By diving deep, searching for and speaking my truth, I reduced my anxiety baseline and created a strength that I never knew I had. Why should I think that can't continue to happen?
A few days ago, I looked at the calendar and realized that the anxiety attack that led me into the doctor’s office was only a bit more than a month ago. It feels like soooooooooooooooo much longer than that. That means that it has only been a few weeks since I’ve been feeling better.
This realization has bummed me out a little bit and I’m trying to process why, exactly. I mean, I feel better…that’s a good thing…so why is the amount of time I’ve been feeling better waking me up at night?
I was talking about this with a dear friend yesterday. I described being woke up in the middle of the night, both of the two nights prior, by travel anxiety dreams (airport…lost luggage…wrong terminal…etc…). After waking up, my head went to “charting” my brain health. How long has it been since I’ve been feeling better compared to the amount of time I felt crappy? What’s that ratio? Does that mean I’ll feel crappy again soon? How long can this “feeling better” possible last.
Queue the anxious brain loop here. I finally did manage to go back to sleep both times, but it took a little while and then I was up again at 5:00am both mornings, lying there, waiting for the 6:30 alarm to go off.
Anyway…I was talking to my friend, and I told her about how feeling better is great and my temptation during these high times is to announce, “ALL FIXED!” to the world and move on with my life in a permanent state of bliss and peace. But in the back of my head, I know it’s a cycle. I know there will be another down swing at some point.
Then I thought…does there have to be?
When I wrote my essay, I Was a Promiscuous Teen: A Letter to All the Men from My Past, I was telling a truth that I had never told before, I had never connected to my anxiety before, and that I had a level of shame around that I thought was unique to me. After I wrote and published the letter, which was one of the scariest things I have ever done, an enormous weight was lifted.
It surprised the hell out of me and I realized that I had been anxiously hiding from that particular truth my whole life, and that by outing myself, I was no longer in hiding.
I didn’t expect it. It surprised the hell out of me and I realized that I had been anxiously hiding from that particular truth my whole life, and that by outing myself, I was no longer in hiding. From that moment on, when I would feel fear and shame creep in, all I had to do was remind myself that I wasn’t hiding anymore, my truth is out in the open, and it would dissipate at once.
That change happened the minute I heard back from others who resonated with my story and I realized that not only was I not alone, but that my story and my feelings were sadly, not unique. And that feeling hasn’t gone away. Speaking my truth created a permanent shift within my thinking patterns. I became stronger, braver, more self-assured. Merely being honest with myself and others did that.
Back to me worrying about when the next anxiety shoe is going to drop after these last couple of weeks of feeling pretty darn great… As I was speaking to my friend about the inevitable down swing that I should expect, it occurred to me that permanent change has been made in my thought cycles due to speaking my truth. My letter proves that. Why should I think that more permanent changes can’t happen?
Speaking my truth created a permanent shift within my thinking patterns. I became stronger, braver, more self-assured.
I have been practicing my anxiety management strategies in an effort to change my brain pathways when anxiety hits. I will say that it took me a little while to remember to do them after being woke up in the middle of the night, but when I remembered, and began to breathe and call myself out on past fixating and future tripping, I fell back asleep.
Why should I not believe that in continuing to practice this, I am cutting the anxiety off before it gets out of control, and the longer I practice, the faster that will happen until one day when I don’t have any more anxiety paralyzing down swings that last weeks at best, months at worst?
Also, by believing that the next down swing is inevitable, do I make it so? Is that a self-fulfilling prophecy? This is where my “I Will” statements come in handy: “I Will make permanent change within my anxiety cycles…it just might take some time.”
I KNOW that by diving deep, finding my truth, and saying it out loud, I have the power to change myself. I have experienced it. I am my own proof.
So why am I talking about this? Or maybe the bigger question is, why do I share any of this stuff with you? Because based on my experiences, I KNOW that by diving deep, finding my truth, and saying it out loud, I have the power to change myself. I have experienced it. I am my own proof.
If I think about it, my anxiety over the past year has been half of what it was pre-letter, so who’s to say it won’t continue to lessen? All I can do is believe that by continuing to pour my heart out to you, I will continue to discover more about myself, and knowledge is power, right?
My letter was a big doozy of a truth bomb, but there are also less life shattering examples of this. I once told my ex-boss that I had been taking advantage of our herbal supplements drawer at work, and that I wanted to pay for what I had taken. She looked at me, smiled, got up from her chair and hugged me.
She said she it was no big deal and was glad the supps made me feel better. Weight gone. Forgiveness easily given and received, and it changed me in that I stopped taking advantage, and I didn’t feel stress or guilt surrounding it any longer.
It can be that small but the benefits can be life changing. The moment stress and guilt were alleviated, I realized how big of a presence it had been.
Is there something that you hold deep inside yourself because of fear and shame? Maybe you’re scared you’ll be rejected if it comes out. Maybe you’re terrified that your loved ones won’t support you. Whatever it is, I urge you to speak.
In fact, in the comments below, tell me one thing you have spoken your truth about that made you feel better afterwards. It can be a big or a small thing. It can even be something that you haven’t spoken about before that’s been eating away at your insides…
I’m grateful that through writing, I can process these hard emotions and by painting, I can bring visual examples to life. Through these two creative outlets I make essays, paintings, and personal life changes.
It's never too late to take your power back, grow, and love yourself.
The painting at top is Diving Heart 23, 6”x6”, acrylic & paper on canvas, $120. Each painting in my Reclaimed Hearts series have torn paper hearts, reassembled back onto the canvas. Even though my heart has been broken, and lived in a broken state for many years, by speaking my truth, I have the ability to put it back together and claim it for my own. It may have scars, but it is stronger and more beautiful than ever.
CLICK HERE to get on the Reclaimed Hearts waiting list and get early access and discount codes for the November original art sale. It's never too late to take your power back, grow, and love yourself.
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.