When I first started researching anxiety, everything clicked. The biology of it was really important for me to understand so I could forgive myself for not being able to just turn it “off”. The bit that has stuck with me the most is that when your body senses danger (whatever you have anxiety about), it triggers a fight or flight reaction. You have to make a quick decision to either put up your fists or get the hell out. This reaction is obviously very outdated as it was developed in a time where we were living in the wild and needed to be able to protect ourselves in dire situations. An increased heart rate and rush of adrenaline is your body’s idea of helping you when you detect danger.
In the modern world, the danger our brain detects is no where near as dire as a life or death situation with a bear. The “danger” we detect day to day is not life or death yet we still experience the bodily reaction as if it were. For me, understanding this was what allowed me to heal myself. I started recognizing patterns in thought and separated out “me things” and “anxiety things”. (Before I go further, I feel the need to say that this is boiled down. The path of healing from mental illness is not liner and there is no destination really. I have good periods and bad periods and that’s how my life is going to be. I have lots of tools to help me feel “normal” but I’m human and I make sure to forgive myself for that. You should too.) As cliche as it sounds, I wasn’t able to truly be myself until I realized that anxiety was ruling my brain.
This whole fight or flight thing has been on my mind lately. As I’ve blogged about before, I had a really hard winter. I was mentally not doing well and I was getting a nasty cold like every other week. I think it took me being sick 3 times in one month to finally realize that taking care of myself was more important than going out. ANYWAY, my discomfort in myself projected itself as discomfort in my life. I not only wanted to move to a new city, I needed it. It was the only thing I could picture that would make me happy. I immediately started planning, making timelines, researching, etc. It was really exciting and felt good. Whenever something wasn’t going my way in the present, I would find comfort in thinking about my future life in a cool city. (San Francisco was at the top of my list and probably will always be there – love that city ❤️) For a while, I was really proud of myself for this plan. I have always wanted to move and a year from now sounded like the perfect time. (For anyone who doesn’t know – I grew up in Boulder county, went to school at CU, lived in Denver for a year and now I’m back in Boulder.) But the “perfect timing” turned into “This is the only time I can do it so I have to do it.”
Having a goal and working toward it is healthy. However, it is so easy for them to take a turn for the worse. My goal became unhappy when I made it this beacon of happiness. When I realized this, memories of me doing the same thing rushed back. In college, I latched on to the post-grad life to be my happiness. In high school, I looked to college whenever I wasn’t happy. When I have anxiety, my first reaction is to get out, “flight”. This is probably where my commitment issues stem from but that’s for another post.
The thing about happiness though, it can only be experience in the present. Thanks to Elkhart Tolle and The Power of Now book (seriously – everyone needs to read this), I understand that the present is the only place you can be and experience life. Having that understanding AND putting it in practice is a struggle but so fucking worth it. Right now, my only goal is to make my life now the best it can possibly be. I have made a commitment with myself to be 100% here, right now. I’m still going to move some day, I’m just going to let the universe work that one out for me.