It’s hard, sometimes, to take my own advice.
I can talk, write about faith, about building confidence in myself. I can tell each and every person I know how much they are doing exactly what they should be doing, but, when it comes down to it, I can still fail to live up to my own words. Every time.
I think anyone who has anxiety can describe in similar terms how the process goes. It sneaks up on you. It usually starts with a thought, innocuous, maybe even, at first, unnoticed. A question you ask yourself. And that sparks another thought and another and another. And before you know it you’re sliding down the path to full-on breakdown.
I could give examples. Goodness knows, I’ve had more than a few from this week alone, but honestly I’m afraid I might start it again, and, in any case, it’s never just one thing. It’s the process. That seemingly inevitable slide towards mental collapse. No matter how many times it happens, you can never quite cut it off before it really gets going, and once it does, no matter how much you want to, you can never quite stop it.
It’s easy to say, “Don’t think about it.” Oh, but what to do when it feels like something else is doing the thinking for you?
I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever get the handle on this, or if I’ll really have to get that therapy I’ve been thinking about but have never been a stable enough situation to start it. (And don’t tell me it’s not about being stable. I mean I’ve moved too much.) I wonder sometimes if I don’t have to live, think, like this. That still, somehow, seems too good to be true. And yet I wish for it every day.
Because I know that anxiety lies, but there are days I just can’t follow my own advice.
I talk about building things little by little, but I doubt that I’m actually building anything.
I say focus on the next step and you’ll get there, and I can’t believe I’m actually going anywhere.
I want to prove it wrong. In that moment, when the thoughts are getting away from me, I want to find the piece of evidence to yank out and say “Here! Here’s how I know you’re wrong.” Only I don’t have it.
Atlanta did a lot to me. It cured me of my homebody-ness, opened me up, changed me, but there are parts of me that still have not forgiven myself for it. And they are so very afraid Minneapolis is going to turn out the same way. And I am having a hard time trying to convince them otherwise.
So I tell myself a story. I tell myself it is a story. Like any story, like the best stories, you can’t tell how things are going to turn out, and yet when you look back, you can see it was all meant to be. The best stories get rough; it looks like things aren’t going to happen most just before they do.
Some days I believe the story. Some days I don’t.
A thought popped into my head this week, about Egypt. I remember from Exodus, when Moses is leading his people out of slavery, they’re in the desert and the first thing they can say when it gets hard is how great Egypt was. Egypt, where they were enslaved. Egypt, where their sons were killed, where they were beaten, where they broke their backs working. It wasn’t great, but Egypt, to them, seemed better than where they were, and I’m starting to see why.
Because Egypt was bad, but it was predictable. You didn’t get a lot to eat, but you knew where your next meal was coming from. The work was hard, but it was nothing new. Chains are their own kind of safety, and freedom can be scary sometimes.
I can get in that thought mode. I have been. Looking back at Austin, when I had a regular job, a place to stay, when I didn’t have a lot but I had enough that I didn’t worry about losing something. About the power or the food or the rent. I didn’t always like the numbers but they added up; I felt responsible at least.
I can’t see the numbers. I see possibilities, but it’s a lot of unknowns, and I have nothing substantial to prove my anxiety wrong. But that’s an adventure, isn’t it? That’s what it means. You can’t have an adventure without the unknown. You can’t grow, you can’t change at all, without moving into somewhere you’ve never been before.
That’s freedom. From the things that were slowly killing you, though it’s hard to remember now. From the cage that would have suffocated you because you could never grow bigger than it. From the lies that you didn’t know were lies, and, yes, they’ve gotten louder but at least you know what they are.
I don’t have all the answers. I honestly hope no one reading has ever gotten that impression. I have a lot of questions. I wish so much that I could give you the life lesson, the formula. God knows I’ve been looking for it long enough. I wish so much that I could talk you after the fact, with all this behind me, so that I could speak from experience with clarity, instead of right in the middle with a lot of confusion.
But I’m pushing through. It’s all I know how to do when the thoughts get away from me. And maybe that’s enough.
Maybe this is a story. Maybe anxiety really lies. And maybe I don’t have to believe that all the time. The story goes on anyways.
And maybe it’s a good one.