I often refer to my struggles with anxiety as “paralyzing,” and I’m more than certain many others feel this way about their own battles with this illness as well. When my anxiety prevents me from physically getting out of bed in the morning because I’m so fearful of facing the day, that’s paralysis. When my anxiety tells me that I shouldn’t go out with friends to some public place, because I may be put into a social situation I’m uncomfortable with, that’s paralysis. When my anxiety refuses to let me speak my mind for fear of what others may think of me, that’s paralysis.
All 0f these paralyzing things, these anxieties, stem from fears. Notice I didn’t necessarily say rational fears – in fact, 9 out of 10 of these fears are irrational. But when it comes to irrational fears, anxiety is the package deal. “If I say this thing, what will [person] think of me?” “Remember that unimportant thing that happened a week ago that made you slightly uncomfortable that everyone else has likely forgotten about? Dwell on it.” “That person gave you a look that could maybe be taken as offensive, so naturally, it means that person must hate your guts – there’s no other explanation.”
Now, I’ve said this dozens of times, but for those without anxiety: we know these fears are irrational. I, who worries about many of these things on a daily basis, can look at these as I type and say, “That fear isn’t rational.” Trust me, I know, and people with anxiety know. But the day simple logic stops an anxiety-riddled mind from thinking the way it does is the day anxiety no longer exists. This is what separates anxiety-sufferers from “normal” people who are just worrying about something: logic and the knowledge that their fear is irrational will do next to nothing to soothe their roiling thoughts.
This may unintentionally go the way of Inception, but the reasons above are precisely why I fear what fears I may have in the future. I fear my future fears. Why? Because I know, once I have this fear branded into my mind, however irrational it may be, it will be another opportunity for my anxiety to paralyze me. If my anxiety (and I do specifically mean my anxiety) determines that something is to be feared, it’s mighty hard to convince it otherwise. The very anxiety that tells us to prevent doing this thing we fear is the same thing that prevents us from seeing the irrational thought behind it. Sure, it would be great to ride that roller coaster to show our anxiety it won’t come off the rails and kill us all, but there’s no way in hell our anxiety would let us actually do that. What, the odds of you dying on an amusement park ride are 10,000 to 1? No way we’re taking those odds!
So, long story short, I fear what I will fear in the days to come, because I know that it will prevent me from experiencing so much of what life has to offer. This is one of the many reasons I’ve taken to practicing CBT and mindfulness – I refuse to let my mental illness get the better of me if I can help it.
Does anyone else feel this way? We’re so afraid of these fears being stamped into our heads, because we know what the consequences are. If anything, this post certainly argues for the quote: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Ain’t that right.