Anxiety gets a pretty bad rap, and I’d like to change that.
I say all the time that I love my anxiety and I am grateful for my anxiety, and I think everybody who has an anxiety disorder should love it just as much as I do. Honestly….it makes a lot of people roll their eyes. People can find that attitude to be very annoying. It even makes some people angry.
I just got blocked on Twitter by a man who sarcastically asked me why my life with anxiety was so “wonderful”. He told me he thought I was “odd” for loving it. I told him that I don’t see anything wrong with trying to make something good from the worst thing that had ever happened to me up to that point in my life. I told him that hating my anxiety had done not one single thing for me, so I decided to try loving it.
I’m not allowed to contact him anymore. True story.
I think the reason that my “anxiety love” annoys people is because it suggests that my anxiety must not be “real” anxiety. People think either I don’t have it as bad as everybody else, or I am just a lollipop-holding ball of fluff who is the type to always see rainbows and not let anything get me down. Neither of those things is the case. If I’m holding a lollipop, you can bet I made it all on my own out of all the lemons life has handed me. And although I do love rainbows, I hardly see them everywhere. I have just trained myself to look for them.
It was not easy training myself to love and be grateful for my anxiety. It’s not a feeling that I simply waited to come upon me. It was a conscious choice I had to make, and it hasn’t been easy. Even to this day, I struggle with it sometimes.
But honestly, what other choice is there? Sit and be miserable for the rest of my life, succumbing to every scared feeling I have?
There is no way I could spend my life doing that.
I had spent enough time on frustration and disgust, self-pity, anger and “This isn’t fair.” I had more than paid those feelings their due. They did nothing for me. It was time to let all of that go and try a new way. It was the wisest decision I ever made.
You have to live with your anxiety YOUR WAY. I am not here to tell anybody they are wrong if they don’t feel grateful for their anxiety disorder. If being angry at your anxiety is working for you and you are the kind to refuse to ever look at it as a “friend” than I respect that. I wrote this post for those are who are looking for a way that works better for them and who are willing to consider another viewpoint.
So, in addition to the overall general sense of gratitude I feel for the personal growth I have experienced from my anxiety disorder, let me share ten more reasons why anxiety is not the worst thing that ever happened to me.
1. Nothing Gets Past Me.
I have so much adrenaline in me that I pick up on everything. I see things out of the corner of my eye that most people wouldn’t notice if they were looking straight at it. I have five kids and they get away with nothing. I’m kind of like a living radar.
Secret looks to each other when I am demanding to know “Who dunnit”? ……. I see them.
Does that cookie jar have one less cookie in it then the last time I looked in there? Somebody better fess up.
And I don’t just see everything, I hear everything. If somebody is laying under three blankets watching YouTube at 1 a.m. with the headphones on, I will know. When my kids are teenagers they are so screwed because if they ever try to sneak out of the house, they won’t even make it one step out. They will open the door and there I will be, standing on the front porch, laughing at their foolishness, and shoving their butts back inside.
I can also sense a person’s mood the second I lay eyes on them.
Don’t tell me you aren’t in a bad mood….I can feel it. I am so good I can feel your mood through a text.
And I am the wrong person to lie to. Don’t even try it. I can smell a lie from a mile away. Sometimes my foolish kids forget who they are dealing with and try to toss one my way, and I just cross my arms and look at them….waiting. It doesn’t take long before they crack and admit everything. They know I know.
I pick up on vibes and body language so easily, and it drives my husband crazy because often when we are talking I will say “I know you are bored with what I’m saying.” He says “No I’m not. I’m listening to you.” And I say “No….I just saw you scratch the side of your head with your index finger….you are dying to get out of this conversation, aren’t you?” He denies it, but he knows I am right. And other people with anxiety know I am right too. We have a “super awareness” and its a bit like a superpower that keeps us on top of everything that is going on around us.
So, thank you Anxiety.
2. I Never Tried Illegal Drugs.
I know that a lot of people turn to drugs as a way to escape anxiety issues and I don’t judge. But I never went that route. I was always much too scared to try drugs of any kind, and that is really a blessing to me because addiction of all kinds runs very strongly in my family.
Ok, there was that one time when I tried marijuana because my boyfriend just broke up with me, and my friend said it would help “calm me down”. It gave me the most wicked panic attack and literally made time stand still. I remember yelling at my friend, “Breathe into my mouth!”, because I thought I needed oxygen, and then I started panicking even more because I remembered she had been smoking it too and I thought she had gotten me even higher. I was sure I was going to die and ended up calling 911 on myself and had the police, paramedics and a fire engine in my driveway. That was a fun day…..dumped, dying, and disgraced.
But anyway, needless to say, I never tried marijuana again after that, or any harder drugs. I am really grateful to my anxiety because with my personality traits and family history and the environment I grew up in…I have no doubt that if I HAD tried them, I would have become an addict.
Thank you Anxiety.
3. I Know What I Am Made Of Now
Before my anxiety disorder erupted, I was weak. I couldn’t handle anything on my own and I had no idea who I was or what I was capable of. I just assumed the worst about myself all the time. But after my anxiety disorder arrived, I was forced to take a hard look at myself and the way I was living my life and I quickly realized that I had to make some changes.
Instead of spending every waking minute analyzing useless “brain junk”, I started using that great analytical power of mine…the one that all of us with anxiety have that got us into this mess in the first place….to assess my thinking patterns and the way I reacted to stress and problems in my life. And I learned how to flip it around for the better.
When I was a little girl, and for a lot of my adult life actually, I wanted the fairy tale ending where a man would come along and “save me” and make me feel complete and shelter me from all the problems of the world. That was my dream. And now I say “Screw THAT. ” I have never had anybody try to “save” me before but if they ever tried now, I would find if offensive. I pride myself on how strong I am, and perhaps my anxiety disorder has caused me to veer off into the “too independent” category. But that’s okay. I would rather be too independent than too dependent any day of the week. I hate that I wasted so much of my life in the “victim” role and I am SO glad my anxiety disorder came along and gave me that mental slap that woke me up.
Anxiety is one disorder that for the most part, you have to walk through on your own. Nobody can “fix” it for you. They might be able to give you a map to show you the way out, but you’ve got to make the journey by yourself…. and I did it. And as a result, I am more independent in all areas of my life.
I also learned that I am sensitive, imaginative, capable…….and a compulsive negative thinker and worrier. These are all things that I was never consciously aware of before my anxiety disorder. But I know now.
Anxiety basically just gave me a stronger connection to who I am as a person.
Thank you anxiety.
4. I have found my purpose.
If you had told me when I was my “pre-anxiety disorder” 18 year old self, that 25 years later I would be writing a self-help blog sharing with the world what it takes to successfully live with an anxiety disorder, I would have thought you clearly had the wrong person. The second thing I would have thought is probably, “Oh my God! What am I going to be going through that is so bad I decide to write a self-help blog because of it?!” At that age, I had never even HEARD of an anxiety disorder. I had never heard of a panic attack. I had no idea that these types of mental health issues existed and affected millions of lives.
But now, 25 years later, I know that my purpose in life, aside from being a mother to my children, is to share what I have gone through and use it to help others. Everybody needs a purpose in life….a cause to fight for……a way to try to help make the world better. And my anxiety disorder gave me mine.
Thank you anxiety.
5. I can be a guide to my children if they should ever develop an anxiety disorder.
All my kids have at least some of my personality traits.
Between the five of them, there is a lot of introversion, intelligence, over thinking, sensitivity, worrying, restlessness and over reaction.
Do any of my kids have the right combination of these traits to have inherited my anxiety disorder? That has not been revealed yet. I will know more as they get older and their personalities develop more. But because I know they have a stronger chance of developing an anxiety disorder than the average person, I have made mental health a priority in my household. We have frequent talks about self-confidence and self-worth. Loving yourself is a very strong theme in my family. I teach my kids that they are capable and I focus on teaching a positive attitude. They know the risks of over-thinking and they know the symptoms of anxiety disorders and to let me know if they develop any of those symptoms.
Will all this be enough to stave off an anxiety disorder if any of my kids do grow up with the right “Anxiety Causing Personality Formula”?
I don’t know. But maybe. And at the very least, they will not be caught off guard the way so many of us are when our disorders erupt and they will have me to help them through this maze. They certainly will not wander around for 6 months questioning whether or not they are losing their mind, the way that I did.
And even if they don’t develop anxiety disorders, they will still benefit from the fact that I put a strong focus on teaching them self-reliance and independence and inner strength. I teach them about valuing themselves and loving themselves and all the things that nobody ever taught me, and I know their lives will be better for that.
Thank you Anxiety.
6. I am a mentally healthier person now.
Having an anxiety disorder has taught me the importance of taking care of my mental health. I get it now. It was the wake up call I needed to start valuing my mental health as much as my physical health. My inner dialogue is positive now. “I can’t” has become “I can”. I do daily breathing exercises and muscle relaxation, so my muscles are not as chronically tense as they used to be. I take time-outs from my life whenever I feel the stress building up so I don’t get that “overwhelmed and out of control” feeling. I have learned how to work with my anxiety to make my life calmer and more peaceful.
I have slowed down the pace of my life dramatically and people who have known me a long time tell me that they can see the difference in the “vibes” I am giving off. I used to be full of nervous energy all the time, speaking fast and almost a little hyper and TOO cheerful in my attempts to please people. And now I am much more laid back and easy-going and I frankly just don’t care so much what other people think and it shows. And while it will never be “perfect“, I am light-years away from where I used to be.
Thank you anxiety.
7. I appreciate all the things that the “normals” of the world take for granted.
There was a time that I couldn’t leave my house without being terrified. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t sit down to eat in a restaurant. I was basically confined to my house for a period of time, because the very thought of going out into the world would send me straight into a panic attack.
Before my anxiety disorder, I did all those things and never thought twice about them. Since my anxiety disorder……I will never take them for granted again. Every time I go to a restaurant, I have a flashback to that time 20 years ago when I was sitting at Red Lobster, absolutely terrified and miserable and filled with such tremendous dread. The dread was so heavy……that is the only way I can describe it……. and I could not make sense of it. And I specifically remember thinking “I will never enjoy anything again.” And I believed that 100%. But now, 20 years later, I can enjoy everything again. And I enjoy it MORE than I used to because of where I have been. I can drive again. I can go out by myself again. All the things that most people wouldn’t think twice about, I am grateful for and I know how lucky I am.
Thank you Anxiety.
8. I have never broken a bone or been seriously hurt.
I am going to throw this one in here despite the fact that I am worried about jinxing myself and winding up in a full body cast by the end of the week. But I am going to cross my fingers and hope for the best. (So unlike me.)
I am a very safe person. I don’t really consider that a product of my anxiety disorder, but since its one of the traits that I think has led to my anxiety disorder..I am going to include it here on my list.
I like being safe. I don’t like taking any risks that could potentially cause a trip to the ER…. or my death. That pretty much means I am scared of about 95% of everything. But that’s okay…I’m totally cool with that. I do not fly, and will never fly. You aren’t going to find me bungee jumping or parachuting. Skiing? Forget it. Roller coasters? Nope. I always drive the speed limit, and I really try to avoid elevators as much as possible because I don’t want one to “break” and send me plummeting 10 stories to my death. I used to work in a hospital delivering floor slips and I would walk up seven flights of stairs, several times a day just to avoid the elevator. And you know what? I’d still do it. Sore legs I can handle. Crushed legs….not so much. (Hey, I have an anxiety disorder. All my fears aren’t going to be rational.)
Some might say…..“But you aren’t really living!” “You need to have some excitement!” “You gotta have some thrills in your life!” “Being too cautious is boring!” “You are missing out on some of the great parts of life!”
But let me tell you…..lack of excitement will NEVER be a problem in my life. I don’t need the typical “thrills” to make my adrenaline rush. I am what I call a “Natural Adrenaline Producer”. For me, just going to the grocery store is almost the equivalent of a sky dive . If I was ever actually to go sky diving I am pretty sure I would just pass out on the way down. And if I wasn’t lucky enough to pass out, the sheer terror I felt would probably be enough to traumatize me for life. And I don’t say that to be funny…I truly mean it.
I have never been seriously injured in any way, and I am really, REALLY glad for that.
Thank you Anxiety. (Knocking on wood, just to be on the safe side.)
9. I haven’t been bored in 25 years.
I don’t think the words “I’m bored” have left my mouth since my high school geometry class. If I ever get a quiet moment, my tendency to daydream, my need to analyze, or my worry compulsion always kicks in to fill that empty space in my mind. My mind is like an ipad. It has an app for a million different things. I am always imagining, planning, remembering or creating.
And lack of drama is never an issue for me. All I have to do is swipe through my vast collection of personal memories or stories and I will find something that will fill up those times in my life where nothing else interesting is going on. I have unlimited memory space in my brain so I can pull up every bad thing that happened to me since I was 3 years old. It’s all right there for me. And if going down “Bad Memory Lane”, isn’t enough to keep me entertained, I will just create my own drama right there on the spot. Give me any topic in the world…I can turn it into a possible catastrophe.
I’m not saying its fun being a compulsive worrier and drama seeker, but this list is all about the positive so I’m not going to focus on that right now.
Right now, I will just say “Thank you Anxiety, for making sure I am never without mental stimulation.”
10. It doesn’t take much for me to feel amazing about myself.
For a lot of us with anxiety, 90% of the world is outside of our comfort zone, and anytime we cross over that threshold, its like a small awesome little victory. And the natural high from these victories is amazing. As in: “Yes I did just call and order that pizza all by myself. I even told the girl on the phone she got part of it wrong when she read the order back. ‘That should be Pepperoni only on half.’, I told her. I am so BAD ASS!”
Okay, the rest of the “normal” world may not think my victories are worthy of celebration….but I know when I rocked it and I know that other people with anxiety can appreciate what an achievement that is. So yay me!
Thank you Anxiety.
Bonus Reason: 11. I am Interesting.
(This is how serious I am about loving my anxiety. I couldn’t even limit my reasons to only 10.)
But let me tell you, you are never going to meet anybody else like me. Not only have I been through hell and back and lived to tell the tale, but I have quirks and phobias and I put them out there. How many people are you going to meet who can work themselves into a panic attack over-thinking how their body parts move? That’s right…not many! And I’ll tell you all about it while it’s happening too. I’m not ashamed to be weird.
When you are an anxious, neurotic person and you totally own everything about that, people are going to remember you. Trust me.
For example, when I have to get on an elevator, I always wait for somebody else to show up so they can ride with me. If nobody is around, I’ll find somebody to ride with me. Then when the doors close I say “Hi. Just so you know. If we get stuck. I will probably act like I’ve lost my mind. Just warning you.”. Usually they laugh. Sometimes not. But it gets their attention, and then you can feel the relief pour out of both of us when the doors open.
My sister and I got lost in a hotel in St. Louis once because I refused to take the elevators and the stairwells weren’t directly connected from floor to floor. You had to leave one stairwell, then search the next floor for the next stairwell. It was a complete adventure and we had so much fun, but finally found ourselves LOST. Finally we ran into a security guard and he said, “Why don’t you just take the elevators?” And I laughed and said “Because I have an elevator phobia. The bigger issue is how come YOUR stairs don’t all connect?” He told me we were on a floor not open to the public and there was no way to get to the my floor from where we were. He was so sweet and rode with us to our floor and talked me down from my panic the whole way down. We got off the elevator and he said “You guys have a good night. You were a lot of fun.” We smiled and went back to our room and laughed at how much fun we had. I will never forget that, and I have a feeling he won’t forget us either.
Some might look at this kind of attention as a bad thing, but I have learned that if you are going to live with anxiety, you have got to have a sense of humor about it. If you are just real about it and acknowledge it as a part of who you are, you will be amazed at how it can help bring about some of the silliest, best memories of your life.
So there is my list of reasons why I am GLAD anxiety came into my life.
If you have an anxiety disorder, I am hoping this will encourage you to see if you can find at least a few reasons to be grateful for it. If you are in need of some more “gratitude inspiration”, give this post from The Change Blog a read.
Picture From Pixabay