anxiety: I consider it to be information from our deeper selves. I’ve so often found that what I was feeling as anxiety was actually anger I wasn’t allowing myself to express. This is where it gets confusing. Anxiety is slippery, tricky, so damn hard to get ahold of, let alone to figure out where it’s originating from. Often, anxiety is coming from a very deep place, a place we are rather unfamiliar with.
But, I urge us to dive in anyway.
Think of when you last felt really anxious for an extended period of time. Maybe it’s right now, maybe it was a week or a year ago. Did you ever REALLY get to the bottom of the anxiety? Did you REALLY know what was going on within you? Were you even truly feeling anxiety, or was it another emotion? Anxiety can actually be a great tool once we are familiar with how to use it.
The next time you’re feeling very anxious (and a bit adventurous), stop. Feel your anxiety. That’s the hardest part sometimes, and it took me months and months and months to get there. That alone is SUCH a huge step. Just feel it. Let it wash over you.
Now, try to distance yourself a bit from the anxiety. Again, very difficult! But, if you can step back just a little bit, it will help you be more objective in the process and you won’t judge yourself as harshly. You’ll just feel it as a “thing” happening to you. Yes, an uncomfortable thing, but just a thing. Be compassionate, and view this simply as an exploration. No judgements or criticism are welcome here. Only compassion.
Now, still feeling the anxiety, but with a more compassionate stance, ask yourself:
What do I need right now?
Did an event make me feel sad, angry, rageful, fearful, despairing?
Did someone hurt me, but I don’t want to admit it?
Beneath this anxiety, is there any other emotion that comes up?
If other emotions come up, follow those leads. We’re investigating. Nothing is off-limits. Nothing is “bad” or “wrong,” they’re just feelings that need to be acknowledged and nurtured. If anger comes up, be angry. If sadness comes up, be sad. Be honest and true to your feelings, it will feel extremely empowering. I’ve found other emotions so often masquerade under the big umbrella of “anxiety.” We need to get more specific to see what’s really going on.
Exploring my anxiety recently SAVED ME. I got to a place where my anxiety was crippling. I was having at least one very intense panic attack every day and I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was going to go crazy. I was so mad at myself. I felt so weak and like my life wasn’t my own anymore.
But, most of all I just didn’t understand why this was happening.
So, I went inside and asked myself. Turns out, I was feeling sad, despairing. I wasn’t happy with decisions I was making in my life. I felt frustrated, angry with life, felt I wasn’t getting anywhere. If I hadn’t explored my anxiety, I would have never even realized I was feeling this way. We can get so caught up in life that we forget to check in with our emotions, and we push them down so we can get through the day. But, this doesn’t work forever; eventually, those feelings will fight for a NEED to be expressed and dealt with, likely first coming up as anxiety. The best part of that is, now that I know what wasn’t working in my life, I can change it. We need to have smoother access to our emotions, they are full of information that is pretty relevant….you know, about us, our lives, and how things are going.
I still have anxiety… I’m still working on unraveling my true feelings. But I don’t feel haunted, panicked. I feel empowered because I took the time to explore what was really going on. And, for what feels like the first time in forever, I’m actually moving forward in my life.
Taking the time to explore yourself is a radical act of self-love. You will reap so many benefits from doing this.
Anxiety isn’t a monster. It’s just trying to get your attention: are you brave enough to listen?
Feel free to comment about your experiences with anxiety & how you’ve dealt with it 🙂