I’ve heard a lot about self-sabotaging or being self-destructive when it comes to anxiety, but somewhere along the way, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t do that. I’ve convinced myself that I don’t do things that prevent me from taking advantage of an opportunity or being in line with my goals. Has this been a form of self-sabotage in and of itself? I honestly believe so. Because when I take the time to think about it, I can think of many times in my life where I’ve purposely taken actions – or not taken actions – that weren’t consistent with things I have wanted for myself.
Living with Anxiety
When you deal with anxiety, it's hard to stop yourself from also feeling sad and hopeless. There are a few reasons for this, and for myself, I've found that this has happened to me because dealing with constant anxiety can be extremely exhausting. But I've also found that this has happened to me because the overwhelming feelings and constant worry that go along with anxiety are negative feelings by nature. It's hard to feel positive feelings about anything when you're overcome with anxiety. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
I've found that my mind looks for logic when I'm anxious. In my experience, one of the difficult things about anxiety is dealing with the lack of control that accompanies it, especially when I feel like I can't make sense of what is happening in the situation I am in. When I feel this lack of control, I become completely overwhelmed and feel as though I don't have control over the circumstances within my environment.
Over the years, I have been able to cope with my anxiety much more effectively than I did when I was younger; however, there are still plenty of times when my anxiety has affected my self-worth.
Something I have found about having chronic anxiety is that this often leads to avoiding triggers, which includes avoiding conflict. For example, you might find it difficult to set boundaries in a relationship, or you might find that you've been putting off having a difficult conversation with your supervisor at work. For me, this might look like walking away from arguments or being as diplomatic as possible in an interaction with someone to avoid some sort of conflict.
Not long ago, my therapist asked me to think about my anxiety triggers. I thought about the multiple triggers that lead me to feel anxious, and I realized that one of them is illness, whether it is my own or that of someone I care about.
When I have racing thoughts, feel overwhelmed, and feel like things are out of control, it becomes a major struggle to feel a sense of calm. Calmness, when you're anxious, becomes difficult to achieve, at least at the moment, because it's so hard to quiet all of the other thoughts and resulting symptoms that accompany anxiety, especially when you experience a panic attack. So, then I try to pull myself away from being overstimulated.
Something that I have learned about my anxiety is that it won't go away. It has been something that I have coped with since I was a teenager, possibly even earlier than that, and it is never going to go away. But there are things that I can do to lessen the effects of anxiety.
A part of being chronically anxious includes constant worry about what might happen in the future. But what I've also experienced is that along with this is not just the worry, but the fear of not being good enough, of feeling like you don't meet up to certain standards, and feeling like a failure.
Over the years, I have learned so much about my anxiety, not only through formal education but also simply through taking the time to analyze what I am going through. Some might say that this is just a part of dealing with anxiety -- the overthinking and the constant overanalyzing of what you feel, think, and do. But I think it has also been helpful because it has helped me recognize my triggers and anxiety symptoms. It has also helped me figure out things I can do that are helpful for me. One of those things is leaning into my anxiety and accepting the anxiety instead of running away from it.