Disclaimer: everyone's path with physical and mental health is there own. My blog is a reflection of life and at times I discuss my own physical and mental well-being. What I share in no means should be a recommendation that takes the place of professional counsel. Thanks for reading. Peace :)
Worry used to be a really close friend of mine. Frienemy actually. You see, it's a real thing, the Free Urban Dictionary says so.
Frienemy - A person who is ostensibly friendly or collegial with someone but who is actually antagonistic or competitive.
Worry has a fancy formal name too, anxiety. That word always made me feel understood and validated. A clinical reason for my panic felt strangely, and briefly, like victory. "I'm not worried. I have anxiety - it's a legit medical condition."
And it is, and was, and I had articles and doctors and therapists validate its debilitating effects on my life. Strangely (read: totally makes sense now), I've never had a friend or coach or family member lean into worry's power over me. I thought that was because they didn't understand. The professionals told me what I needed to know. Everyone else didn't 'get it'. I am in no way minimizing the destructive force of worry but I do believe that I gave it all it's power. For years I spent time learning how to manage it instead of seeking to understand its essence.
So, I will share with you 5 realizations I've had about worry, it's true nature and worry's attempt to take fear's place in my life.
1. Worry is not my friend.
Worry hangs around like a friend, reminding me of what I 'need' to do. Worry calls itself a lot of friendly-sounding names such as: preparation, consideration, experience, advice. But, truly, worry is an enemy competitive for my time and excited to prove itself right. Worry is scared that I might uncover it's true nature: unnecessary. Worry is a secondary response, a useless emotion that is a negative byproduct of a very healthy response, fear.
Fear; fear on the other hand is a friend.
2. Worry is competitive with fear.
Fear is not a bad. Many situations in life require a fear response to keep me alive, they put me in action: drunk drivers when I'm on the highway late at night, burglary reports in my neighborhood, raw juice gone rancid. Fear, in these moments, will illicit a self-preserving response: drive the speed limit, frequently check my mirrors and call 911 if necessary, lock the doors at night and hire a housesitter when traveling; check expiration dates, twice. Action resolves fear, and when resolution isn't possible, action walks hand-in-hand forward with fear. Fear is supposed to put me in action.
Worry hates this. Worry absolutely despises the time I spend with fear because it steals from time spent in worry, with worry, going nowhere. Worry begins to throw panic my way and tells me that it's fear's fault. Panic, distrust, lack of confidence... these are all byproducts of worry, not fear. Worry tries really hard to make me forget that fear's true nature is action and that worry's true nature is unnecessary.
So, when worry starts to lose face to fear, it begins to morph, like a circus mirror, into something that distorts a clear vision but keeps me staring at the reflection confused (and stopped in my tracks).
3. Worry Is a Copycat
Worry isn't a response to a present moment situation. Like the fun-house looking glass, the image is wonky. Worry is an knockoff. It creates false images based on past or assumed fear situations that feel like the real thing. Worry embellishes; it damn near lies. It that tells stories about potential obstacles that sound legit even though the path is actually clear. Worry rides on the powerful coattails of fear. Memorizing what fear looks like and feels like. Then abuses that memory by inserting it unnecessarily, preemptively and generally without a solution.
4. Worry Can't Drive
Remember? Worry is competitive with fear. Because when I am in fear, I will take action. I will fight or I will flee. That is the natural way of things. Either way, I'm moving.
In worry, I'm static. In worry, I have nothing to do but spend more time with worry. Once sitting down with my frienemy worry it gets worse, worry becomes circular, replaying the same useless (imaginary) scenarios on a loop. There's no forward movement and that's infuriating.
You'd think I'd ditch that friend! What a bummer! When worry sense my instinct to pull away it pulls out all the stops to ensure I'll stick around. Worry is jealous I'll play with fear. Worry calls fear bad names such as: pain, hardship, failure.
Worry asks you to sit shotgun, while it can't drive. That's frustrating. Going nowhere, with a pushy, incompetent driver. If I just switched seats, I'd be going! So once I decide that movement is necessary. I lean into fear's true nature, action. In action, I'm cruising.
5. Worry Can't Ride Along
The beautiful thing is that worry doesn't ride along so well. When I'm in action, moving away or towards the thing I fear, I am making choices that get me out of stagnation and on with my life. Worry tells me that those choices might be bad! What if?
'What if' is a statement I say when I actually mean, "I don't know."
Admitting that I don't have all of the information is something I am much more comfortable with, and much to my surprise, this idea causes me LESS anxiety. Admitting there are gaps in my knowledge (read: fear of the unknown) also puts me into action. If I can identify that there is information that still needs to be gathered, then I can move forward looking for that information. If I say in 'what if' scenarios, I'll never get the facts and I'll never move forward.
Without 'what if' worry has no place to be. It evaporates, or perhaps it just stays. Worry is stuck right where I left it. My friendship with worry breaks, and I'm moving forward, with fear.
I don't know if worry will ever be completely gone. It likes to creep back in, like frienemy's do, seemingly attractive and helpful. But, each time I begin to sit in the rocking chair next to worry, rocking back and forth and going no where, I begin to understand that I'm stuck a little quicker than the last time. That progress makes worry smaller and my life bigger. Living without (or with less) worry isn't a life without fear.
No, it's a life that embraces fear, a true friend.
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