Dear Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

We’ve been together for a while now and we’ve come to know each other well. At first I was grateful for you, holding me back from stupid decisions, holding me back from embarrassing myself, holding me back from danger.

But now you’re just holding me back.

Too often now you’re first at the scene before I’ve even realised that you need to be. And you never try to hide that you’ve arrived.

You make my heart pound against my chest, like it’s looking for a way out.

You rush the blood to my brain, to my muscles, to my limbs.

You tense my muscles and quicken my breath.

You flood me with oxygen and ready me to move, even when there’s no move for me to make.

I feel dizzy.

A sweaty, waxy film sits upon on me and dampens my skin.

My limbs shake. Adrenalin surges through me.

I feel sick.

I want to vomit.

The physical feelings engulf me.

They make me sick. Literally sick.

I can’t focus on anything else.

You are so compelling, so I search for the danger – something that fits what I’m feeling and explains the craziness inside me. Whether or not the danger is real doesn’t matter, because I can’t help but act as though it is.

Now I’m anxious about getting anxious. I anticipate you before you’re there – that sick, clammy racing feeling.

Do you ever think of what you do to me? That’s a stupid question. I know you don’t. You don’t think of anything at all. 

You’re primal. I get it. All action and no thought. You’re the siren that screams at shadows to warn me they’ll pounce. But they never do. The only thing pouncing is you.

I hate the way I feel when you’re around. You stand around me like those unsmiling, unwavering security guards, ready to stand between me and trouble. But now you stand too close.

I can feel your hot moist breath on the back of my neck and when that happens, I can’t breathe. I would do anything to avoid you and sometimes that’s exactly what I do – I avoid you, or the places I know you will be.

At first I didn’t understand you but there was something about you that was strangely comforting. I’ve been terrified, actually terrified to let you go. I don’t know what letting you go will look like, but what I do know is that having you around feels bad.

You would say you protect me – from danger, from standing out, from failing, from embarrassing myself. I know you believe this. You’ve believed it enough for both of us. It’s never occurred to me until now that you might be wrong.

I’m looking too hard for the reasons to explain you. I hear you. I feel you. But I don’t know why you’re there. So I’m starting to think that you need me, more than I need you – and because of this I would be much better off without you.

You’re an alarmist. I’ve been paying too much attention to the drama you create inside me. Now I’m going to focus on the truth and it’s this: I don’t need you. I know you think you’re looking after me – I know that – and I’m grateful for you being there when I’ve needed you. But now you’re there whether I need you or not, and that’s not good for me.

You’re too quick to jump. Too quick to see things that aren’t there. Too quick to see trouble. Too quick think I can’t deal with it. 

When I close my eyes I see you and I feel you, but when I slow my breaths you fade. 

I know you hate when I do that. All the fight or flight, all the readying, all the work you do – it slowly falls away, one breath at a time.

So that’s how I’ll start. It won’t be easy. We’ve become a partnership you and I. Predictable. Safe. Needed.

I know you don’t mean to hurt me but the truth is that you do.

Thank you for trying to take care of me. I know you want to stay, and part of me wants you to stay – just in case. But I’m better off without you. So slowly, one breath at a time, I’m letting you go.


Anxiety can be debilitating, I know, but it doesn’t have to be. For more ways to deal with anxiety that work, see here.

 

3 Comments

Dear Anxiety……It’s Over! | Doing It Afraid

[…] I just read the most awesome letter addressed to anxiety.  It was a Dear John sort of letter but it broke anxiety down in it simplest form.  I would recommend that everyone read it and see the lie behind this fear that we feel on a daily basis. We have to acknowledge the fact that it is only a feeling and there is a way out if we just turn towards the door and take one step at a time.  https://www.heysigmund.com/dear-anxiety/ […]

Reply
Elexis

All I can do is cry. This is so touching and I thank you so much for putting this into beautiful words. I have been dealing with anxiety for 8 years now and just decided that I needed a change and that there is no real danger that I am hiding from. You put into words, so elegantly, what I am feeling and doing now. I started a blog doingitafraid.org to communicate these same feelings. Thank you so much for your lovely words! 🙂

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Let them know …

Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This