I’m Not Feeling Very Brave Today.

I have made tremendous progress in bringing my hellacious anxiety to heel (see previous post), but battling that monster every day takes a tremendous amount of energy….. and bravery. 

For me, overcoming anxiety means making a conscious series of decisions all day, every day. I must decide to ignore the devil on my shoulder that encourages me to worry to excess.  I must decide to embrace the positive things in my life. I must pour my thoughts and efforts into things I find intellectually rewarding. I must make exercise a priority. I must have the courage to do things my anxiety says are scary. I must be able to recognize the voice of anxiety is the voice of a liar.  And when anxiety is present, I must choose to accept it as part of my reality at that moment without forgetting it is not my whole reality. Also, when anxiety is present, I must ride out the physical symptoms without being reactive to them, and I must remind myself this storm, like all storms, shall pass. 

If I do all those things, I create a life force of positive energy in my body and mind.  And if I do enough of those things, and do them consistently, the life force of positive energy becomes powerful enough to suffocate the anxious energy that wants to run and ruin my life. And if I keep at it long enough, I begin to feel freedom from the captor I call Anxiety.

It would be impossible for me to describe how difficult it is to consciously choose joy over fear. If you don’t suffer from anxiety, it probably seems simple. Just live my life and be happy, right? Well, anxiety is sometimes referred to as Monkey Mind, and for good reason. I know every single, rational reason why I don’t need to feel anxious every day. On paper, I have it down pat. But Monkey Mind distorts the truth. It makes reality confusing. It creates fear where none exists. And Monkey Mind has almighty power. You see, it is impervious to logic, reason or anything that makes sense. Worse, it’s usually the loudest voice in the room. 

So, to battle anxiety is to say no to that powerful master called Monkey Mind. 

I do it all the time. Every day. And for the past few months, I’ve had the upper hand. But the moment my feet hit the floor this morning, I knew I was losing my bravery. I just felt it in my bones.

In the past, when I woke up feeling that way, I would have let anxiety command me. Walk all over me. Have its way with me.  But today I chose a different response, which, oddly is no response. I just decided to keep my day just as I planned it, and I didn’t let my lack of bravery change anything. There is a great quote about how having courage doesn’t mean you are never scared. Rather, having courage means you are scared and you do it anyway. 

When you suffer anxiety, the normal act of living can feel scary, threatening and overwhelming. Don’t ask me why, it just is. When anxiety flares, the temptation is to retreat from the outside world to a place that feels safer. But today, I decided to just carry on even though I wasn’t feeling brave. I went to the grocery store. I did some laundry. I went to a football game at my daughter’s school. Did I feel great while I was doing those things? No. I felt weak. Tired. Not up to the task of mounting a brave response. 

I think the moral of the story here is that part of conquering anxiety is learning how to have a different response when it rears its nasty head. Learning how to carry forward even though you don’t feel brave.  I think I did that today, and I will consider that progress, even though today was not exactly the best day of my life.

Onward.

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