Living with a mental illness such as anxiety can be hard. That being said, I think a lot of people who do suffer with one often want as much as anything to be able to overcome it.
I speak from experience.
The other day, I was approached by my swim coach. Having known about my case, I was so far exempt from doing anything out of my comfort zone. Because of this, I was quite content about the team and my experiences on it; I’d met a few new people, had some fun with some friends, exercised. It was good.
Up until last practice, of course.
At the end of the meet, the last one before our break, our coach approached me just a moment before I could walk through that change room door and be home free.
“Ha, I knew this was coming!” My dad had said, at the dinner table, when I had finally told him about being ‘invited’ to the next meet. Yep, because of my inability to express my thoughts about anxiety or disagreement without tearing up, I had simply muttered an unsure “yeah, I guess I’ll go,” to my coach when asked to come.
“It’ll be good for you,” I remembered them both saying, quite clearly, “it might help you, y’know. You can’t overcome it if you don’t try,” my dad had continued on. I vaguely remember my coach saying something along the same lines.
So, that was that. I was to go to the next meet. I didn’t have any input on the situation, really. And it wasn’t as if I didn’t want to get help, or overcome my anxiety.
That’s the tough part about the whole thing, though. It’s an endless loop. It’s a mental illness based on fear. Irrational, insufferable, constant fear. The only way to overcome fear, is often to face it. But that’s the whole thing about anxiety; the fear is nearly indomitable.
That in itself creates and endless loop. How do you face your fear, if your scared of it?
Then there’s another loop. This one, definitely becomes more of a problem when you have anxiety itself. Everyone has normal fear, and plenty of people have faced their fears and overcome them. It’s not impossible.
It gets to the point where you fear what becomes of you after that fear is gone, if you can ever get to that point. For instance, in the case of the swimming, getting over that fear would mean to go to meets regularly. I can’t imagine myself there without that constant ache of impending doom, without the racing heart and nausea. That may be exactly what’s stopping me from overcoming my fear in the first place; maybe I don’t really want to. I mean, if I’m scared of the meets, it’s not like I can visualize being there without being scared. They are one in the same, in my head. So when you talk about getting over that fear and going, what it means to me is that I should disregard everything I think and feel about and during the situation and force myself into an incredibly uncomfortable environment and pretend I am completely okay with that. What else can ‘overcome’ mean?
As I said earlier, this creates another loop of why getting over a fear is ultimately a bad idea to me. It just means you’ll be forced to do whatever it is over and over and over again, whether or not it’s actually enjoyable to you or not. It just doesn’t seem like a situation that’s worth all the fear of getting through in the first place, if that makes any sense.
Then, there’s another two other loops that lay beneath those two big ones.
First, there’s the fear of being afraid itself. Instead of just generally being afraid of being in the situation that makes me uncomfortable in the first place, it’s the fear of the uncomfortability itself that also makes me want to hide under a blanket for the rest of my life. I’m afraid of being afraid, as strange as that may sound. The thought of being in that anxiety-induced state is enough to bring on an anxiety-induced state.
The second is sort of alike to one I mentioned earlier, which is the fear of what will happen after the fear is gone. I mean, as someone who can firmly say they spend quite a lot of their time thinking about fear, and rationalizing fear, and overcoming fear, and submitting to fear, capitulating to fear, and doing all the things someone can mentally do to their fear, sometimes it doesn’t seem as if I am anything without the fear. I spend so much time being afraid of the thing, what will I have to think about if I’m not afraid? Will I spend my time worrying about something else instead? I don’t seem to have much of a personality, really, without that fear. It’s often what fuels me to make the decisions I do, creates the perceptions people have of me, motivates me to do well in certain aspects and fail completely in others. It makes me, me, and I don’t really know what I would be without that part of myself.
Maybe that’s why so many mental illnesses are so hard to overcome; they’re all just endless loops of thought and emotion, rolling over and revitalising in your mind endlessly. Like trying to outrun a boulder, when there’s only the option to go forwards — you’re going to be running forever.
I guess this is just bound to be the circle of my life then, isn’t it?
Nothing to be afraid of, of course. I’m used to it by now.