You wouldn’t know this about me if you met me, but I’m an incredibly anxious person. You wouldn’t know it because I’m still high-functioning. I work two jobs, go to school, write, socialize. I do everything you wouldn’t expect the stereotypical anxious human to do.
However, I am still an anxious person. Food still sometimes causes anxiety. Socializing in bars and with people that are normal drinker still sometimes causes anxiety. Making my voice heard still sometimes causes anxiety.
I got so used to not having a voice, that I am anxious when I use it. What if I said the wrong thing? What if I made someone else feel bad? Is my opinion really worth mentioning? Does anyone even care?
Last week I submitted an application for an internship next summer that I really want. I submitted a different application for a poetry workshop next semester. I talked to so many new people. I went to four different house parties. I wrote emails to people who I am vaguely scared of.
Yesterday, I made plans to hang out with two different people this weekend, one of which I just met. I made plans to go out with my friends Friday night. I started writing a novel (yes, I am partaking in NaNoWriMo).
Today I gave a presentation in a class where I don’t feel as intelligent as the rest of the students. I sent an email to a professor asking for help on an assignment. I made four phone calls and picked up the phone when I didn’t know the number. I am writing about my anxiety.
It is not always easy to do the opposite of what anxiety tells you to do. In fact, it’s never easy. Opposite action (thank you, DBT) to any emotion is the most challenging skill for me to practice. I never really want to practice opposite action, but not wanting to practice opposite action is an emotion I have to practice opposite action against.
My anxiety tells me, over and over again, that I cannot do these things. Or, if I can do these things I will do them incorrectly. Or, if I can do these things correctly, that nobody will care. Or, if someone cares, they will be offended.
This could go on for a lifetime. My anxiety will always find a reason to exist. But I am doing the things I am anxious about anyways.
I am socializing, eating, working, writing, talking. I am doing what I didn’t think I could. Because I know now that someone will listen to me, and I can do these things. There is evidence that my anxiety is wrong, because I have successfully accomplished all of these things at one point or another, and continue to accomplish them on a daily basis.
This is a ridiculous story, but when I first saw the movie Divergent (read the books and save yourself the heartache of terrible Hollywood interpretations, friends), I wrote a six word story. That story was: do exactly what scares you most. At the time, I wasn’t in a place where I could always take that advice; now I am. I do the things that scare me to prove to myself that they do not need to scare me.
Every time I’m anxious about a situation, I tell myself to tell my anxiety to kiss my ass. Basic, kinda profane, and a little ridiculous, but it works for me. I take a breath, mentally tell this to my anxiety, and I do the thing anyways.
You can do hard things, and you are so brave for doing them. Even if you’re anxious, if the action is the right one, do it anyways.