Sad to say:
I have not yet figured out how to feel the level of joy I once felt … before my most recent epic battle with Anxiety and Depression.
I’ve covered extensively how I have a new relationship with my bully, Anxiety. Now, It is an ever-present (feels-like) entity; rather than what had been before …. a bully that liked to sneak up on my frequently, now and again. This new relationship has changed me dramatically … again, in ways that I’ve written about before.
Today, I’d like to share something rather sad and surprising I’ve discovered about Anxiety and me in the past couple weeks. Anxiety doesn’t just latch on to or create irrational fears about my future when I am feeling stressed. It has also found ways to latch on to the positive energy I often experience. It is quite successful in seeing energy simply as energy — positive or negative — and It does jujitsu to turn the positive to a negative before I can do my own jujitsu back.
For those who don’t deal with Anxiety as a mental health problem — as a disease or disorder — my description may sound strange. You see, I’ve been forced (appropriately) by my therapist to see that my brain is / was formed early on in my childhood years into an anxious brain. It’s a chronic condition; a condition I must manage. Part of the management means I need to, at times, outwit Anxiety before it strikes — thus the reference to jujitsu. (Early morning exercise is a version of this jujitsu for me. Exercise — often hardcore yoga — wrests the latent tension in my body away, so Anxiety can’t latch on to muscles ready to accept a fearful or panicked mode.)
But I also, often times, need to recognize that my bully, Anxiety, is sitting right next to me. And It is going to do all within Its power to turn me into what It wants to become …. a heap of curled up fear.
A few weeks ago, I accepted this. Or, I should say, I accepted that the negative fears, worries, and panics that Anxiety likes to thrust upon me would happen during stressful times or times when I feel out of my element or perhaps in any situation I feel a little off-kilter. Over time, the hope is, I will get better at managing and then reducing the duration and frequency of these moments.
Of late, that has meant letting Anxiety sit beside me for 15 – 45 minutes each day as I play brain tricks to show Anxiety that what It is saying isn’t true: “My world is not falling apart.” “People don’t think I’m a freak.” “And I shouldn’t feel like trash (permanently).” I’m just — to borrow lyrics from U2 — “stuck in a moment.”
For example, this morning I felt Anxiety jostling terrible thoughts around in my brain. I went to my bed, turned out the lights, and breathed while just letting Anxiety say It’s terrible things. I then acknowledged those statements as being felt but then made my brain realize the thoughts weren’t true. Or at least not as bad as Anxiety wanted them to feel. Assuming this position and process for 15 minutes this morning calmed me down; it let me grapple with better ways of thinking.
But as I said, in the past few weeks happiness has (thankfully) been more frequent and stronger. And my passions have returned.
As many of my friends and colleagues know, I fancy myself a rather creative guy. When these passions and awesome periods of creativity strike me — dreaming about a better real food future, brainstorming campaigns for antipoverty work, etc. — I get rather worked up.
I used to describe this worked up attitude positively. I felt Snazzy. I’ve often described myself as the most hopeful Anxious and Depressed guy in the world. I still think that’s true. I believe real change is possible … and it is possible more frequently than the regular person — or even powerful people — will acknowledge.
I rather like this part of myself. I love being hopeful. I the passionate and creative places this hope brings me. And I love infecting others with this sense of hope.
Thus the problem with my current situation. Anxiety has at least temporarily robbed this part of my life from me.
As I have become less depressed — as a constant state — I have become more hopeful. And, I (since I started getting treatment for my Anxiety and Depression over a dozen years ago) am naturally-prone to let this hope run beautifully wild.
Anxiety has figured out how to grasp on to this beautiful, wild feeling — the Snazziness within me — and make it become a negative energy.
Thankfully, It doesn’t turn the positive thoughts into negative ones. I don’t think “Oh ‘x’ is so awesome!” and then rethink “Oh ‘x’ sucks!” It’s just the energy that gets co-opted.
The worked up (happy, creative, hopeful) Michael becomes, in very short order, a worked up (anxious, fearful, and incredibly sad) Michael. My thoughts attach to the real uncertainty and murkiness and garbage in my life.
I oh so hope this is a temporary state I am in. I hope I can learn to keep the hopeful, creative, and snazzy feelings running.
Otherwise I only see two options:
- Currently, once I see the hope turning into wild hope … I might have to dial it back. Let hope be hope. But perhaps it can’t become Snazzy hope. Can you imagine how sad this would be to accept? This Snazzy hope is one of the things that I think made / makes me very creative and, in some areas, exceptional.
- I may have to find a way to let hope turn into wild hope for a just a brief period of time. And then, perhaps, I find a way to actually meditate on that hope before the Anxiety co-opts the energy In effect, I would turn the beautifully-wild hope into hopeful peace. Running wild with peace is the opposite of Anxiety. And perhaps that would lead to a new form of creativity. Creativity-jujitsu, if you will.
But I must say, I hope I don’t have to settle on either those options. I’d like to experiment with #2 — not certain I can do it, because I suck at meditating. But I’d also like to find a way to retain the old-Michael-snazziness.
I know I am now a new-Michael. My most recent epic battle with Anxiety and Depression changed me. My brain came out on the other side a different brain.
But I am still Michael. Just as we all change, all the time, I have changed. But I hope this Snazzy part of me is a part of me I can retain.