You know those people who inevitably pop up unannounced into your life at one time or another–the ones who act like your friend, but, secretly, want you to fail? I’m sure you do, because we all have met them. They might smile at you and tell you all the things they think you want to hear, but, really, they would just love to see you lose that job, or break up with your significant other, or gain a few extra pounds.
This is exactly what living with ANXIETY is like. Except, you can’t just tell anxiety that, hey, you’re bad for me and you’re just not welcome in my life anymore; please, just go away, and, no, don’t call, text, or Facebook me either.
Nope, it’s there. You might go a little while without seeing your old “pal”, but, it’ll be back. One day your friends will invite you out to dinner and you’ll be excited and get ready and put on the perfect outfit, and then… BAM! Out of nowhere anxiety is back, whispering awful things in your ear, telling you that you really shouldn’t go, and it’s not like your friends will care or miss you or anything. In fact, they really just invited you out of pity anyway, so you’d actually be doing them a FAVOR if you just got back into your PJs, crawled into bed, and watched some TV.
The sad truth is that, more often than not, I end up listening to that stupid voice. Because, as much as I want to tell that mean, nasty “friend” of mine to just piss off already, it just isn’t that simple. The things anxiety says kind of make sense, in a warped sort of way. I start to think maybe my “friend” is right and it really does have my best interest at heart after all; maybe I’ve actually been wrong about this old friend of mine this whole time. And what if I don’t listen and I go out to dinner with my other friends anyway, despite the warnings, and I make a complete idiot of myself? What if I do something awkward, or say the wrong thing, or, worse, what if it turns out I’m boring and I don’t have anything interesting to say at all? Nope, maybe I’d better just skip the outing and listen to my real friend anxiety because I’m wrong and it’s right, and I really will be better off that way and it’s only saying these things because it cares.
Except, that’s not the end of it, is it? The “sorry I can’t make it” text has been sent, and my PJs are on, and the TV is turned to my favorite program, but anxiety isn’t done with me yet. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” it says, stalking back and forth across my room and shaking its head in disgust. “How could you flake on your friends like that?” it whispers. “If they didn’t really like you before, they certainly won’t now.”
The guilt sets in and now I’m certain that I have completely blown it, and there’s no way I’ll ever get invited out anywhere ever again, and why, oh why, didn’t I just go?
And on and on it goes. For anyone out there who has a “friend” just like mine, you know that sometimes, it really can be a never-ending cycle of suckiness. But, I would like to think that it doesn’t have to be that way–or at least, maybe it can get better than that.
What I am learning to do is to stand up for myself. It isn’t easy, and it’s going to take time, and I certainly won’t always win. But I am starting to remind myself that I have the right to tell this crappy “friend” anxiety to not treat me so poorly. I don’t deserve the awful things it says to me, and maybe it should just go take a hike–or at least go play the quiet game for a little while.
I am trying to do what I want to do, despite what it says. When my wonderful, amazing friends invite me somewhere and anxiety creeps up behind me and tells me that I shouldn’t go because I’m probably not really wanted, I hope I’ll be able to tell it to shut up and not talk about my awesome friends that way. Not only do I not deserve to be treated like this, neither do they. See, the thing is, they are beautiful people with huge hearts and not at all the kind of people who would hurt me on purpose or secretly wish I hadn’t shown up. Unlike that awful, rather insidious “friend” of mine, THEY actually DO have my best interest at heart. At times like that, I can’t forget who my true friends are.
Just like those people in our lives who would love to see us fail, we need to keep in mind that this old “friend” of ours would also love to see us fail. We may not be able to make anxiety leave us alone for good, but maybe we can find the courage to tell it that we don’t have to believe its lies–not about us, and not about the people we truly care about. Maybe, every once in awhile, we can win.