Several months ago my therapist asked me a simple question:
What if what your Anxiety is telling you is wrong?
It was a question that I knew to ask myself already. But my therapist was asking me it in sort of a declarative way. I was, at that moment, freaking out about something in front of her.
In essence she said, “Michael, don’t trust your illness-related Anxiety. Pause. Breathe. Then process how the future is not likely to be the future Anxiety tries to foist upon your brain.”
I’m paraphrasing here, but she then said something like this: “Embrace silence. Use that silence to find ways to minimize the remote dangers Anxiety likes to force upon your thoughts. Ask yourself, “Really?” Challenge yourself to consider alternate futures … futures that are not nearly as drama-filled as your Anxiety likes to dream up.”
While my Anxiety has become less life-altering with each passing month, I still experience some form of It regularly. Thankfully, I am learning how to minimize Its impacts more often.
I minimize my Anxiety with the long pauses and silence my therapist advised. While this can be awkward in public settings surrounded by extroverts, it is much better than the alternative. That is, it’s best not to publicly freak out in front of everyone if I can help it.
Admittedly though, long pauses and silence — while better than the alternative — limit my options. There are conversations I can’t be a full participant in. There are decisions that I seem to make in slow motion.
But at least I am not acting in the rash manner my Anxiety would love for embarrass me with.
Truth be told however, there is a definite sadness in self-imposed silence. I would love to be capable of being a part of all the conversations and decisions that get made around me.
But back to that visit with my therapist a few months ago when I said just that “I would love to be capable of being a part of all the conversations and decisions that get made around me.”
“Really?” She paused, “Really, Michael? Some decisions are made far too quickly, far too rashly.”
“Maybe your silence is a strength. Maybe the world needs reflection now and again.”
She then moved on to another part of our session as if to place an exclamation point on the conversation we just finished.
Her advice has helped me successfully navigate the world despite the presence of my bully named Anxiety.