Those of us with anxiety know very well how hard it can be going through day to day life: you’re constantly on edge, worrying yourself sick about what if or what could happen. It forces your brain to focus on the things about life that are negative and cruel, and puts you in a constant state of panic and paranoia, preparing you for the worst things that could happen to you. It’s almost like it’s trying to convince you that being unhappy, stressed, and scared all of the ime is a good thing, because it’s trying to protect you from something. Whether you know or not for sure that something you’re being told to fear will even happen to you or not, is irrelevant to that anxious voice in your head. It’s only job is to prepare you for the worst, and only the worst.
So why would we listen to a thing like this? Why would we listen to a voice that tries so hard to convince us that life is meant to be stressful, cruel, and unhappy? When did we start to believe that having a constant headache or stomach cramps are a normal thing? Why have we been convinced that living life on edge is the way to live, because we know for a fact that it isn’t.
Even with all of the pain and stress that little voice in our heads causes, somehow we just can’t seem to bring ourselves to stop listening to it. Instead we take its horrible advice and run with it. Looking deep inside of myself, I finally came to a conclusion as to why I let that voice win me over:
Anxiety is a comfort zone.
You’re probably asking yourself “How on earth can anxiety be a comfort zone?”
“What is comfortable about constantly being worried all of the time?”
Anxiety Is Like A Defense Mechanism
The main things probably everyone dealing with anxiety fear are failure and pain. We are afraid of everything going wrong. We are afraid of getting hurt. We are afraid of being vulnerable to anything that could potentially bring us any harm. So we use constant worry as means to prepare ourselves for any bad thing that could potentially happen. You can hope for the best all you want, but always expect the worst. If we already expect the worst to come, we won’t feel as bad about it when it does finally happen, right? We saw it coming. We knew better.
Anxiety acts like a shield: if we anticipate an unfortunate event happening, we won’t be as surprised when it actually occurs. We feel comfortable in the idea that we have prepared ourselves for the inevitable tragedy that we know is going to strike, and we won’t fall to pieces because it wasn’t like it was something we didn’t see happening sooner or later in the first place.
The irony is that about 10 times out of 10 the worst case scenario does not occur, and you still end up feeling pretty lousy anyway, without need for the event we were scared of taking place.
Being Positive Leaves Us Vulnerable
The greatest advice everyone seems to have is “You just have to stay positive!” You can’t help but think “yeah right, I’ll be positive and expect a great day and kiss my loved ones, and be off in the morning only to find out later that a horrible accident happened and they died. Or I’ll be the one that dies. For all I know, this could be my last day and I don’t even know it. Maybe I should just lock myself in my room for the day to ensure nothing happens…”
See, we think that the moment we put a smile on our faces and ignore the little voice in our head, life will end up playing an evil trick on us and snatch our happiness away faster than we can blink. After all, life can be cruel and unpredictable sometimes right? Everyone around us is always talking about how stressed out they are, how hard life is, how unpredictable it is. People can barely pay bills, 99% of the population is impoverished, people face oppression and discrimination and nothing is being done about it, people lose their jobs, their friends, and suddenly can’t stand who they once proclaimed as the love of their lives. How that last bombing oversees or mass shooting in our own country reminds us of how cold hearted people can be and how you never know when tragedy can strike. With all of those things to consider, how can we possibly expect life to ever be good? How dare we not expect any of that to happen to us sooner or later? There’s no point in trying to be happy when something’s just going to snatch it away at any second right?’
We become consumed with all the negative things going on in the world and think it’s foolish not to ever expect to experience any of the severe hardships others do. There’s no point in being positive when it’ll just backfire in our faces eventually. So we become comfortable with staying the way we are, holding onto those harmful thought patterns because the moment we don’t, the moment we let go of our fears and anticipate positive things to come into our lives, life is going to stab us in the back and show us how mean and evil it really is. With all of those negative things we’ve been taught life is like, we internalize it and program our minds to believe them wholeheartedly.
In a way, anxiety also convinces us to believe that we don’t deserve happiness, and we have absolutely no control in how our lives unfold. We don’t realize that some unfortunate events, like terrorism, happen beyond our control, but we certainly have control over other aspects of our lives, and we can make the choice to be happy and focus on the good things about life, just as we have a choice in focusing on only the bad. But focusing on the negative is smarter because you’d rather literally worrying yourself sick preparing for the bad situation to come instead of getting sick from the impending tragedy you never expected.
Doesn’t make much sense when put in that way does it?
How To Battle Against This
First off, trying to treat a mental disorder alone is never a good idea. Although somewhat helpful, simply thinking happy thoughts isn’t going to make the issue magically disappear. Although seeing a medical professional specializing in this area is one of the best things you can do for yourself, treating anxiety takes more than just medications and therapy. It’s about really looking deep within yourself, getting to the bottom of why you believe the things you do and feel the way you feel. You may be trying to run away from something, like a phobia or a traumatic event that took place in the past. You may have toxic people around you or listen to toxic people that reinforce your anxious thoughts. You may not realize why exactly you have the fears and worries that you do in the beginning, and that’s okay. It takes a lot of time and self-evaluation to get to the bottom of why your anxiety is so authoritative over your life.
Allow yourself to get to know your subconscious mind. Be aware of the thoughts you’re thinking and try to explain why they’re there. If you can’t explain it, try to determine what the benefits of listening to your anxious thoughts will bring. Are they really worth your attention? Are they guaranteed to stop that thing you’re worried about from actually happening? Can you think of any proactive solutions that will put you at ease and help you to feel more secure? If it’s something you can’t prevent, ask yourself if it truly has a high likelihood or certainty of occurring, and how you’ll be able to cope or recover. Thankfully, most of the things people with anxiety worry about all day usually never happen in the way they thought!
Also, self care is super important! Make it a priority. You owe it to yourself to take care of yourself at all times. You are not lazy. You are not selfish. You are not hurting anyone else for making yourself a priority and doing things that you enjoy doing that put you in a good head space. If that means you have to spend a few minutes away from your family and the world, do it! Whatever makes you feel truly feel good about yourself and your life go do it, and do it regularly.
Finally, remember that you are valid and your illness is real. You’re not crazy, you’re not worried over nothing or overreacting, or being dramatic. You have a real disorder that requires multiple forms of treatment and it’s not going to be cured overnight. Everyone gets anxious or nervous sometimes, so no one else really has a right to judge you. You are not your illness. You are a person deserving of a happy and fulfilling life.