Depression and anxiety lie. They tell you that it isn’t possible. They tell you that you can’t do it. They tell you that you will never get better. They tell you that you will always be on the outside looking in at everyone else’s fun.
Lies. Lies. Lies.
It’s only recently however, that I’ve realised just how much these conditions lie to you and tell you what you can and can’t do. I’ve been seeing a therapist privately due to my own anxiety and depression, which I’ve suffered with for 12 years, having suddenly flared up to the point where I am incapacitated. I’ve never experienced anything like it. But, now I’m coming through the other side (finally), things are becoming just that little bit clearer to me.
Anxiety is fear. When we say we feel anxious, we’re simply scared of something. One person’s anxiety may seem ridiculous to you. How does mine sound? I can’t use my phone. I won’t check my email to the point I’ve set up a new account. I’ve not seen any friends for three months. I won’t answer the door. I’ve rarely left the house. I’ve had to stop working because of it.
Ridiculous, right? Yup. All those things I feel ‘anxious’ about, are simply fears that I’ve worked up into something huge in my mind. My anxiety has allowed me to turn these simple, everyday activities into something to be fearful of; telling me I shouldn’t do it because of how it makes me feel. Lies.
If you’re scared of a spider, you feel anxious approaching it for the catch. The fear drives the anxiety. But you can catch that spider, and he isn’t going to hurt you. So why do we allow our thoughts to manifest themselves in such a ridiculous way? Why do we allow the lies to become true through our actions of not-doing?
My depression tells me, quite often, that I’m not as good as everyone else, and that even if I try my hardest, someone out there will be better. This stops me from trying at all. The sad thing is, when I do try, the results are fabulous. I may not be the best. I may not be perfect, but who is? No one. That’s the depression telling you you can’t be as happy and ‘normal’ as everyone else or even attempt to be.
But you are good enough! Try and remember back to times when you’ve felt a sense of achievement, when you’ve made yourself proud. Focus on those in your moments of anxiety, tell yourself that you did that, and you’ve got this.
Some things are totally out of our control, and that’s okay. The trick is to break down those endless lists of anxious thoughts; work out what you can control, and disregard the thoughts of those you cannot. Ultimately, what is the point in focusing and putting so much energy into something you have absolutely no authority over?
Put your anxiety into boxes.
Box 1: Things That I Can Control
These are actions and thoughts that ultimately you have complete control over e.g. I want to go outside today, perhaps to the shops. This is all your decision and completely under your control. The anxiety may tell you you cannot leave the house, but you can if YOU want to. This is under your control. Once you’ve established what you actually can control in your life, you can take steps towards making each one less anxiety-inducing.
Box 2: Things That I Cannot Control, But I Can Influence
These are actions and thoughts that you have no control over the outcome of, but which you can have some influence over should you wish to. E.g. you’ve fallen out with your partner. You’ve said something unfair and know you need to apologise. You do so, because you have control over your own actions, but you cannot control whether or not your partner will accept your apology. All you can do with these items is to approach the things you can influence and action that, whether or not the person accepts your action is their issue. If they do not, then disregard the thought, as you’ve done what you could, under your control.
Box 3: Things That I Absolutely Cannot Control
These are actions and thoughts that you have absolutely no control or influence over. These tend to be the more drastic of thoughts, such as the world ending, having a car crash or, unfortunately in our day and age, a terrorist attack. You cannot control this. You cannot influence this so it’s best to just disregard those thoughts. Why waste time pondering anxious thoughts about things that might never happen, but if they do, you cannot control anyway?
By breaking your anxieties down into these categories you can gain some focus on what you actually need to be dealing with. We spend so much time filling our minds with fuzz that we absolutely cannot control, that we miss dealing with the little things that we can influence. This is unhealthy – no wonder things just become too much some times.
I’m finding the above method is really helping me to rationalise how I’m feeling at the moment and I hope it goes some way to assisting you with your fears. There is no quick fix for anything, but there are steps you can take to look at yourself in a far more positive light, which is what I am currently trying to do.
Read more about my struggle with anxiety.