Why So Anxious?

I find it quite humorous at this point how many times I have been asked why I’m so anxious or what exactly I’m anxious about. Especially because those are usually the immediate follow up questions when I explain that I have an anxiety disorder. Even other mental health professionals that I work with ask me these things. Maybe it is just a reflexive question asked to be polite or seem interested. But once you’ve been asked so many times it becomes frustrating and eventually funny. It is like asking someone with clinical depression, “why are you so sad?”

My latest response when asked what I’m anxious about has been: Nothing. That’s why it’s a disorder. That can at least get a laugh sometimes. And I don’t really blame people for not getting it. I struggle to understand it myself a lot of the time. I am constantly having to step back from my racing thoughts and tell myself, “You are OK.” It also helps sometimes to go through a mental list of all the things that are going well in my life.

One of the most bizarre aspects of my anxiety is that I often feel anxious about “being rushed.” Yet I’m the one rushing myself. I have to stop and remember that I am allowed to take as long as I want. I’m not on anyone’s schedule but my own. It is quite a strange and often frustrating feeling.

For some reason when my anxiety used to be mainly focused on social situations, it made more sense to me. At least then there was a fear I could pinpoint. This vague fog of anxiety that surrounds me now is just unsettling. I never really know when it is going to appear. Which creates its own mist of anxiety. I become anxious about getting anxious. It’s all just so ridiculous. I’ve got to laugh at myself sometimes.

Over the years I’ve come to learn that I am able to take a lot of the power away from my anxiety if I can just remind myself not to take life so seriously. Because life doesn’t have to be so serious. In the end I think we are all here to take pleasure in the little moments we share together. When you look at anything in the grand scheme of things it seems small and insignificant. Then it feels silly to be so upset.

Just as with most things in life, a lot of our suffering is self-induced. I’ve noticed that when I allow myself to feel anxious, allow those feelings to exist, just accept them instead of resisting them and desperately trying to push them away, they dissipate on their own. I am prolonging my own pain by refusing to make space for all of my experiences and emotions. Even the difficult ones.

So maybe in the end, “why are you so anxious” isn’t that bad of a question after all. Maybe I should start asking myself that more often. Rather than denying myself the right to feel those anxious feelings, I can react in a more gentle, inquisitive manner. Instead of getting angry and frustrated with myself, cursing my defective brain, I can surrender to those feelings. Cradle them softly, be there for myself like I would a good friend, and just listen.

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