I don’t know if a person can be cured of anxiety. I don’t live my life afraid, meek, or without taking risks. Most people who encounter me would not believe that I have anxiety, because I’m outgoing, social, and fearless. I can do anything, nothing stops me, and I face my fears head on… so why am I not cured of anxiety?
Before every training class that I teach, I feel nervous. I have racing thoughts of panic, failure, dread.. you name it. I always feel like I really don’t want to do this. However, I am a smart person and I know that I enjoy it. I know that I always make it through it. I know that I’m freaking out over nothing. This is an internal battle. People don’t typically see what’s going on inside my brain. They don’t see the nausea, the dread, the thoughts.
When I stand up in class and I put on a big smile, I work through that nagging rentless anxiety. Sometimes, I talk too fast and I get short of breath, so I just pause a moment. I take a couple of calm breaths. Some times I tell the class “I’ll give you a few minutes to finish your notes.” which ends up benefiting us both. I tell myself “Slow down. You aren’t in a hurry.” and then I actively slow down. I pause between subjects. At some point, I get more relaxed and don’t notice the anxiety. If I don’t notice it, it doesn’t exist.
The next day of class, I go through it again, but it gets easier because “You did fine yesterday. Now you’re a day closer to finishing.” and the more routine it is, the better I feel. By the end of training, I don’t feel anxiety. I feel relief. I feel accomplished. And yes, it’s even rewarding.
It’s like that for everything that I do. Even if I’m going on vacation, I suffer anxiety but it’s not because I’m dreading anything. It’s that excitement has similar affects as anxiety… butterflies in the stomache, anticipation. Believe it or not, they are very similar in how they feel. I feel the anticipation almost as intensly as I feel dread. It makes me nervous and I feel like it would be easier just to stay home. I don’t HAVE to go. However, I am intelligent and I know that I made these plans because I WANT to go. I know that I enjoy it. So I don’t let it stop me.
How can you experience this level of anxiety and still have fun? It’s a valid question. How can a cancer patient be sick all the time and still enjoy life? It’s hard, but we ARE capable of experiencing a mix of emotions. I feel so sick to my stomach, my hands shake, my face and chest turns red, and I get short of breath… if you really look at me, you’ll see it. I simply accept it and refuse to let it stop me.
I am self conscious about my behavior and appearance, but again, I accept it. I pretend my face isn’t red, my hands aren’t shaking, and I’m not nausious. I don’t typically bring it up, apologize, or explain myself. If someone else asks if I’m okay or brings it up, I’m honest. “I have an axiety disorder. It’s involuntary, but I’m actually fine. I just can help looking like a lobster if I feel the tiniest bit of emotion, good or bad.” Sure, I might crack a joke to ease the tension. Honestly, I’m okay.
When I’m not okay, it’s unmistakeable and those symptoms cannot be pretended away. In those times, I step away from the situation and I rely on my friends and loved ones, or retreat to a safe private place. Having a stable life and learning to manage anxiety makes a the big ones far and few in between.
The point is, even when I am having the best time of my life and when I am the happiest that I can be, I STILL experience anxiety. It’s not constant, but it is often and every day. No matter how brave I am, no matter how happy, no matter how smart I am, no matter how conscious and in control I am… I question if there’s a cure. Not a pill… a cure.
This is also why I greatly disagree that anxiety is a lack of willpower or discipline, because I have my life down to a science and I am about as willful as they come.